NEW YORK (AP) — After an initial phone call that still makes them cringe, the television odd couple of Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper became good friends.
Both men are putting their easy camaraderie on display in a live lecture series this spring. The idea came from Cohen's mother and Cooper's agent, who watched in November when Cooper interviewed Cohen about his book onstage in New York. The series, subtitled "Deep Talk and Shallow Tales," starts March 21 in Boston, with later dates in Miami and Chicago and more if the initial run goes well.
Each has traveled career paths that aren't easily defined.
Cooper is best known as the sober, prematurely gray newscaster who travels around the world for CNN and contributes stories to "60 Minutes." He's also tried a daytime talk show, hosted a reality show and teams with comic Kathy Griffin for a ribald New Year's Eve program every year.
Cohen hosts an alcohol-fueled talk show on Bravo and dishes about the network's famed housewives. But he was a television executive at Bravo and elsewhere, and a producer at CBS News in the mid-1990s, when a mutual friend tried to set him up with Cooper on a blind date.
It got no further than a phone conversation.
"Somewhere during that phone call, we realized this was not meant to be," Cooper said. "This was not going to work out at all."
Now they often go on trips with each other, and Cohen texts Cooper to tell him to keep his head down when CNN sends him on dangerous reporting trips. They don't hesitate to interrupt each other in conversation, as when Cohen was asked during an interview when he knew he wanted to be an on-air performer instead of a TV executive.
"When he was 3 years old," Cooper interjects. "If you read his letters from camp, you'd know this was a guy who was meant to be on television from when he was in utero."
Letters from camp?
Cohen's friends celebrated his 40th birthday by snatching letters he wrote home when he went to camp as a young boy, staging a dramatic reading that included his mother reading her responses.
"They are the funniest and gayest things you will ever read in your life," Cooper said.
Each man is preparing surprises for his friend to be revealed onstage during the tour, booked into small theaters. They'll talk about their careers, planning to let the audiences dictate much of the agenda by asking questions.
"It gets a little dangerous, because we know where the bodies are buried," Cohen said. "That's why this tour will be fun. It will be very uncensored, and it can go in a million directions."
Like with Griffin each New Year's Eve, the serious newsman part of Cooper betrays a little nervousness about his friend. Cohen asks questions that to others may seem offensive but he often gets people to open up, he said.
"I'm just happy to hear Anderson say all this," Cohen said. "He knows what he's signed up for."
Follow David Bauder at twitter.com/dbauder. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-bauder