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“When I was younger, I talked to the adults around me that I respected most about how they got where they were, and none of them plotted a course they could have predicted, so it seemed a waste of time to plan too long-term. Since then I’ve always gone on my instincts.”—Anderson Cooper
Anderson Cooper is one of the most recognizable faces in broadcast journalism. Maybe because of his hair, his eyes, his voice, or his wide knowledge of topics that affect the world—or maybe it’s the blistering way he can shut down a guest who has stepped over the line. A fixture on national news long before he got his own show in 2003, he’s been on our screens ever since, talking us through so many of the most important moments of the past 15 years. In that time, we’ve gotten to know who he is on the outside, but there’s more to this man than meets the eye. Here are 40 news-worthy facts about everyone’s favorite silver fox, Anderson Cooper.
40. When Disaster Strikes
Cooper willingly headed to Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina hit. He had been on vacation in Croatia but decided to head to Baton Rouge instead. He essentially was cut off from the producers in New York because of the storm and decided to head to Mississippi, where he did his show from just a few days later. “I was really affected by the bodies,” he said of the experience. “I’ve seen a lot dead bodies before, and I’m not sure why these dead bodies affected me so much.” Considering how much time Cooper has spent as a correspondent covering wars and famine in under-developed countries, it must have been very traumatic to see the same horrifying conditions on American soil.
39. It’s a Free State
He has found further success beyond reporting: co-hosting CNN’s New Year’s Eve Live special with Kathy Griffin. While ringing in 2018, he found himself on the defensive when one of the live reporters for the broadcast filmed a segment in a bus where many people of the people there were smoking marijuana. “First of all, it’s legal in Colorado. We are grown adults and she did not smoke obviously,” he explained. “The whole thing surprised me as much as anyone else.”
38. What is a News Anchor?
The news anchor once appeared on Celebrity Jeopardy. He didn’t think too highly of that appearance, though, not entirely believing in himself. “It was called the Power Players edition, though I’m not sure why I was in it because I’m neither a “playa” nor a person of power. The experience really made me realize how much of a loser I am, because of how much I got into it. I mean, it’s kind of a no-win proposition. In what I do you’re supposed to know a certain amount of things, and there you are exposing yourself to ridicule for not knowing stuff.” It still doesn’t stop most people from going on, Anderson! I’ll take “You’re Overthinking It” for $800, Alex.
37. No One Needs to Know
He’s notorious for being keeping details of his personal life close to his chest, choosing not release a whole lot of information about himself. “It’s a decision I made a long time ago, before I ever even knew anyone would be interested in my personal life. The whole thing about being a reporter is that you’re supposed to be an observer and to be able to adapt with any group you’re in, and I don’t want to do anything that threatens that.” Makes sense!
36. No Money, No Problem
Despite her massive wealth, Anderson’s mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, has told her son that there won’t be anything left to him after she passes. No trust fund, nothing! It’s not because they have a contentious relationship or aren’t close; it’s actually very much the opposite. It doesn’t seem like he minds, either, calling inheritances “initiative sucker[s]”. He also told Howard Stern that “if I felt that there was some pot of gold waiting for me, I don’t know that I would’ve been so motivated.” Still, where else will her money go?
35. Making It Rain
I don’t think Cooper has anything to worry about when it comes to money. It’s estimated that his net worth is currently at $100 million dollars. Guess he had initiative to spare!
34. Momma’s Boy
Cooper and his mother are actually pretty close. “I can talk to Anderson about anything,” Vanderbilt says. “He always gives the best take on things.” Fans of his program may not be as fabulously wealthy as she is, but they probably agree with her about her son.
33. Balancing Act
Despite growing up in an elite New York family, he took a job as a waiter at Mortimer’s, a famous restaurant in NYC, now unfortunately closed. The restaurant was a magnet for the Big Apple’s intellectual elite, fashion designers, high-powered politicians and lawyers, and members of New York’s elite families, like the Astors, and of course, the Vanderbilts, including his mother. Wonder if she put in a good word when he applied for the job!
32. When Fame Turns to the Dark Side
CNN had to hire security for him after a couple of scary instances with fans. One woman had grabbed him while he was coming out of the subway, and another was so angry that he didn’t respond to her after she sent him a teddy bear dressed exactly as he would be, that she showed up outside the Time Warner Building where he works.
31. And Vogue!
When not working at Mortimer’s, he also (unsurprisingly) did some modeling back in his younger days. He modeled for names like Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren while under contract with Ford Models. With his all-American good looks, it seems like a good match for the two iconic brands.
30. Cover Baby
That wasn’t the first time Cooper modeled. Well, it’s likely that he doesn’t remember the real first time anyway. He was photographed for Harper’s Bazaar as a baby by the famous photographer Diane Arbus. The photo is one of her most recognizable, and has even been on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Is it just me, or is the photo kind of creepy?
29. Rags to Riches
His mother may have grown up in money, but his father’s life was far from the same. Cooper said his father “was born into a dirt-poor family in Mississippi” and that those roots have shaped him more and provided more relevance to his life.
28. Note to Self: Get Vaccinated First
Cooper graduated high school from Dalton in 1985, but not before deciding to travel across South Africa. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best of times for the young graduate. He had to be taken to a hospital after contracting malaria.
27. Taking a Year Off
In the early 1990s, he lived in Vietnam for a year, staying away from anything to do with reporting. While there, he studied in Hanoi at the Vietnam National University, where he learned the Vietnamese language, and hopefully ate a lot of delicious pho and banh mi.
26. New York Socialites
His parents, Gloria Vanderbilt and Wyatt Cooper, were pretty popular in the New York social scene. As such, he got to hang out with a lot of interesting and cool people, like Charlie Chaplin, when he was growing up.
25. Here’s Anderson!
One of his earliest TV appearances was in 1970 at the tender age of three. His mother brought him with her to The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The bright lights must have made an impression on him!
24. Letting Everyone In
Unsurprisingly, considering that he had decided to not reveal too much of his personal life, there had long been rumors floating around regarding his sexuality, until he came out to the public, stating “The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.” He believed that people thought he was intentionally hiding facts about himself, because he was “uncomfortable, ashamed, or even afraid,” which he said “is simply not true.” You do you, Coop!
23. Not His First Choice
The next time you want to complain about how hard it is to find a job in your field, remember that there are two sides to that coin: Cooper didn’t even study journalism in school, but now he’s one of the most well-known journalists on TV. He graduated from Yale in 1989 with a political science degree. It was only after his brother’s tragic death that he decided to pursue journalism.
22. Running Into the Line of Fire
When disaster strikes around the world, there’s a good chance that you’ll see Cooper reporting live. “I’ve always loved reporting from the field most of all,” he’s said. “There’s something about doing live TV and being there as it happens that’s always appealed to me. I think there’s great value to bearing witness to these events as they’re actually happening.”
21. Putting It All on Paper
He released his memoir, Dispatches From the Edge, in 2006, where he described his “life as a journalist and human being in Sri Lanka, Africa, Iraq and Louisiana/Mississippi.” Some of the sale proceeds even went to charity.
20. Fake It ‘Til You Make It
When he first started out reporting, he did freelance work with fake press passes he made for himself. He bought his own video camera and headed to places like Burma and Somalia to report on the unrest happening in those countries. He sold his work to Channel One, who ended up making him an official correspondent. After a few years there, he signed with ABC as a correspondent in 1995.
19. And Now For Something Completely Different
He switched over to CNN in 2002, after two seasons hosting the reality show The Mole for ABC. The executives at ABC had believed that he had ruined his broadcasting career with that hosting job, which is why he decided to take a different road over at CNN instead.
18. Hard Work Pays Off
Things weren’t so great early on at CNN, with many criticizing his abilities. Eventually, though, after taking on a lot of stories and jobs no one really wanted, he proved himself. He eventually proved his worth and earned his anchoring job for his nightly show Anderson Cooper 360.
17. Daytime Bomb
In 2010, He tried going back to regular old TV, this time during the day. His talk show Anderson Live only last two seasons, though, as it didn’t really gain a fanbase.
16. Live, With Anderson
That wasn’t the first time found himself on daytime TV. He regularly filled in on Live! With Regis and Kelly after Regis Philbin had triple-bypass surgery in 2007.
15. He Works Hard For His Money
Cooper is a contributor for 60 Minutes on CBS, something that was signed into his contract with CNN in 2007. At the time, it doubled his salary from two million dollars to four million.
14. There Must Have Been Some Epic Games of Hide and Seek
Cooper’s childhood home was a five-story mansion on 67th Street in New York City. Imagine what that real estate must cost now! His parents were both intellectually rigorous and ambitious when it came to the education of Anderson and his brother. For one, they never engaged in baby talk or talking down to the kids, and never called them little. “We talked to them, we got their opinion, their feelings, their input,” Vanderbilt said.
13. Credit Where Credit Is Due
His reporting over the years has earned him quite the amount of recognition. He’s had a number of Emmy nominations, of which he’s won eight. More specifically, his coverage of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean earned him Peabody and National Headliner awards, to go along with the Edward R. Murrow award he won for his reporting on coral reefs.
12. Home Away From Home
He keeps a lot of souvenirs in his office at CNN. Things like a poster that says “MANDELA FOR PRESIDENT,” a piece of a car that had been blown up in Sarajevo and a photo of him slumped over while waiting for Hurricane Dennis to come ashore. You may not find him in that office often, though. He likes to work closer to the newsroom, so he can stay in the loop.
11. One Degree of Harry Potter
He’s a Broadway star, in a way. No, he doesn’t sing or dance. He actually narrated How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in 2011, which starred none other than Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe.
10. On the Big Screen
You can catch Cooper in the 2016 film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, starring as a news reporter, of course!
9. You Can Dance if You Want to
Cooper counts the band Scissor Sisters as one of his favorites. They also just happen to be based in New York, like him. Oh, and he’s also good friends with the lead singer.
8. It’s All Jumbled
It’s almost hard to believe, but Cooper was dyslexic when he was young. He once admitted that he would pretend to read because his brother was reading, but he just couldn’t get the words to make sense. “I had trouble reading and making sense of words, in particular, letters,” he said.
7. Frozen in Time
As a child, Cooper was under the impression that when a relative of his died, they became statues. His mother had taken him to Grand Central Station once, where a statue of his great-great-great grandfather, Cornelius Vanderbilt, stands. Vanderbilt had made a lot of his wealth in the railroad business.
6. Going Back in Time
His mother’s side of the family can also boast of another interesting person from history: Major General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick. He fought in the Civil War alongside General William T. Sherman, as the latter marched towards Georgia.
5. Just Call Him Agent Cooper
Can you imagine Cooper as an agent with the CIA? It could have happened. He was an intern with the organization for two summers. He decided against working there, calling it “mundane” and “pretty bureaucratic.” Sorry, Cooper, I think it takes more than two summer internships to work your way up from paperwork to the more covert, secretive spy stuff.
4. The Silver Fox
One main feature everyone thinks of when Cooper comes to mind is his grey hair. The anchor started going grey when he was only 20 years old, and by 35 he had a full mop of grey hair. “Going grey is like ejaculating: you know it can happen prematurely, but when it does it comes as a total shock,” he has (hilariously) said.
3. So What Does He Eat Then?
Speaking of food, he’s a bit of a picky eater. He likes waffles but not pancakes, and isn’t a fan of peanut butter and honey together. Okay, but has he tried it on a bagel at 11pm when snack cravings are at their strongest? I’m sure we can convert him on this one. He is open to trying new things, as evidenced by the time he tried two foods he’d never tried before on his show in 2011. Those “new” foods? Well, new to him—they were spinach and coffee. Seriously, Anderson?
2. Heartbreak and Loss
Sadly, Cooper first came face to face with loss at the young age of 10, when his father died during open-heart surgery. The loss did not end there, as his older brother Carter died by suicide when he jumped out of a window in their mother’s 14th-floor apartment in NYC in 1988. Of the all the tragedy he experienced early in his life, he said, “I think I was really shaped by loss, by the loss of my dad when I was ten, and the suicide of my brother when I was twenty-one and he was twenty-three. Both those things motivated me to be independent and self-reliant, to set out on my own and figure out my way in the world in a way that I thought would lead to a healthy, happier life.”
1. Not Just a Reporter
When he was in Haiti in 2010 covering the aftermath of the earthquake, he may have saved a young boy’s life—but he’s not really sure. He and his crew were in an area where a lot of looting was taking place, regardless of the police presence. He saw one looter throw a concrete block from a roof, and it struck the boy in the head. Be warned, the photos of the incident are pretty graphic. Cooper noticed the boy trying but failing to get up and no one going over to help him. Cooper did. He got him about 100 feet away from where he was hit, but the boy had no idea what was going on, and he still couldn’t stand. Cooper took him over to a barricade that was preventing the looters from continuing their destruction, where he passed him to someone who could hopefully help him. “We don’t know what happened to him. I hope he’s ok,” he wrote.
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