"The Andy Cohen Diaries: A Deep Look at a Shallow Year" (Henry Holt and Co.), by Andy Cohen
In his new book, "The Andy Cohen Diaries: A Deep Look at a Shallow Year," author Andy Cohen tries to explain to his rescue dog, Wacha, the luck of going from a West Virginia kill shelter to lunching at Jerry Seinfeld's estate in East Hampton, New York. Wacha may not get it, but we do. The talk-show host and man-about-town takes his beloved pooch and readers along for a joyride of endless parties, A-list interviews, decadent vacations and a little work in between.
The book is inspired by "The Andy Warhol Diaries" — a thick tome published after Warhol's death — that covered his day-to-day life over nine years at the center of New York's art, music and entertainment worlds. In the introduction, Cohen calls Warhol's diary a "pop culture time capsule," exposing celebrities in their natural habitats.
Twenty-five years later, Cohen, also at the epicenter of pop culture in New York, provides a captivating look at hanging with the rich and famous.
Cohen — host of a late-night talk show on the Bravo network and executive producer of "The Real Housewives" series franchise — worked hard to get where he is, but he makes it look easy. A typical day in his downtown Manhattan playground includes a workout with his personal trainer, a romp at the dog park, lunch with friends, a meeting or conference call, a nap, hosting his show and drinking with pals until the wee hours.
His writing style is conversational and tight, infused with snarky and self-deprecating humor. He sticks to a diary format, which includes everything from activities to weigh-ins, to random thoughts and dream analysis. But he often uses only first names, and no explainers, so an index or family tree of his Algonquin round table of pals would be helpful.
An engaging storyteller, he creates a narrative with reappearing characters, including his hilarious, bossy mother, Evelyn. Other players range from the famous — talk-show host Kelly Ripa, actress Sarah Jessica Parker and musician John Mayer — to the amusing — his loyal doorman Surfin, an overly chatty flight attendant and his butt-kicking personal trainer, affectionately called "the Ninj."
Cohen addresses the obvious risk in recording his every move and mood in the book's subtitle, and in the introduction. He owns the name-dropping and navel-gazing, but has the honesty, wit and confidence to pull it off, striking a balance between being self-involved and self-aware. He doesn't take himself too seriously, and isn't afraid to point out behavior gaffes and personality flaws.
TV fans and Bravo devotees will enjoy the backstage intrigue of his talk show, but he also has scoop from the dressing rooms of Jay Leno, David Letterman and Jimmy Fallon.
Many entries are reminiscent of the New York Post's Page Six, with plenty of gossip, bold-faced names and a blind item to leave you guessing.
Cohen seems ambivalent about finding love, and acknowledges fearing commitment. He enjoys fame and appreciates interacting with fans, but suggests there are challenges to being so well-known. Besides the lack of privacy, some in the gay community judge him harshly. As the only gay host in late-night TV, he says he feels the heat of the spotlight, and calls haters on gay websites "the meanest."
But he describes a touching, powerful moment: meeting a woman in Texas who told him she was a conservative, but he had changed the way she thinks about a lot of things. "I was so happy. She couldn't have said anything better to me," Cohen writes.
There are a few surprises in the book, like which stars make Cohen nervous (comedians) and the fact that despite the fame, success, money and connections, Cohen sometimes feels bored.
His savvy shines through the minutia, and his impressions of individual celebrities and the Hollywood scene as a whole are insightful. But he's careful not to "go deep" — as he would say — into any relationship or story. He gives just enough details to tantalize, but not enough to jeopardize friendships or business.
If only Wacha could talk. ... He'd be sure to nab a book deal worth a lot of bones. In our celebrity-obsessed culture, he probably already has.
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