Okay, I admit it. I have a thing for Anderson Cooper. It’s no recent crush; I’ve been following his career since I discovered him about ten years ago. At that time he helped me with my insomnia on a latenight news show called ABC World News Now which took place in the wee hours and was a combination of irreverent comedy and straight news. The show had a spontaneous, antic quality, complete with weekly appearances by an accordion player and two campy backup singers who burst on the scene playing something they called the “World News Polka.”
The co-anchors were Anderson Cooper and Alison Stewart, who played off each other in a snappy, brother-sister kind of way, and their comments brought off-camera howls of laughter from the crew. At the time I thought this attractive young Anderson Cooper was a dead ringer for James Glassman, the Libertarian columnist and sometime news talking head. I decided Anderson was his son. When Anderson left the show, I hoped he wouldn’t just drift off into obscurity.
Boy, was I wrong. It wasn’t long before he was the head news anchor at CNN and the talk of the airwaves, to say nothing of the cover boy on all the magazines. He covered Katrina and appeared on talk shows, revealing that he was actually the son of Wyatt Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt Cooper. I had followed their story and the tragedy of Anderson’s older brother who committed suicide at the age of 14.
Now that I think about it, I’d been reading about this family for years. I read Aram Saroyan’s book Trio, about the glamor-girl-best-friend debutantes Oona O’Neill Chaplin, Carol Saroyan Matthau, and Gloria Vanderbilt Cooper (“Oona, daughter of Eugene O’Neill, married Charlie Chaplin; Carol married William Saroyan and Walter Matthau, and Gloria married everybody else.”) I read Little Gloria, Happy at Last about Anderson’s mother’s wretched childhood as a pawn in a disturbed super-rich family. I read Wyatt Cooper’s tender memoir called Families: A Memoir and a Celebration about growing up in the South. (I even read that it’s one of Anderson’s favorite books, so I looked it up on amazon to see about picking up a copy to re-read it. The going price is $90, and there's one on eBay that's already gone up to $1,500 -- so instead I checked it out from the Fairhope library.)
Anderson has a real story to tell. A recent issue of Vanity Fair includes a chapter from his inevitable book, revealing how his dealing with the coverage of the devastation of Katrina opened him up to his own repressed pain. The early death of his father had been traumatic for both him and his brother, and, until confronted with commensurate personal loss as being experienced by families in the storm-ravaged areas of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans, he had not dealt head-on with his own sense of the loss of his brother. Like his father, he can write; and time will prove whether his real place is as a broadcast newsman or in some loftier field of American life.
The fantasy that our paths might ever cross in this lifetime is remote. It's a stretch even for me, never at a loss for the vivid impossible. In age, he's more appropriate for my ego-extension, my beautiful and brilliant daughter, but for her I had in mind someone more like George Clooney. In fact, I had George Clooney himself in mind. (My favorite son-in-law fantasy! That place in Como -- that flirty smile that would indulge the most obnoxious old lady who happened to be the mother of his wife -- oh, that I could somehow ask the universe for this miracle!)
For now, I'll check out Anderson from time to time on tv, read that book when I get to it, look at those riveting blue eyes almost every evening, and remember, with a faint, "if-only" sigh, what I can of being in love.