Andy Cohen’s narrative begins where many of us of the same age cohort started, with our love for the storylines on the ABC soap opera All My Children as it was shown in the early to mid-80s. I don’t know what it was about that show but to this day if anyone mentions the name “Jenny” I think “Jenny and Greg” and of course anyone whose name even comes close to “Erica” I’m thinking Erica Kane. Apparently across the state the Cohen family was much like my own where the VCR was set to catch the latest happenings in Pine Valley waiting to be watched by mother and children when school was out. Dad would watch but pretend he was doing something else.
That’s what I liked about Cohen’s Most Talkative; it was relatable in a way that for poor souls who did not grow up in the Mighty Midwest might not understand. Cohen’s first real brush with a pop culture icon was Susan Lucci of Erica Kane fame. Cohen kind of cons her publicist for an interview (promising a definite cover of a collage magazine – of which I noted he never confirmed if his interview made the coveted cover or not) that took place in New York City. During their conversation Lucci learns he is from St. Louis which prompts her to proclaim, “Oh St. Louis! There are very bright people outside the coasts.”
* Clearing throat. *
This might be belated, but for all of us born and raised outside of the fine coastal areas of the U.S. of A. we thank you Ms. Lucci for recognizing that some of us are indeed bright (FUN FACT: a few of us noble savages even display a full row of teeth when smiling) and though it could be trivial to point out, it appears that you can take the Lucci out of the Erica but not the Erica out of the Lucci.
Cohen returned to NYC first as an intern to CBS’s morning show and then as a segment producer for the same program which doesn’t quite seem to be the proper genesis for the auspicious career of a man who would soon have a huge influence on a very boutiquish element of current pop culture. However as a producer he encountered such quick cultural phenomena as Mary Jo and Joey Buttafuoco along with Tammy Faye Bakker (whose picture he took with her was used as his Christmas card). He also covered the devastation felt by tornados, hurricanes, floods and the aftermath of the Oklahoma City federal building right-wing terrorist bombing which prompted him to discuss the shield one builds when covering an emotional topic. His sentiments on the subject are applicable to many professions that deal with human tragedy and loss.
Where the book shined was when Cohen wrote about coming out as a homosexual to his family and friends. Acceptance of homosexuality in our culture has felt gradual but when you consider that up until 1973 the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) listed it as a mental disease to now living in a society where the inevitable sanction of same sex marriage is within reach, means a lot of area has been covered within a generation or two. It felt as if Cohen came out during about a brief window of time when having a homosexual son or friend was accepted but not celebrated – generally speaking, where parents were more shocked by the news then comforting to their children that they already knew and/or loved them no matter what (hopefully in twenty years even the “love you no matter what” approach will seem antiquated when dealing with the revealment of sexual preference). It was a time where there were assumptions that gay people would never have a true life partner or be a parent to a child simply because biologically it was impossible and legally iffy. Of course much of this still goes on, but not to the degree it once did. The shame once associated with homosexuality has shifted from the homosexual to the homophobe. Part of this change in attitude is because of people like Cohen who come from places like St. Louis who took the first difficult steps in revealing who they are and then living in cities where a lot of media is based like New York.
Okay, now that I got the solid social commentary portion of this review over I’ll talk now about the juicy part of the book which is Housewives everything! Cohen writes about his jump from being a producer on the lowest rated morning program, and the humiliations attached to trying to book celebrity guests when you are way down the talk show circuit food line, to being a coveted Bravolebrity in his own right. Most Talkative isn’t the Housewives Bible, but it does give fans of those shows an insider’s view of how the programs were developed as well as what Bravo looks for when casting new housewives…or reasons for kicking some of them to the curb.
Squeal alert, with the paperback edition of Most Talkative there is an addendum dealing with reactions to the hardback version which includes Cohen’s thoughts about Jill Zarin (a woman uniquely unsuited for a career in espionage as judged by her past efforts in that department). Let’s just say that I think it will be a cold day in hell not only for Ms. Zarin to ever be a Housewife again, but to ever make an appearance in Andy’s clubhouse on Watch What Happens: Live. BTW, the Giggy versus Ginger dog controversy (or dogtroversy) was priceless…and of course it all started with a cat.
Obviously I recommend reading Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Lines of Pop Culture. With spring finally popping out it will soon be pool reading time of which there could not be a better choice of material than Cohen’s book. Granted, it isn’t the most revealing of memoirs (for instance, he doesn’t talk about anyone significant that he has dated) but it does give him a lot of room to delve into the same or different topics at a later date. Hopefully some of the issues with this book will be cleaned up in Cohen’s future literary efforts including the idea that one needs to include the entire script of a skit performed on Saturday Night Live as well as Cohen giving his parents a little more dimension besides portraying them in a way that reads as stereotypical (Evelyn deserves better!). Otherwise Most Talkative is a fun fast read that is perfect for any fan of Bravo or pop culture in general.
Westerfield © 2013