In a new interview Simon talks to Parade Magazine on how he likes to spend Sundays and why he thinks he will be a good dad.
The X Factor honcho says he’ll be a good dad—because he’s just a big kid himself.
“My number one fear is being bored,” says Simon Cowell, 54. “I’d rather jump off a bridge than retire and play golf.”
With the third season of The X Factor under way (Fox, Wednesdays and Thursdays), a booming music and television company to look after (Syco Entertainment), and a baby due this winter (with Lauren Silverman), Cowell finds that his competitive spirit keeps him anything but blasé. “Even if I’m playing Monopoly or cards,” he says, “I have this manic desire to beat whomever I’m competing against. I hate the idea of coming in second or third.” The British-born mogul, who splits his time between L.A. and London, talks ratings, fatherhood, and Frank Sinatra with Erin Hill.
PARADE: The X Factor has dipped in the ratings this season. Does that concern you?
It just makes you work harder. There are way too many talent shows on TV, and they all start to look the same, which is why we’ve made distinct changes, like the new Four Chair Challenge round. The only way you get out of a rut is to make the show better.
Who’s standing out among the finalists?
Thirteen-year-old Rion Paige, who has a muscular disease, is fantastic. Lillie McCloud is 54 and proves that age is not a barrier. And there’s a group, Restless Road, that I’ve got a really good feeling about.
You’ve worked alongside many judges over the years. Who’s been the most fun?
Paula [Abdul] and Randy [Jackson] were hilarious on American Idol. We had such a great time in the early years. I like working with Demi [Lovato, on The X Factor]. We bicker, and it’s like having a bratty younger sister, but she’s got a great heart.
When it comes to criticisms, you’re the master. Were you always like that?
I was lippy as a kid. I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I was always getting into trouble with my parents and in school, finding things funny that shouldn’t be. I couldn’t go to weddings or church because I would just lose it.
How do you spend Sundays?
I’ll have breakfast in bed—usually oatmeal, papaya juice, and tea—then I’ll work out. One of my favorite things is watching a movie with someone I like on a Sunday afternoon when it’s raining. I’m an old soul, so I love black-and-white movies. And then 90 percent of the time on Sunday evenings, I’ll be working.
How do you view America and Americans now?
I don’t feel like I’m in a foreign country anymore; it feels like home. I like Americans. We’re much more cynical in England, and I’m not sure we celebrate success quite as much. I didn’t know whether the American dream was real, and I suddenly realized it is. It’s not something to mock, it’s something to embrace.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I love animals and cartoons. I pretty much like everything I liked as a kid—the same foods and TV programs. I still watch Scooby-Doo. I never grew up.
That should come in handy when you’re a dad! What are you most looking forward to about fatherhood?
I’m not brilliant with babies. I never know what to do. But [once he’s older] I think I’ll be a good dad in terms of advice. And then I’ll get to do all the things I want to do, like go to Disneyland or Universal Studios, teach him how to drive—I love all that.
What kind of music will you play for him?
He’ll listen to whatever I listen to and make his own choices. It’s funny—my mom played Frank Sinatra when I was a kid, and because he was her choice, I used to hate it; but I love Sinatra now. He always looked like he was having fun and he didn’t conform. That’s probably why I’ve got pictures of him all over my house!