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sits in judgment

Simon Cowell

Simon Phillip Cowell (born October 7, 1959) is an English artist-and-repertoire ("A&R") executive and television personality/producer, best known as a judge on such TV shows as Pop Idol, American Idol, The X Factor, and Britain's Got Talent. He is also the owner of the television production and music publishing house Syco.

Cowell is notorious as a judge for his unsparingly blunt and often controversial criticisms, insults and wisecracks about contestants and their singing abilities, or lack thereof. He is often parodied in pop culture. He is known for combining activities in the television and music industries, having promoted singles and records for various artists, including television personalities. Having most recently featured in the seventh season of American Idol and the second series of Britain's Got Talent, Cowell is now working on the fifth series of The X Factor.

Early life

Cowell was born in Brighton, East Sussex, England and brought up in Elstree, Hertfordshire. His father, Eric Philip Cowell, was an estate agent developer and music industry executive, and his mother, Julie Brett (née Josie Dalglish), is a former ballet dancer and socialite. Cowell's paternal grandparents, Joseph Cowell and Esther Malinsky, were English Jews, and his maternal grandfather was Scottish. He has 1 brother and 2 half-brothers; younger brother Nicholas Cowell, half-brother Tony Cowell, and half-brother Michael Cowell. Michael is the oldest, followed by Tony, Simon and Nicholas, (in that specific order).

Cowell attended Dover College as did his brother, but left early before sixth form. He took a few menial jobs, but did not get along well with co-workers and bosses, until his father who was executive at the recording giant at EMI Music Publishing, managed to get him a job in the mail room.

Professional career

His father's connections originally got him rehired as the assistant to an A&R man. From there onwards, Simon worked his way up and eventually got promoted to a music publishing position but left during the early 1980s to form E&S Music with his boss at EMI, Ellis Rich (later Chairman of the Performing Right Society). The company had several hit records at one point with five singles in the UK top 40. The offices were in a converted gentleman's washroom in the NCP car park on Brewer Street in London's Soho district. Simon left by mutual agreement a few years later.

One year later, Cowell went to work for Iain Burton, manager of choreographer Arlene Phillips, co-founder of dance group Hot Gossip and of nascent independent record label Fanfare Records. Cowell worked with Burton for eight years at Fanfare where he achieved his first real success in the music industry, becoming a partner and building Fanfare into a highly successful 'indie' pop label. Fanfare had numerous top ten hits with various Pop artists and particularly Sinitta, selling more than half a million of her classic hit debut single 'So Macho' and more than half a million albums of 'Rondo Veneziano'.

In 1984, Cowell and Burton met up with Pete Waterman for the first time. Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman together formed the songwriting and record producing trio known as Stock Aitken Waterman . Stock Aitken Waterman helped Fanfare during the second half of the 1980s producing several smash hit singles for Sinitta and licensing The Hit Factory SAW Compilation Albums to Fanfare.

In 1989, Fanfare's parent-company, Public Company, got into difficulties, forcing Fanfare into the hands of BMG, and Cowell, in debt, to move back in with his parents. Later that year, he became an A&R consultant for BMG.

Subsequently, Cowell signed up a number of acts to S-Records that made a mark in the pop music world, including Curiosity Killed the Cat, Sonia Evans, Five, Westlife, Robson & Jerome, and Ultimate Kaos. He also released several novelty recordings featuring the likes of wrestlers of the World Wrestling Federation, Teletubbies, Zig and Zag and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, that were huge successes. Cowell set up another label, Syco Records, in 2002 which later became part of Columbia Records and Sony BMG Music Entertainment. Artists such as Leona Lewis, Il Divo and contestants from The X Factor and America's Got Talent are released on Syco.

In 2006, Cowell signed to two more record-breaking deals. In the USA, he agreed to remain as a judge on American Idol, earning £20 million ($40 million) per season for another 5 years. He also has a deal with FOX which allows his production company to broadcast Got Talent and American Inventor on other networks, but he may not appear on them. In the UK, he signed a "golden handcuffs" deal with ITV, worth approximately £6.5 million a year for 3 years, which gave ITV rights to his hit talent show The X Factor, a British singing talent show, and Grease Is The Word, a musical talent show to find the stars of a Grease production in London's West End. In late 2005, he signed a new contract to remain working for Sony BMG.

According to AOL News as posted on August 21, 2007, a reporter for the British newspaper The Mirror conducted an interview with Cowell in mid-August where he claimed that he would complete the three seasons remaining on his contract with American Idol and then "that was it". Cowell explained, "There has to come a point when I will step down from being on camera and remain behind the scenes because you can't keep doing this forever...I think by [the end of my contract] that the public will be sick to death of me anyway and it will be time to go."

Idol franchise and Il Divo

Cowell became a judge on the first series of Pop Idol in 2001, and on the first season of American Idol in 2002. Many viewers of American Idol know Cowell best for his bitingly critical comments and attitude. He is so prominently identified with being blunt and harsh in commentary that audiences on American Idol can make it difficult for him to speak, sometimes booing him even before he makes his opinions known. Ryan Seacrest, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson tend to cut him off very quickly as well. With his notoriously critical reputation, Cowell is likened to TV personalities, such as Judge Judy (aka Justice with an Attitude), and Weakest Link's Anne Robinson (aka Queen of Mean). Though comparable to Anne Robinson, Cowell has expressed his dislike for her and has commented in an interview, "I hate her and I hate her show because it's just an act". Cowell's fame grew, fed by his signature phrase, "I don't mean to be rude, but …", inevitably followed by an unsparingly blunt appraisal of the contestant's talents, personality, or even physical appearance. A lot of these one-liners were the product of coaching that Cowell received from noted publicist Max Clifford. Cowell also appeared on the one-off World Idol programme in 2003, where it became clear that each country's version of the Idol had attempted to come up with its own "Simon Cowell" type personality. In 2003, Cowell placed No 33 on Channel 4's list of the all-time 100 Worst Britons. Cowell's S Records signed the top two finishers of the first season of Pop Idol, Will Young and Gareth Gates, both of whom went on to have No 1 UK hits. Efforts begun in 2001 materialised in 2004, when Cowell returned to his group manufacturing roots with his latest brainchild, the internationally successful operatic pop group Il Divo, consisting of three opera singers and one pop singer of four different nationalities. Inspired by the success of Il Divo, Simon created a child version, Angelis, beating competition from many similar groups emerging at Christmas 2006.

The X Factor

In 2004, with Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh, Cowell was a judge on the first series of the British talent show The X Factor, which he created using his production company, Syco. The X Factor was an instant success with the viewers and returned three more times to its fourth series in 2007. In 2006, he was voted the tenth most terrifying celebrity on television in a Radio Times poll consisting of 3,000 people.

The winner of The X Factor third series, Leona Lewis, is signed to Cowell's label Syco and has gone on to become an international star, with number one singles and album sales around the world.

Cowell returned for a fourth series on August 18, 2007, alongside Osbourne, Walsh and new judge, Dannii Minogue. Walsh had previously been sacked from the judging panel by Cowell for the fourth series, and was subsequently replaced by Brian Friedman who was a judge on Grease Is The Word. Walsh was later brought back a week into the auditions by Cowell when he and Sharon Osbourne realised they missed Walsh and that without him, there was no chemistry between the judges.

American Inventor

On March 16, 2006, Simon Cowell's next competition show, American Inventor, debuted on ABC. Fledgling entrepreneurs from across the United States compete to see who can come up with the best new product concept. The 2006 winner, Janusz Liberkowski, received $1 million and the opportunity to develop his idea into a business. The show returned in 2007.

Got Talent franchise

Cowell is the executive producer of America's Got Talent, along with Fremantle producers of the Idol series. The show was a huge success for NBC, drawing around 12 million viewers a week, and beating So You Think You Can Dance on FOX (produced by rival and Idol creator Simon Fuller).

A British version aired in 2007, and was screened from June 9, 2007 until June 17, 2007, with ITV screening nine episodes. Fellow judges are Piers Morgan and Amanda Holden.

The Australian version aired in 2007 and was screened on February 18, 2007. Judged by Tom Burlinson, Dannii Minogue and Red Symons and hosted by Grant Denyer on Channel Seven.

Celebrity Duets

Cowell also executive-produces Celebrity Duets, which can be described as "an Idol show for Hollywood superstars." The show is hosted by Wayne Brady, and its judges are Marie Osmond, Little Richard and David Foster.

Grease is the Word

Cowell is also the executive producer of Grease Is the Word for ITV. Grease is the Word is the show to find the next big stars to play Danny and Sandy on the 2007 UK west end revival of Grease. Grease Is the Word was hosted by Zoe Ball and judged by Britons David Ian and Sinitta and Americans David Gest and Brian Friedman. This hasn't turned out to be the success he imagined. Simon himself said, "It has been slaughtered by the critics - and rightly so. It is far too similar to our other formats.”

Rock Rivals

Cowell collaborated with UK production company Shed Media to produce 2008 ITV drama series Rock Rivals, which is based on an X Factor type show.

Other activities

Cowell has been involved in charity work for many years. He supports children from The Association Of Children’s Hospices and invites them backstage to the screenings of The X Factor. When he can, he stops by some of the hospices to visit the children. He also supports animal rights and has appeared in a video for PETA in which he reminds drivers of the cruelty to animals that can occur when their pets are locked in cars in the summer.

In December 2003, Cowell published his autobiography titled "I Don't Mean to be Rude, But...". In it, he told the whole story of his childhood, his years working in music and experiences on Pop Idol, Pop Stars Rivals, and American Idol, and finally, his tips for being successful as a pop star.

Cowell has appeared as a guest voice in an episode of The Simpsons ("Smart and Smarter"), in which he gets beaten up by Homer Simpson (while criticising Homer's punches). His voice was also heard on an episode of Family Guy ("Lois Kills Stewie"), in which he told Stewie that his singing was so awful that he should be dead. He made an MTV Movie Award-winning cameo appearance as himself in Scary Movie 3, where he sits in judgment during a battle rap (and subsequently gets killed by gunfire for criticising the rappers). He also appears in Shrek 2 as a judge in Far Far Away Idol, and also provided the voice.

He appeared on an episode of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? (the original British version) and Saturday Night Live in 2004. Cowell has also guest-starred (filling in for Regis Philbin) in the popular talk show Live with Regis and Kelly during American Idol's finalist week in early 2006. Cowell was once the fastest "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" on BBC's motoring show Top Gear, driving a Suzuki Liana around the show's test track in a time of 1:47.1. When Top Gear retired the Liana along with its rankings after the eighth series, Cowell was the eighth fastest overall and the third fastest non-professional driver. On November 11, 2007 Cowell yet again appeared on Top Gear, achieving a time of 1:45.9 thus putting him ahead of Gordon Ramsay and back at the top of the table. Cowell introduced entertainer Dick Clark at the 2006 Primetime Emmy Awards. He was seen on Comic Relief Does The Apprentice where he donated £25,000 for a fun fair ticket. Cowell has also appeared on the MTV shows Cribs and Punk'd. On Punk'd, Ryan Seacrest and Randy Jackson set him up to believe his $400,000 Rolls Royce was stolen and had caused an accident by using a nearly-identical car.

Cowell was chosen as the first 'victim' of the re-launched This Is Your Life in an episode broadcast on June 2, 2007. He was presented with the Red Book by Sir Trevor McDonald while presenting American Idol.

Besides judging unknowns of the music industry, occasionally Cowell comments on already-established pop icons. For example, he opined in Esquire magazine that Beyoncé Knowles was overrated, and that Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" was one of the best pop records ever made. Talking about Christina herself Cowell stated "She is an unbelievable talent.

On July 1, 2007 Cowell appeared alongside Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest as a speaker at the Concert For Diana, held at Wembley Stadium.

On August 13, 2006, Cowell featured on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs in which he had to pick eight records he would take with him if he were to be stranded on a desert island. His choices can be seen here He was also allowed to take a book and a luxury item. For his book, he elected Hollywood Wives, by Jackie Collins, and for his luxury, a mirror.

Personal life

In late 2002, Cowell started dating longtime friend Terri Seymour. In 2006, British newspaper News of the World reported that he had cheated on Seymour with model and socialite Jasmine Lennard, and printed photos of her leaving his home. Photos of an irate Seymour (who was in the US when the story broke) being met at the airport by Cowell were later published in Heat Magazine. However, both Cowell and Lennard, who was also in a relationship, denied that anything untoward had occurred, and attributed the meeting to business.

Upon his appearance on Top Gear, it was revealed that Cowell pays more than £21.7m per year in income tax, suggesting that his taxable income is over £54.25m per year with income tax at the time approximately 40%. (NB: UK Income Tax 40% for earnings over £34,600).

He then appeared on the gameshow Sale of the Century in 1990, as reported in The Sun Newspaper.

He is the godfather of pop singer Sinitta's baby.

Simon owns and drives a Bugatti Veyron.

He admits to using Botox (a brand name for botulinum toxin), but denies any rumours that he is homosexual.

Controversy

Cowell's controversial insults and wisecracks are rarely limited to just the contestant's singing performance, but frequently also refer to their appearance, background and character. Contestants are frequently offended by his comments. In the 2006-07 season of American Idol, Cowell commented that one of the contestants "looked like a bush baby”.

References

External links

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