When CNN contacted Anderson Cooper about sending him to the Gulf Coast to cover Hurricane Katrina, the newsman was on vacation in Croatia with Andy Cohen, host of Bravo's Watch What Happens: Live and a producer of several seasons of the Real Housewives reality-TV series. Until recently, the two had not told a long-secret story about the trip. Cooper was going to share it in a three-way phone call, but Cohen intervened.
"Anderson, I actually forbid you from telling this story in an interview," Cohen said. "Because I don't want you to get in trouble. And I want you to save it, because I want you to tell people in New Orleans onstage when we get there."
"Yeah, it's a very disturbing story," he said. "It's very funny but disturbing at the same time. And we've always had this pact never to tell this story. It was so disturbing that it literally was never spoken of until Andy prodded me to tell it onstage one night. It's definitely a crowd-pleaser. But it's not something I want in print."
New Orleans audiences will get a chance to hear it Friday at the Saenger Theatre when the two TV hosts share stories about their careers, personal lives and friendship. They also will answer questions from the audience.
"It is like hanging out with us for a night," Cooper says. "It is very much an unedited, uncensored conversation between us and the audience."
In the intermittently scheduled events, the two interview each other and sometimes show videos of each other's shows.
"I am amazed at what Andy gets away with asking people (on Watch What Happens: Live)," Cooper said. "First off, it's one of the few shows that is truly a representation of who the host is. He's created this unique late-night show — unlike any other late-night show. ... Andy asked Oprah, 'Have you ever swum in the lady pond?' I have had her on my show, and I never had the urge to ask, nor would I think she would have answered. But when they're sitting there with Andy — they know he's having fun with them, not making fun of them."
The duo's live talk show tour grew out of an event at New York City's 92nd Street Y in November 2014, when Cooper interviewed Cohen about his book, The Andy Cohen Diaries: A Deep Look at a Shallow Year.
"He had asked me to read the book while he was still writing it," Cooper said. "I think he had half the book done. I vaguely knew he was working on his diaries. It sort of made me nervous — is he writing stuff down about what happened the night before? Do I need to call my lawyers and get a restraining order against him? I read it on a plane and I was literally laughing out loud. I knew this was going to be huge and incredibly funny."
Cooper and Cohen met in the 1990s, after a mutual friend attempted to set them up on a date (which didn't happen). They became friends, and they sometimes vacation together with friends. They have visited New Orleans together, including when Cooper, along with morning talk show host Kelly Ripa, rode as grand marshal of the Krewe of Endymion parade in 2011. Such trips have become regular fodder for their stage shows.