Journalist, Newsanchor, and Author.
Born June 3, 1967 by Wyatt Cooper, a screenplay writer who grew up on a farm in Mississippi and out of Gloria Vanderbilt (yes, that Gloria Vanderbilt), who tried to give their two sons a normal life. Well, it's kind of hard to do that when your dad's collaborating with Truman Capote and your mom's partying with Andy Warhol, so his life was more-or-less classic WASP-preppie-Northeast Establishment...aside from being photographed by Diane Arbus at one year old, and appearing on To Tell the Truth as an eight-year-old bear tamer, and The Johnny Carson Show at nine (as part of his mother's product launch). "Neither of my parents believed in joining clubs or being involved in anything that reeked of elitism or exclusiveness. Growing up,'elitist' was the worst thing you could say about someone." Viewing his
thrice-great grandfather's statue in Grand Central Station, he says he "just naturally thought everyone's grandfathers turned into statues when they died". At the age of ten, after the death of his father, he began to think about independence and self-sufficiency, and so signed on to the Ford Modelling Agency, appearing in ads for Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, and Macy*s, quitting only after a photographer tried to prostitute him (at 13) for $2500. As a teen, he worked summers as a waiter at Mortimers and was, for a time, obsessed with survival skills and collecting tin soldiers. After graduating The Dalton School a semester early (despite mild dyslexia), he went to southern Africa, where he contracted malaria, which required hospitalization in Kenya.
Returning home, he attended Yale University where he lived in Trumbull College, rowed light-weight crew (which required him to diet to 125 pounds), studied international relations, and joined the Manuscript senior society. (So much for not being a joiner...) For two summers, he worked at the CIA as an intern, intending to go into diplomatic service. Tragedy struck his life again, when his brother Carter flung himself off a penthouse ledge in front of his mother in 1988. He graduated college in 1989, with noticeable grey streaks in his hair (Must have been the mileage...) vowing to become a journalist.
Initially, he tried to get a job at ABC, but found he couldn't even get a job answering phones -- "The value of a Yale education." he quips. Desperate to break into journalism, he traveled with a fake PRESS pass ."I'd always been interested in travel and dark places on the map. I wanted to see these places and learn things about myself, as well as the people in them. So what I started doing was going to wars with my video camera."
He hung around Burma and several other out of the way haunts, filming and traveling out of his own pocket until being taken up by Channel One. There, he lived in Vietnam for a year, and then Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda. While covering the Rwandan genocide, he stopped to photograph the hands of a corpse for his personal album, fascinated by how the skin was peeling off: "like a glove". While he was doing so, another reporter snapped a photo of him, and confronted him with it, saying "You see what you've done?"
Shocked by how desensitized to death he had become, he went stateside for a while, ending up a correspondant for his coveted ABC, and rose to co-anchor on the lighthearted World News Now. In 2000, he hosted reality show The Mole, and was noted for his casual sophistication (he looked more comfortable in a dinner jacket than most James Bonds...hmm, wonder why?) and good humor (at one point, the contestants ganged up and threw him into a river) greatly enhancing the "anti-Survivor" tone of the show. He also appeared on the Loveline MTV show, where he showed a great deal of solicitous compassion to a young woman having problems performing fellatio.
Leaving ABC for CNN in 2001, he has anchored alongside Paula Zahn on CNN Morning News, covered New Year's Eve ("It's amateur night for getting high."), and got his own show Anderson Cooper 360 ° , a fast-paced newsmagazine show that has the youngest demographic of any CNN segment, no small feat for TV news. On location coverage has included the 2005 tsunami in Sri Lanka, the death of Pope John Paul II in Rome, and the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Bowles. Later on that year, his impassioned coverage of Hurricane Katrina put him over the top to superstardom in media circles, his style being dubbed "emo-journalism".
He also writes a column for Details magazine, covering such disparate topics as having to edit his mother's kiss-and-tell memoirs ("I knew that my mother knew a lot of movie stars, but I never thought about how she knew them" and "Her current boyfriend she calls 'the Nijinski of cunnilingus'. She's 81. I don't even want to think about it."), his nail-biting, what it's really like to live in Iraq as a reporter, and the death of his brother. In 2006, he took the more serious of these, added Katrina material and a few family photographs and published the result as "Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival".
In terms of personal style, he is as Preppy-understated as his mother is flamboyant: favorite designers include Ralph Lauren (Purple Label), Thomas Pink, and Prada... boxers, for sure. His hair is closely cropped, and almost entirely white, and his extreme slimness and pointed face give him the look of a well-mannered praying mantis. His wit, charm, unusual good looks, and patrician aura have won him many admirers of both sexes. Michael Musto of the Village Voice claimed that he's bisexual, at least (it kind of runs in his family...) but he refuses (also unlike his mother) to discuss his personal life, and gives his household as "Molly", a Welsh springer spaniel. However, he has championed many gay causes. He regards his unusual background with self-depreciating humor, and loves to make fun of the nouveau pretentions in such shows as "My Super Sweet 16": "These kids ought to be shot!"
Spoken like a Vanderbilt....
From the Katrina coverage:
"Excuse me, Senator, I'm sorry for interrupting," Mr. Cooper interjected. "I haven't heard that, because, for the last four days, I've been seeing dead bodies in the streets here in Mississippi. And to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other, you know, I got to tell you, there are a lot of people here who are very upset, and very angry, and very frustrated.
"And when they hear politicians slap - you know, thanking one another, it just, you know, it kind of cuts them the wrong way right now, because literally there was a body on the streets of this town yesterday being eaten by rats because this woman had been laying in the street for 48 hours."
"This is life and death. This is not some blow-dried pundit standing outraged for some ratings, which is what cable news often boils down to....I have been tearing up on this story more than any story I've worked on...It's hard not to be moved."