As much as Simon misses sitting next to Paula — “She was somebody I got very close to over the years” — Cowell pretty much danced around the question of whether he has crossed swords off-camera with freshman judge Ellen DeGenres, as has been reported.
“I wouldn’t say we didn’t get on well—I didn’t know Ellen that well,” he explains. “She started work on Hollywood week, which is quite a difficult show to do. There’s one story that I turned up an hour later and she wanted to film, but I think I turned up 15-20 minutes late because I did a press conference earlier in the day. But there was no fall out, I was trying to guide her through the week and that was about it, really.”
Oh, well then, case closed on that rumor! But Simon did offer some clear, though simple, answers to the question of what it takes to win Idol, besides, um, being female. “You’ve got to be original,” Simon said. “I remember David Cook. The reason he did so well was that he managed to find interesting versions of well-known songs and did them in his style. He was smart. Don’t always do the obvious.” And he quickly adds: “And suck up to me, that always helps.”
“You want somebody who represents what is going on at the moment,” Cowell continues. “I’d love to find a Taylor Swift, somebody’s who’s relevant rather than just a contest winner.”
Simon might be impressed by Taylor, but he revealed that his number one pick to appear on the show as a guest mentor? Oh, you know. Lady Gaga, he says, “is the most relevant pop artist in the world at this moment. And she’s very smart. I like her.”
He was much more tight-lipped when asked for his top pick in the debate over whom Idol producers might select to replace him after he leaves to compete against them. “You’re never going to pick anybody as good as you, are you?” C’mon, Simon—not one name? “If I really knew the answer to that question, I wouldn’t tell you.”
Since he was keeping mostly mum, reporters spit out all sorts of suggestions for him. Howard Stern? Simon scoffed at the the notion that the shock jock was ever a possibility. Perez Hilton? “Perez would be funny,” admits Cowell. “He’s got a good taste in music, he’s a personality… that could work.”
One reporter suggests Noel Gallagher from Oasis. “Do you think people would understand him?” jokes Simon. Then adds: “I know him quite well and I like him. He’s quite funny and a brilliant songwriter. It’s a possibility.” (We’re thinking his brother Liam may be less of a contender — unless Fox decides America would like to see Idol judges throw things at people’s heads.)
“You got to find somebody who can actually make a difference to the contestants, who isn’t afraid to speak their mind and be honest and be blunt. But not be gratuitously rude.” This, from the man who once compared an audtioner’s take on a song as “first-degree murder.”
“There is no shortage of candidates,” says Simon. “The hardest thing about finding a replacement is, you hear names like Madonna. It will never happen. You have to give a massive, massive time commitment.”
Any other requirements? “You have to know what you’re talking about.” And he adds with an audible smirk: “And you have to be good looking.” God, we’re going to miss him.