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Simon Cowell: Marriage is boring , I prefer being on my own

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Simon Cowell: Marriage is boring , I prefer being on my own

Post  Panda on Sat 1 Jun - 6:25

Simon Cowell: 'Marriage is boring, I prefer being on my own'

Beyond the bravado, gym-honed arms and a string of ex-girlfriends, Simon
Cowell is shy when it comes to his TV failures and getting older, writes Celia

Simon Cowell with co-stars
Alesha Dixon and Amanda Holden Photo:

By Celia Walden

10:49PM BST 31 May 2013


On a table inside Simon Cowell’s padded bunker in the bowels of Wembley’s
Fountain Studios sits a plate of the largest carrots I have ever seen. Their
leaves are impossibly lush, their 10in, meticulously peeled roots are Beatrix
Potter perfect.

“I don’t like those carrot batons, do you?” says the music mogul, appearing
in a cloud of menthol cigarette smoke. “They’re a bit like crab sticks — you’re
never quite sure what’s in them.”

The Lambeth-born 53-year-old is in his trademark blue jeans and T-shirt, his
hair — shorn closer than usual at the sides — greying a little at the temples,
but that smile is as ice-white and frequent as ever.

Cowell has had a good year. Britain’s Got Talent — the final of which is a
week today — kicked off with its largest viewing figures last month (the season
premier peaked with 13 million); the format has now been reproduced in 56
territories; and, next week, the 10th anniversary series of The X Factor starts

“Last year, doing BGT felt like sitting in a room with a blindfold on,” he
laments, sipping a cup of Chinese herbal tea. “I didn’t have a clue whether
people were fed up with what we were doing. This season the mixture is so weird
that it works: we’ve got everything from dancing nuns to opera singers. Plus it
does feel like normal people with a talent rather than semi-professional people,
which is great.”

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He’s willing to admit that Adam and Richard, the Welsh opera-singing,
sandwich-making duo, “are probably the most talented and definitely the most
popular”. And — waving aside comments by Sir Bruce Forsyth on the “emotional
damage” younger acts might suffer from the pressure — he believes that
11-year-old Arisxandra Libantino has a chance.

“There was something very charming about Pudsey the dog last year, and it
definitely helps if you have a story. Then again, I would have put my house on
Susan Boyle winning, so you never really know what’s going to happen. I like

Cowell seems to view his empire like a professional athlete views his
achievements. All the wins in the world can’t make up for that one loss. When a
show of his fails to meet expectations (his new series, Food Glorious Food,
premiered to disappointing viewing figures in February), Cowell feels like he’s
“been kicked in the teeth”. “You’ve failed,” he shrugs. “If people don’t watch,
you’ve done something wrong. And that’s not OK. So if the viewing figures fall
off a cliff, it’s time to go.” Is that what he’s really worried about? “Yes,” he
agrees evenly. “I’m not ready to go yet.” Even after all his success? “Look: if
I played Monopoly with you, I would be really ------ off if you won. It would
take me about a day to recover.”

I’ve known Cowell for years, and the funny thing about this preening braggart
with the gym-honed forearms reclining, emperor-like, on a suede armchair in
front of me, is that, in reality, he’s a little shy.

He plays up to his World’s Vainest Man title with his unapologetic love of
Botox, vitamin injections and cosmetic dentistry, and delights global audiences
with his Paxman-like air of superiority and testosterone-fuelled banter. But
off-screen, he favours nights in over red-carpet dos; in conversation, he’s more
of a listener than a dominator.

“I can’t bear small talk,” he explains. “You’ll never see me in the 7.30 for
8pm segment of an evening because that means having to make conversation and I
do get shy about that.” He accepts that “people clapping or being excited to see
you is not a bad feeling — it’s impossible not to like that — but I don’t get
off on it”.

One wonders whether, now that he’s single again (he called off his engagement
to make-up artist Mezhgan Hussainy last year), Cowell gets lonely in his Citizen
Kane-like Beverly Hills mansion.

“Actually, being on my own is the best thing in the world. It’s like
breathing in oxygen — I can really switch off then.” He keeps vampiric hours,
going to bed at 2am or 3am, rising late and “working out for an hour or so to a

Bring up women — over the years Cowell’s perplexing love life has become a
constant source of entertainment to the media — and he laughs. “I’m fine as I
am. I think that when you get into a rut, it gets boring.” By “rut” does he mean
“relationship”? “Look,” he smiles, enjoying himself, “when no matter how big
your house is, you are going to end up on the same sofa, in the same bed or in
the same room as a person, you are going to get bored. It’s a boring routine.”
So marriage as an institution is boring? “Well, the way most people live it,
yes. Have a carrot, darling — and dip it in the sauce.”

In an industry of acrimonious splits and tabloid tell-alls, one has to admire
the way Cowell conducts his personal business. Not one of his ex-girlfriends —
singer Sinitta, television presenter Terri Seymour, model Jackie Sinclair or
Hussainy — has ever said a bad word about the star, and he remains on eerily
good terms with all of them.

Has anyone ever broken his heart? “No.” Has he ever been in love? “I have a
different kind of love,” he sighs. “The love I have for my ex-girlfriends will
always be there, so I think that’s true love. People confuse ego, lust,
insecurity with true love. But for me, whether it’s Jackie, Mezhgan, Sinitta or
Terri, they will be in my life for ever. I genuinely love them.”

How does he know that women genuinely love him — that the stardom, the
handbags and the parting-gift LA mansions aren’t part of the appeal? “I know. I
don’t have the Mick Hucknall effect. I’m aware that I can get girls because I’m
on TV, and I don’t believe I’m God’s gift to women, but I think you know when
it’s genuine.”

Does he not long to be bowled over one day? “Well it worries me because I’ve
seen it destroy people. And I couldn’t think of anything worse than being in an
unhappy marriage.” So he sees himself going through his life as a serial
monogamist? “It has crossed my mind, yes,” he grins.

Given the size of his business empire, Syco, and his brutal schedule, Cowell
looks remarkably healthy and is in better shape than I’ve ever seen him. He’s
lost a stone since the start of the year (“You know what the secret to weight
loss is? Don’t eat much”), and has had all his suits taken in.

Crucially, he says, he’s learnt how to manage stress. “I think of stress as
the creator of cancer and heart attacks, like a tiny little ball you feed. I
believe that one of the reasons I’ve never got ill is that I’m not stressed.
I’ve seen things in other parts of the world that put everything in
perspective.” He concedes, however, that had he become famous as a young man, “I
would not be alive today”.

Mortality, retirement, endings — these are unsavoury notions to Cowell. He is
devoted to his 88-year-old mother, Julie, and when his father Eric, an EMI
executive, died of a heart attack in 1999 at the age of 81, he was devastated.
“I’d always had this feeling that nobody I knew would die. Then, when it
happened, I thought 'Christ — this really does happen and I hate it’.” He used
to worry about getting older but these days he sees “all the advantages that
come with it”.

He explains: “You don’t get so insecure or competitive. And if you can grow
old gracefully, you’re fit and healthy and not bad looking.” He draws the line
at dyeing his hair (“I don’t know what it is about that but I think it kind of
looks ridiculous”), but sees other forms of cosmetic help as acceptable.

He’s not so sanguine about retirement. “I’d rather drop dead doing my job.
The idea of getting up in the morning to play golf makes me want to jump off a

There seems to be little left for the self-confessed megalomaniac to
accomplish — except he could possibly write another autobiography. “But a
different kind about how I’ve managed to deal with the 50-odd years of my life,
not 'I’ve screwed so-and-so’.” He found Tom Bower’s biography of him, Sweet
Revenge, “amusing and embarrassing in parts. But if the worst that can be said
about you is that you made some money and screwed around a bit, I’d do it
again”. Ask where he thinks he’ll be in 10 years and he grimaces. “Alive,” he
says finally. “Let’s start with that, shall we?”
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