This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: If you flip channels around to Bravo most weeknights, you’ll see “Watch What Happens Live” host and executive producer Andy Cohen, some real housewives, some celebrities, and signs of St. Louis. Some weeks, there’s a Cardinals hat. Sometimes, there's a Lite Brite Arch on the set. Cohen, who grew up in St. Louis (Clayton High School), is also Bravo’s executive vice president of development and talent, and the executive producer of the Top Chef and Real Housewives franchises.
Cohen’s first book, “Most Talkative: Stories from the front lines of pop culture,” came out last year. At 2 p.m. Saturday, May 11, Cohen will be in St. Louis to talk about his book at the Ethical Society of St. Louis. The night before, he’s also being honored with Andy Cohen Night at Busch Stadium.
Before coming back to St. Louis this time, Cohen answered a few questions via e-mail for the St. Louis Beacon about his hometown, what’s changed, or not, here, and if we’re ever going to get a Real Housewives of St. Louis.
Beacon: You’re coming back to St. Louis for some exciting events -- Andy Cohen Night at Busch Stadium (featuring your own bobblehead, of course,) and an event at the Ethical Society where you’ll talk about your book. How often do you make it home to St. Louis, and how has St. Louis changed since you grew up here?
Cohen: I make it home a few times a year and the thing that I love about it is that it hasn’t changed too much. To me, it’s like Pleasantville. Or Pine Valley.
Earlier this year, “Advocate” named St. Louis one of the gayest cities. Growing up, did you think St. Louis would ever earn that title, and how do you think that’s happened?
Cohen: Someone needs to show me the gay, because I don’t see enough of it when I’m there. ... It didn’t seem gay at all growing up and I’m still looking.
At Bravo, you’re at the center of the creation of a lot of pop culture, including the “Real Housewives” franchise. But an increasing number of shows feature people in the LGBT community, both on Bravo and other networks. What role do you think pop culture has played in broader acceptance for the gay community?
Cohen: I think it’s played a lot. If you are exposed to someone gay, you’re more likely to accept them. I’m proud of the role Bravo has played in this, starting with “Queer Eye (for the Stright Guy).”
In general, how do you think pop culture has changed in your lifetime, with social media, reality TV, and so many more ways to watch things and interact with those things we’re watching?
Cohen: Well, it’s changed tremendously -- not necessarily for the better, but my current success is certainly a product of today. More channels, more ways to get information and pop culture and more ways to be entertained. Growing up was (a time of) three channels; and the mainstream media was really mainstream. Now, there’s no such thing.
A few weeks ago, I saw a preview for “The Real Housewives of Defiance,” and grabbed my computer to search and see if the metro was really getting our own franchise. Turns out it was just a clever plug for a new SyFy show, but if you did create a RHOSTL, where in St. Louis would that happen, and what kind of characters do you think we’d see?
Cohen: I don’t think I would ever create a RHOSL for a variety of reasons, but if I did, I’m thinking it would be somewhere in West County. I can’t picture it. Too close to home, I guess.