Simon Cowell

Esquire, Oct 2013

What I’ve Learned: Simon Cowell, svengali, 53.

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Photo by Austin Hargrave

I was a big David Bowie fan, and there’s no one around like him, so yeah, music probably was better in my day.

Success doesn’t turn you into a monster. It enables you to become one.

It’s the people who put a different face on who are the ones you’ve got to be careful about. People who act really kind and sort of Zen like, and ‘I’m so honest’ – deep down they’re some of the most disgusting people I’ve ever met.

The American dream really does exist and I like it. It’s optimistic. That’s one thing we could learn from America – not to be jealous of success. And also to be proud of your country. We do give our country a bit of a kicking occasionally, but I’m always proud to be British, just like Americans are proud to be American.

You can’t chase an idea, the idea has to come to you. But you have to be in a headspace where you’re not stressed or tired or overstimulated. I’m pretty good late at night, about two or three in the morning because the phone’s not ringing, you haven’t got people around, and you can really think things through.

They cloned a sheep. And now the Koreans can clone your dog. So freezing your body does kind of make sense. The notion is that science will catch up and maybe I could be born again. It’s just a bit of a gamble. If it doesn’t work, I’m not going to know. But I did read that they have to cut your head off. Not very glamorous, no.

The idea that you imagine someone is better than you because of breeding is as bad as racism. It’s repulsive. I hate the idea that you’ve got to bow to people, or curtsy if you’re a girl. It’s nauseating. You are who you are. In my company, I never even ask people what their qualifications are.

That weird, old-fashioned British attitude that you can’t talk about money – who cares? Most of us want more money. And even though it won’t make you happy, it will make you happier.

Once you eat enough vegetables, you start to crave them. Literally. That’s why I keep carrots on my desk. But you’ve got to have proper Bugs Bunny carrots, with the green bits at the end. Not those horrible sliced up things. They taste like water.

You can be cool as you get older as long as you’re a) successful, and b) you can relate to younger people without acting like an idiot. But don’t dye your hair.

I’m going to leave my money to somebody. A charity probably – kids and dogs. I don’t believe in that passing on from one generation to another.

You’ve got to cut out all the negative people. I’ve got this thing where I don’t ever want to take a phone call from somebody I don’t like. And that’s why I change my number, probably three times a year.

I think it’s important that there’s somebody above you, that you respect and whom you’re accountable to. Then when you do well it’s a nice feeling. Otherwise you’re just patting yourself on the back, and that’s not very rewarding. “You did great Simon.” “Thanks Simon”.

A lot of people who retire, they hate their job so much, they just love the idea of not working anymore. That horrifies me. I’m going to be still working in my 80s or 90s if I can.

The greatest challenge with relationships is boredom. Monotony is a killer. I’ve been there. You just go, “you know what, this is like Groundhog Day. I’m not having a great time, and I don’t think she is either.” And when it’s over, don’t let it drag on. If you ever get that feeling when you’re driving home, I might just circle the block before I go in? – it’s over.

My bath milk, Weleda, has the most delicious smell in the world. It’s like being on holiday in the Italian Riviera every morning. Always puts me in a good mood.

If it all starts going your way, you’ll become totally deluded. I got to that point 20 years ago. I was having a lot of success with bands, and then I dropped at least a million on a complete turkey – I honestly thought my boss was going to fire me. But he said, “this is the most important thing that’s ever going to happen in your life.” I’ve never forgotten that.

We made a food show called Food Glorious Food but it was a failure. And I learned that food just wasn’t our area. And whatever we go into, we need to have an understanding of what we’re doing, rather than guessing at it. It’s like me suddenly deciding to sign a grunge act. It would be a catastrophic failure.

With dogs and kids, you’ve got to have the time, really. But Linda Blair, from The Exorcist, rescues a lot of Staffordshires and Pit Bulls so I make a commitment to her every year. And in a weird way, that’s like having my dogs.

With politics and religion, it’s best to actually keep your mouth shut. People don’t like to be told by people like me what they should and shouldn’t do. And you know what – they’re right.

You don’t want Indian food for breakfast. You want it at nighttime. And I think being creative in the morning is virtually impossible. I’ve never had a good idea in the morning. That’s why I wake up about 10.30, 11.

I didn’t realize how important stupid people are in your life – because you ask yourself, what made stupid people so stupid. What made them the way they are?

I think your legacy has to be that hopefully you gave enough people an opportunity, so that they could do well, and you gave them your time, taught them what you know.

I like that feeling. Probably because I don’t have any kids.

I met David Geffen a couple of years ago, on his boat. Of course we all couldn’t wait to ask him – what’s the secret to life? And he said, ‘always know when to leave the fair.’