Sweet Revenge: The Intimate Life of Simon Cowell Tom Bower

Faber, pp.422, 18.99

Why would anyone want to buy this dreadful book? The frightful Simon Cowell appears to have co-operated with the author, and it is littered with repellent photographs — chiefly of a smirking Simon surrounded by beautiful ‘ex-girlfriends’. (Cowell is keen to inform us that he has had lots of girlfriends. He is not gay. Not. Gay.)   

Surely, if one wanted to read about Cowell and gaze at pictures of his over-indulged, hairy body, why not just browse the internet? The websites featuring comments such as, ‘Simon Cowl is reelly horibel and rood’ are far more amusing than Tom Bower’s repetitive biography. I would forgive the author if his book were entertaining, but it is not — it renders the reader exhausted yet fretful, a sensation similar to overdosing on double espressos.  

Bower begins by observing Cowell aboard his yacht, which costs £2 million a month to charter. Detailing the cost of Simon’s vulgar lifestyle is thought to be of enormous interests:

With his annual income heading towards $70 million, Cowell no longer stints on luxuries … he travels everywhere with at least two large suitcases filled with potions … spends £5,000 for one hour’s beauty treatment … Dr Wendy Denning, an attractive British GP, recommended Cowell to have ‘the full blood work’ every six months.

I did not make that last bit up, and no, I do not know what ‘the full blood work’ means. It sounds vaguely vampire-istic, a gruesome link to the fact that Simon has negotiated with a Swiss company to freeze and store his corpse for £100,000 in the expectation that mad scientists will one day invent the second coming of Cowell.

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The chapter dwelling on Simon’s uneventful childhood surprised me a little, as I would have expected Cowell to have come up with some strange or macabre boyhood event to keep our interest alive. But no, his mother gave up an unpromising career as a dancer to marry his father, a bland businessman. After a lack of education in a minor private school, Simon worked for Sony Music. He promoted Sinitta, a third-rate singer who, in between making records which no one bought, sang in concerts which no one watched. In a cack-handed attempt to rival the success of the Spice Girls, he created a group called Girl Thing which flopped.

In fact everything Simon attempted to do before he thought up the idea of The X Factor met with disaster. Everything, that is, apart from conducting myriad steamy affairs with pouting lovelies, because Simon is Not Gay. The rumours are definitely not true, so don’t believe them.

In the second half of the book, he becomes famous, and for the next 200 pages, spends his money in the most spectacularly banal way:

Cowell bought a Bugatti Veyron, the world’s most expensive car, for £750,000 and paid $400,000 for a Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé with a cream leather interior. The bigger trophy would be a second house in Beverly Hills.

In vain does the reader strive to stay awake. The minor characters in Cowell’s life do little to enliven things. Sharon Osborne sends excrement to her enemies, Philip Green avoids tax, druggy musicians take drugs, arrogant telly people show off, and of course, topless lovelies sleep with him. Because he is Not Gay.

No one, I kept repeating to myself as I propped my eyes open with matchsticks, no one at all will be remotely interested in this barrage of nonsense. Taking a brisk walk to the shops to clear my head, what was my surprise to see this very book serialised on pages one, two, three, four, five and nine of every tabloid, and on page five of all the ‘intellectual’ newspapers.

Why are people fascinated by Simon Cowell? His claim to fame lies in being unkind to deluded would-be singers and making them cry. Only he doesn’t really do anything of the kind, because The X Factor is a tightly controlled charade, finely manipulated within an inch of its life by Cowell. The maddening thing is, before the press decide to ditch Cowell in favour of someone even worse, 10,000 copies of this book will have sold in the time it has taken you to read this review. 

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated

Tags: Biography, Book review, Celebrity, Non-fiction, Simon cowell, X factor