It’s not often that Simon Cowell cowers in shame. But at last week’s British launch of Tom Bower’s unauthorized biography, Sweet Revenge: The Intimate Life of Simon Cowell, the television tycoon admitted he had “spent last week hiding under a pillow in my bedroom” after The Sun leaked the most salacious excerpts from the tome. U.S. publisher Random House has hailed Bower’s book as a “portrait of one of the most intriguing television personalities ever to dominate the music industry,” revealing Cowell’s true colors as a “man who is at once insecure, ambitious, easily bored … a man who will go to any limit to secure his success.” Well, we knew all of that, but here are a few lurid details that aren’t mentioned on the book jacket.
Cowell has always had a cushy life.
There’s no doubt that Simon Cowell has worked his way to the top, but his is not a rags-to-riches story. Cowell grew up in a renovated eight-bedroom home in the charming British county of Hertfordshire, and was known as a troublemaker at his all-boys private school. “I hated the discipline and the boredom,” he told Bower. “I just wanted to get out and earn money.” But it would be a while before his dreams were realized. When he decided he wanted to work in the music business, his father, who was director of the record company EMI, got him in easily through his connections. At 33, after a series of failed music ventures, he moved back in with his parents.
Cowell’s career was motivated by rivalry and revenge.
As Cowell readily admits in the book, he’s devoted much of his life to exacting sweet revenge on Simon Fuller, an industry rival who made it big in the 1990s as the manager of the Spice Girls when Cowell was still struggling to sign no-name acts. After Cowell’s career finally took off when he launched the boy band Westlife, he and Fuller schemed to create a talent competition show that would become Pop Idol, the forerunner for American Idol. Fuller took advantage of Cowell’s business naiveté, so that two thirds of the show’s income went to him and he was credited as “creator,” despite a verbal agreement that they were partners. Cowell vowed to create his own rival show, and the result was X Factor, which debuted in Britain in 2004 and in the U.S. last fall. At a party to celebrate Cowell’s last season with American Idol, a guest overheard him spouting vitriol at Fuller. “All I’ve done—Britain’s Got Talent, X Factor, and much more—is revenge for what you did to me. And there’s much more to come.” Cowell had recently replaced Fuller on The Hollywood Reporter’s power list for the first time.
Cowell admitted he’s “definitely vain but can’t think of anyone on TV who isn’t.”
Cowell fashioned “Nasty Simon” from “Nasty Nigel.”
Before he signed on to do Pop Idol, Cowell allegedly turned down an offer to be a judge on Britain’s Popstars alongside well-known TV producer Nigel Lythgoe, saying, “I can’t see how it’ll work.” Once Pop Idol was conceived, Lythgoe was ruled out as a potential judge due to legal complications, but he remained an executive producer of the show. According to Bower, Lythgoe was enraged that his “Nasty Nigel” fame had been adopted by Cowell, who exaggerated his mean-judge persona once he perceived how it successfully created drama and attracted viewers. His reputation for relentlessly ripping on his contestants has fueled the success of his shows—and his popularity.
Cowell is equally hard to please in real life.
Even when Cowell gets his way, he’s never completely satisfied. Having recently spent £8 million pounds renovating his Beverly Hills manse—complete with a luxury indoor spa, an outdoor living space, a flame-lit waterfall, and a 50-foot swimming pool—Cowell criticized his interior designer for using too much white and making it “look like an asylum.” A few changes were made, notably an endless supply of black toilet paper in the bathrooms. When the last renovations had been touched up, Cowell declared everything looked “great” except the grass in the yard, which was “too smooth, like for bowling.” He immediately ordered that it be torn up and replaced. When it comes to personal relationships, Cowell doesn’t like to be surrounded by people who bore him. “I’m attracted to certain personalities who are difficult to control, so there are tantrums, tears, and fights,” he told Bower. Without the fights he’d have “a dull group of girlfriends.”
Cowell loves colonics and other “cleansing” treatments.
It’s no secret that Cowell, who admits in the book that he’s “definitely vain but can’t think of anyone on TV who isn’t,” puts a lot of effort into physical upkeep. That said, his beauty and health regimen—which costs him six figures annually, according to Bower—might even put the Kardashians’ indulgent lifestyle to shame. Of his monthly colonics, Cowell is quoted saying, “It’s so cleansing—and it makes my eyes shine brighter.” He regularly gets intravenous vitamin injections and maintains his boyish face with the help of Botox. “It simply works,” Cowell told friends. “You do it twice a year. Who cares? And it balances my smoking and drinking.” He frequently gets massages and eats “life-enhancing” fruits that he receives by air freight. Routine tanning, chest waxing, and tooth-capping keep him looking polished in front of the camera, and he’ll never be seen in public with “just out of bed” hair. Naturally, he likes his girlfriends to be well groomed, too, with their faces “done.”
And speaking of girlfriends…
Cowell has had many, despite rumors over the years that he is gay. Cowell is characterized in the book as a typical lothario. In between dating long-term girlfriends including Jackie St. Clair, Terri Seymour, and Mezhgan Hussainy, he has flirted with costars and had a fling with British X Factor judge Dannii Minogue. Mostly he loves playing with women, particularly Dannii, whom he referred to as “the new toy” when she signed onto the show. “I often ogle Dannii’s bum,” he told The Sun. When Cheryl Cole joined X Factor, Cowell said, “Now we’ll have two toys on the panel.” As is his wont, Cowell tires easily of his toys. Regarding his affair with Minogue, Cowell told a friend, “There were a few bonks and then it petered out while I was in America.” But to Bower, he’d said their affair had been “genuine love.” Cowell always manages to appease his exes with gifts once they part ways, like the $5 million Beverly Hills home he bought for former fiancée Hussainy.