11 Things You Might Not Know About Anderson Cooper

Nicholas Hunt, Getty Images for Billboard Magazine
Nicholas Hunt, Getty Images for Billboard Magazine

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper has lived a pretty extraordinary life. Check out some revealing information about Cooper’s modeling past, his run-ins with Charlie Chaplin, and how he nearly wound up with the CIA.

1. HE PARTIED WITH CHARLIE CHAPLIN.

Born in New York in 1967 to actor Wyatt Cooper and heiress Gloria Vanderbilt, Cooper was exposed from an early age to a very unique social circle. His parents held parties where they invited the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Lillian Gish, and George Plimpton. Cooper’s father once said that everyone treated Anderson and his older brother, Carter, like adults. “No child should ever be called little,” Wyatt told New York Magazine in 2005. “They were always treated like potential adults.”

2. HE WAS A FAMOUS BABY.

Famed photographer Diane Arbus once convinced Vanderbilt to allow her to photograph a sleeping Cooper for a spread in Harper’s Bazaar magazine. After some reluctance, Vanderbilt allowed the photo to be published; it’s since become one of Arbus’s most recognizable photographs and has been displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

3. AS A CHILD, HE THOUGHT PEOPLE COULD TURN TO STONE.

As is the case with many children, young Cooper could take information and process it literally. When his father showed him a statue that was erected in honor of ancestor Cornelius Vanderbilt, Cooper admitted he thought dying meant that your body would turn to stone.

4. HE BECAME A MODEL AT AGE 10.

After Cooper’s father passed away during heart surgery at the age of 50, 10-year-old Cooper decided that he should begin to think about providing for himself. Eager to have a source of income, he signed with the Ford Modeling Agency and began modeling clothes for Ralph Lauren and Macy’s, among others. (The gigs lasted until age 13 when, according to Cooper, a photographer made some inappropriate comments, which led him to quit.)

5. HE ONCE CONTRACTED MALARIA.

As a teenager, Cooper began to feel restless and decided to take several international excursions by himself to prove he could adapt to different situations. In addition to trekking the Rockies and kayaking in Mexico, at 17 he decided to backpack through Central Africa. While there, he contracted malaria and spent time at a hospital in Kenya.

6. HE INTERNED AT THE CIA.

After enrolling at Yale University, Cooper noticed a flyer hanging in the school’s career counseling office inviting students to explore their options with the CIA. He decided to spend his summers interning at the headquarters of the agency in Langley, Virginia. Cooper later called the work “pretty bureaucratic” and “mundane” and decided not to pursue intelligence work as a profession.

7. HE FAKED HIS PRESS PASSES.

Anderson Cooper
Getty Images

Following both his brother’s suicide and his graduation from Yale, a distraught Cooper decided to once again head overseas to try and distract himself from emotional upheaval. Without an “official” job with a news outlet, Cooper made his own press passes, bought a video camera, and did freelance work from such war-torn areas as Burma and Somalia to cover famines and unrest. Back home, he was able to sell the footage to Channel One, a classroom-based closed-circuit news network. The channel later made him an official correspondent; in 1995, Cooper wound up at ABC.

8. HE HOSTED A REALITY SHOW.

At ABC, Cooper was charged with anchoring the overnight news series World News Tonight and later hosting a reality television series called The Mole. Perceiving the latter as a serious blow to his credibility, ABC executives said he would never again work in broadcast news. 

9. HE WAS NOT AN IMMEDIATE HIT AT CNN.

Suspecting ABC executives were correct, Cooper backed away from Mole duties and migrated to CNN in 2002. The network slotted him on Paula Zahn’s a.m. show American Morning, where Cooper failed to impress critics who may still have been doubting his credentials from the reality television stint. The Los Angeles Times called him the “chuckling Anderson Cooper,” who looked as though “he rode over on a skateboard.” Cooper later described his performance on the show as “nervous” and “uncomfortable.” But by taking on other network assignments no one wanted, he was later able to earn himself an opportunity as anchor of Anderson Cooper 360.

10. HE ONCE DRESSED AS PHIL DONAHUE FOR HALLOWEEN. (HE REALLY LIKES PHIL DONAHUE.) 

During his short-lived daytime talk show, Anderson Live, Cooper invited legendary broadcaster Phil Donahue for an interview. To commemorate the occasion—and Halloween—he dressed up as the silver-haired, microphone-wielding talk traffic cop. Cooper said he grew up watching Donahue and wanted to “pay homage” to him.

11. HIS MOTHER ISN’T LEAVING HIM A CENT.

Despite her family’s considerable wealth, Gloria Vanderbilt has no intention of leaving Cooper any cash when she exits the planet. “My mom made it clear to me there’s no trust fund, there’s none of that,” he told Howard Stern, calling inheritances an “initiative sucker.”

13 Great Rockumentaries Every Music (and Movie) Fan Should See

The Criterion Collection
The Criterion Collection

More people are watching documentaries these days, which likely means that more people are rocking their faces off with nonfiction. Far from Ken Burns’s soothing tones, these music-filled films demand amplification and an unseemly amount of perspiration.

Rock documentaries are tricky beasts. Though they often have the built-in advantage of following around famous people, they aren’t immune to boredom and eye-rolling faux depth. Keeping it simple by showcasing the music can be good, but it’s no way to be great. The best of the best manage to deliver a stellar soundscape, offer a backstage pass to the real humans who make it, and hold our ears even if we aren’t already devoted fans. If a little history gets made in the process, even better.

Grab a seat next to Penny Lane on the bus. Here are 13 of the best documentaries that every music—and film—fan should add to their Must Watch list.

1. WHAT’S HAPPENING! THE BEATLES IN THE U.S.A. (1964)

A singular piece of filmmaking where nonfiction talent met transcendent musical genius on the threshold of gargantuan stardom, this is the best Beatles documentary ever produced. Directed by legendary documentarians Albert and David Maysles, the film captures the band’s first frivolous jaunt through America, where they raised the screaming decibel level in The Ed Sullivan Show theater and goofed off in hotel rooms. It’s an explosion of youth before they changed music forever.

2. DON’T LOOK BACK (1967)

Another marriage of style, skill, and subject, Don't Look Back helped shape how the rockumentary genre could provide insights into the people who shape our popular culture. That so many iconic moments emerged from D.A. Pennebaker’s watershed work, which strolled with Bob Dylan through England in 1965, is a testament to the legendary musician's infinite magnetism. The cue cards, singing with Joan Baez in a hotel room on the edge of breaking up, the Mississippi voter registration rally, and on and on. Since it portrayed fame’s effect on the artist, the art, and the audience, most every other rock doc has been chasing its brilliance.

3. GIMME SHELTER (1970)

The rockumentary has evolved to be as diverse as the sonic landscape itself, which is why Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping can send up the current scene just like This Is Spinal Tap! did in the 1980s. Still, 1970 feels like the year that defined the rockumentary. Another Maysles joint, this profound doc captured The Rolling Stones touring at a time when they were one of the biggest bands in the world and only getting bigger. The music is powerful and immediate, and the film closes with their appearance at the Altamont Free Concert, which turned deadly when—after a day of skirmishes between concertgoers and the Hell’s Angels acting as security—a fan with a gun was stabbed to death when he tried to get on stage during “Under My Thumb.”

4. WOODSTOCK (1970)

The other 1970 film that helped define the genre allowed thousands to claim they’d been to the biggest concert event of the generation without actually going. If rock ‘n’ roll emerged from unruly teenage years into conflicted young adulthood in the 1960s, nothing stamped that image in henna ink better than Woodstock and the documentary that accompanied it. The bands that appear are legendary: Crosby, Stills & Nash; The Who; Joe Cocker singing The Beatles; Janis Joplin; Jimi Hendrix; and many more. It’s a fly-by of the three days of peace and music that you could play on repeat with summery ease.

5. ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (1973)

Rock doc royalty D.A. Pennebaker captured David Bowie’s final performance in his red-domed sci-fi persona at London's Hammersmith Odeon with a flair that captures the frenetic energy of the room. The crowd is as much a part of the moment as the band is, as the camera places you in the middle of a transitional moment in music history. To see Bowie that close up now is a wonder. And, naturally, the music is out of this world.

6. THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION (1981)

Instead of following the famous, Penelope Spheeris’s debut dug its nails deep into the Los Angeles punk scene at the turn of the decade. Black Flag, The Circle Jerks, and other bands your parents have never heard of perform mosh pit-sparking anthems and show off their living conditions like a grungy proto-version of MTV Cribs. There’s a purity here missing from most music docs—a chronicle of people whose passion far, far outweighs their paychecks, and a screening that led the LAPD to request that the movie never be shown in LA again.

7. SIGN "☮" THE TIMES (1987)

Having Prince at the center of your concert doc is a shortcut to ensuring it’s one of the best of all time. There’s the music, of course. Hits like “Little Red Corvette” and “U Got the Look,” and Sheila E. beating the hell out of her drum kit. There’s also The Purple One's inexhaustible energy and stage presence. As a bonus, the film jumps between concert footage and (instead of candid hotel conversations) a sci-fi narrative where we get to go to Prince Planet. It’s a rocky, disorienting experience that could have only been held so tightly together by a master showman.

8. MADONNA: TRUTH OR DARE (1991)

It might be hard to explain to a younger audience just how dominant Madonna was as an artist coming out of the 1980s or the kind of landmark event this film represented because of her status. The travelogue of her Blonde Ambition Tour was like peeking into the insane world of the ultra-famous—not least because Madonna was dating Warren Beatty at the time and part of the film involves her hanging out with Al Pacino, Lionel Richie, and more. There are threats that the Canadian police will arrest her for simulating masturbation in her show, the Pope trying to get the tour canceled in Italy, and a slightly awkward return home to see family. All par for the course for someone whose personal life was carved up for public consumption.

9. RHYME & REASON (1997)

An unparalleled look into the lyricism and lifestyle of rap musicians from the genre’s rise through its global domination of the 1990s, the concert and party footage is fantastic, and the number of interviews is staggering. Peter Spirer spoke with more than 80 rap and hip-hop artists to craft a snapshot of what life was like for a group of musicians who discovered their voices could echo across the world as well as those who followed after to even greater success. Instead of going deep on one person behind the music, it’s a historical document of the culture itself as seen through the eyes of those at its very center.

10. THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSTON (2005)

For those who don’t know Daniel Johnston’s music, this doc is a crash course not only in its stripped-down, anti-folk vibes but the head it all comes spilling out of. Instead of romanticizing or ignoring his bipolar disorder, Jeff Feuerzeig’s movie engages with it directly, drawing beautiful gems from a troubled mind. An absolute masterpiece, it’s less a vision of a musician giving glimpses into his real life than it is a vision of a human being who makes music.

11. AWESOME; I F*CKIN’ SHOT THAT! (2006)

Rockumentaries follow two major formats: the raw concert doc that’s like a ticket to a show you couldn’t attend, and the profile where artists drop quotables in between performances. They’re safe and familiar, which is probably why the Beastie Boys gave both styles the middle finger in favor of a grand experiment. A year before YouTube launched, the rap trio gave 50 fans in their Madison Square Garden audience camcorders to capture the concert. The result is a genuine, fans’-eye-view of the experience, and a chaotic mashup of perspectives.

12. THE PUNK SINGER (2013)

It’s astonishing how much time and ground Sini Anderson’s portrait of Bikini Kill leader Kathleen Hanna covers. It’s so much that labeling her Bikini Kill’s leader is woefully reductive. Artist, pioneer, feminist, activist, and a dozen other titles swirl around Hanna’s sweat-covered brow as we get to know her both as an artist and as a person. It’s also a punk fever dream of riot grrrl greatness, featuring incendiary archival footage and excellent talks with members of Le Tigre, Bikini Kill, and Julie Ruin, as well as Carrie Brownstein and the Beastie Boys’s Adam Horovitz (who is also Hanna’s husband).

13. JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE (2015)

A fairly recent addition to the pantheon, Amy J. Berg’s doc is a stirring tour of archival footage of the gravel-throated songstress. Narrated by musician Cat Power, instead of losing perspective to the fog of history, a blend of modern conversations and ghosts from the past offer fresh eyes and ears to create a heartsick celebration of one of music history's most beloved artists, whose career was cut woefully short.

20 Memorable Elvis Presley Quotes

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

More than 40 years after his death, Elvis Presley remains a rock ‘n' roll icon and has yet to be ousted from his position as “The King.” Yet the Tupelo, Mississippi-born, Memphis, Tennessee-raised superstar never took his fame for granted, nor did he forget his roots. Here are 20 memorable quotes about Elvis’s life and legacy.

ON AMBITION

“Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine.”

ON MAINTAINING YOUR VALUES

“It's not how much you have that makes people look up to you, it's who you are.”

“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody's are the same, but you leave 'em all over everything you do.”

ON THE MUSIC INDUSTRY

“I happened to come along in the music business when there was no trend.”

“I've never written a song in my life. It's all a big hoax.”

“I don't know anything about music. In my line you don't have to.”

ON THE ARMY

“After a hard day of basic training, you could eat a rattlesnake.”

“The army teaches boys to think like men.”

ON TRUTH

“Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away.”

ON THOSE LEGENDARY DANCE MOVES

“Rock and roll music, if you like it, if you feel it, you can't help but move to it. That's what happens to me. I can't help it.”

“Some people tap their feet, some people snap their fingers, and some people sway back and forth. I just sorta do 'em all together, I guess.”

ON KEEPING POSITIVE

“When things go wrong, don't go with them.”

ON STARDOM

“If you let your head get too big, it'll break your neck.”

“I have no use for bodyguards, but I have very specific use for two highly trained certified public accountants.”

“The image is one thing and the human being is another. It's very hard to live up to an image, put it that way.”

“The Lord can give, and the Lord can take away. I might be herding sheep next year.”

ON LOVE

“Sad thing is, you can still love someone and be wrong for them.”

ON THE PITFALLS OF HOLLYWOOD

“I sure lost my musical direction in Hollywood. My songs were the same conveyer belt mass production, just like most of my movies were.”

ON GETTING OLDER

“Every time I think that I'm getting old, and gradually going to the grave, something else happens.”

ON LEAVING A LEGACY

“Do something worth remembering.”

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