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Interview With Simon Cowell; Accidental Drug Overdose Killed Anna Nicole Smith

Aired March 26, 2007 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
Simon Cowell is on the program tonight. Every week, tens of millions of people tune in to "American Idol" to watch him say what few others will say. Recently, I spent some time with him for CBS News' "60 Minutes." Tonight, you can judge for yourself how he holds up to criticism. The complete interview is coming up in the hour ahead.

We begin, however, with what Anna Nicole Smith -- what happened to her. Larry has been talking about it. Tonight, we go in-depth. She died early last month in a hotel suite in Florida surrounded by pill bottles, soda cans, Slim-Fast, and nicotine gun, everything, it seems, except somebody who cared enough to get her the medical attention that might have saved her life. She was just 39 years old.

Today, the Broward County medical examiner issued his report.

Details now from 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Many drugs, not one, killed Anna Nicole Smith.

DR. JOSHUA PERPER, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA, CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER: PERPER: This is death due to combined drug toxicity, due to not necessarily drugs which are illegal drugs, but drugs which are used for treatment purposes and are abused.

GUPTA: A total of nine prescription drugs -- yes, nine -- were found in Smith's body. But doctors emphasize there's absolutely no evidence of suicide or homicide.

PERPER: There were so many other medication against depression and anxiety, but not in any toxic level, only in a therapeutic level. When somebody wants to commit suicide, they usually take insurance and take more than one drug.

GUPTA: She took more than one drug, but not in irregular doses, anti-anxiety and antidepressant drugs, like Klonopin, Valium, and Ativan, Soma, a muscle relaxant, Topamax, typically a migraine medication. There were also common over-the-counter medications, like Tylenol and Benadryl.

All of these were found to be at normal therapeutic levels in her body. But, ultimately, the combination proved deadly when one specific drug was added to the mix, chloral hydrate. It's an antiquated sedative used in the past to drug unsuspecting victims, rarely used these days for anything.

The medical examiner said she had tried newer, safer sleep aids, but chloral hydrate worked best. Interestingly enough, Smith's "Idol," Marilyn Monroe, died of a lethal combination of chloral hydrate and barbiturates. In Smith's case, doctors say a combination of nine prescription drug is unusual, but not impossible.

PERPER: Yes. It's -- it's -- it's a bit unusual, but it's up to her doctors to make the determination what medication should she take.

GUPTA: But there were several doctors treating Anna Nicole Smith.

Another eye-catching detail, a curious mixture of injectable human growth hormone, vitamin B-12, and Topamax. Dr. Perper described it as a longevity regimen. To be clear, there is little scientific evidence proving the concoction works for weight loss or rejuvenation, or, really, any aspect of prolonging life, for Anna Nicole Smith or anyone.

But it is clear the injections did cause a serious, but not lethal, infection.

PERPER: God didn't create our body for receiving many injections. In the area of the buttocks and on her right thigh, there was damage caused by the injection, because there was scarring and destruction of fat tissue and tracks of prior bleeding from a needle.

GUPTA: An infection that cleared up with yet another medication, a strong antibiotic, Cipro, but left her system weakened against an intestinal flu.

PERPER: All those drugs are basically what you call psychoactive drugs. They act on our -- on our brain.

And, in our brain, there are centers of respiration. There are centers of circulation. And, in large amount, those kind of drugs just shut off those centers. It does -- switching a switch, and it's over. And then the person doesn't breathe anymore. This is a very common mechanism. Or the heart might stop.

GUPTA: In the end, it was a rarely-used sedative mixed with a bizarre and dangerous combination of prescription drugs that proved too much for her body.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.



COOPER: Forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht performed an autopsy on Anna Nicole's son, Daniel, and concluded he died of a drug combination, in this case, methadone, Zoloft, and Lexapro.

Dr. Wecht joins me now from Pittsburgh.

And, with us here, Court TV's Lisa Boom.

Dr. Wecht, I want to read you a section from Dr. Perper's press release on the autopsy report. It's a section which describes the events on Tuesday, February 6, which was two days before Smith was found dead.

It -- the report says -- quote -- "That evening, she wanted to sleep, asked for more chloral hydrate, and slept for one to two hours. After waking up, she watched TV. In the evening, she asked and was given Klonopin, Soma, Valium, and Topamax. Before going to sleep, she took another dose of chloral hydrate."

This -- I mean, this woman was on, at -- at one -- basically, nine prescription drugs. Does this surprise you, I mean, that -- that she was taking so many?


I'm not surprised that she was taking several, because I knew something about her drug history and her drug abuse. But remember this: Most of the drugs, all of the drugs, are at therapeutic, even low therapeutic, level. The only drug that is at a significantly high level is chloral hydrate.

It was a fairly high level, but not enough to have killed her by itself. All of the other drugs, even though therapeutic levels, added on were enough to tilt the scales.

COOPER: Lisa, legally, I mean, are there any consequences for -- for the people around Smith, her friends, Howard K. Stern, and certainly the -- the doctors -- doctor and/or doctors who prescribed all these medications?


LISA BLOOM, COURT TV ANCHOR: That's the question that jumps out of the report, Anderson.

Notice the language you just read. It's in the passive tense: She was given.

And the report almost looks like it's covering up for the medical professionals, who were giving her at least some of the medication, because we know some of it was done by a hypodermic needle in her buttock, and she had an infection there. So, there was a nurse with her on the day that she died. There was a psychiatrist/friend that was with her on the day before she died.

How many doctors are prescribing how many medications? Did they know about the -- all of the other medications that she was taking? That, we don't know yet at this point. But there could very well be, at minimum, civil liability for some of these medical professions. COOPER: I mean, Dr. Wecht, do you think the doctors bear some sort of blame for prescribing all these things, whether or not -- I mean -- I don't -- we don't even know if it's the case that they -- they all -- you know, it was different doctors, and she was doctor- shopping, and she didn't know -- and the doctors didn't know there were other doctors in other states prescribing.

But -- but, certainly...

WECHT: The -- the...

COOPER: ... somebody must have known.


The medical examiner was asked how many doctors, and he only said numerous or various. I do not know how many.

And I believe that this is a rather all too frequently encountered deficiency in American medicine, that doctors do not make a special effort to ascertain what other drugs the patient may have been on prescribed by other doctors for seemingly quite different problems.

It is the side effects, not the primary impact, of a particular drug. So, insofar as civil liability, yes, I have been involved, as a consultant, in a fair number of cases like that. They're not so easy to accomplish, especially when you have a known drug abuser like Anna Nicole.

COOPER: If she hadn't been taking this chloral hydrate to help her sleep at night or to get her to sleep at night, would she have died? I mean, all -- all these other...

WECHT: No. Oh, no. Of course not. Of course not.

COOPER: It was -- basically all boiled down to chloral hydrate, in conjunction with all these other medications?

WECHT: Chloral hydrate is the principal offender. It is a perfectly legitimate, albeit quite infrequently, rarely used sedative nowadays.

Nothing wrong with chloral hydrate. But she did use too much. And she was probably swigging a little bit, and -- and that reached a point. Also, there is a half-life of seven to 10 hours. So, she was taking some, and the body had not metabolized and gotten rid of all of it, before she took some more.

COOPER: One more medical question, Dr. Wecht.

In terms of methadone, do we know why Anna Nicole Smith had had -- she had methadone...

WECHT: Well, I can tell you this.

COOPER: ... in her system...

WECHT: Anna -- Anna Nicole Smith..

COOPER: ... from previous days?

WECHT: Anna Nicole Smith had some methadone in the bile. The bile is excreted by the liver. And, so, she had taken methadone some time, anywhere from several days to maybe a week or more, prior to going to Florida.

And that's why you found the little bit of methadone in the bile, which...


COOPER: Now, the only thing I know about methadone is, it's a -- it's a treatment for people who are getting off heroin addiction. They -- they -- they take methadone to stop the addiction to heroin.

WECHT: Yes. And some people are addicted to methadone, and some people take it for pain. I have no knowledge that she was in severe pain.

COOPER: So, some people just take it for pain?

WECHT: And it can be prescribed straight on to use it for pain.

I'm not suggesting for one moment that methadone was properly used. But I'm saying it had nothing to do with her death at this time.


And, finally, Lisa, in terms of the legal case, does this close at least a chapter in terms of Anna Nicole Smith's death?

BLOOM: Well...


BLOOM: ... it closes one. There's a lot that are still open.

It does look like Howard K. Stern does not have to worry about any criminal implications from Anna Nicole's death. However, there's the inquest into Daniel's death, which begins tomorrow. There's the custody dispute, which still rages on. And there are questions surrounding a number of doctors, including an investigation into at least one of Anna Nicole's doctors.

All of that remains open, Anderson.

COOPER: And, Lisa, in terms of the custody dispute, there has been DNA taken -- from Dannielynn.


COOPER: There has been DNA taken friend Birkhead.

BLOOM: Right.

COOPER: That's -- that's enough to figure out who is the biological father, correct?

BLOOM: Well, if Birkhead is the father, that's enough. If Howard K. Stern is the father, that's not enough. Or if it's some other man, it's not enough. Howard Stern has not given a DNA sample, as far as I know, as of this moment. He has not been ordered to.

COOPER: And, in terms of Bahamian law, though, even if Larry Birkhead is determined to be the biological father, that does not necessarily mean he would automatically get custody.

BLOOM: That is the key point, right. There's paternity, and there's custody. He would be the father biologically. But Bahamian law doesn't look at it the way we do. Biology is not everything in the Bahamas.

COOPER: Appreciate both of your expertise.

Lisa, thanks very much.

BLOOM: Thanks.

COOPER: Dr. Wecht, thank you.

BLOOM: Thank you. Thank you.


COOPER: Well, we now know from the coroner's report that Anna Nicole Smith was injecting human growth hormone.

Genetically engineered HGH first hit the market back in 1985 to help kids with glandular problems grow taller. More recently, it's become the performance-enhancing drug of choice for pro athletes, and some believe a way of staying young. At least that's the promise.

The facts now from Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


GUPTA (voice-over): Like many approaching retirement, Ed and Beth (ph) Lothamer were starting to feel less energetic, until Beth decided to try a controversial and increasingly popular treatment, human growth hormone.

ED LOTHAMER, HUMAN GROWTH HORMONE USER: She kept telling me how good she was feeling. And, you know, I was -- I was getting a little sluggish. But she said, you know, why don't you least come and -- and take a shot at this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You just stick it there.

GUPTA: So, now, they each take a shot every day.


GUPTA: Ed says he felt the effects within a month.

LOTHAMER: When I woke up, I wasn't fatigued. I noticed, in the gym, I was much stronger, had more endurance. My memory was sharper.

GUPTA: Dr. Thomas Perls isn't buying all the hype.

DR. THOMAS PERLS, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE AND GERIATRICS, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: No one sends me any scientific articles indicating that growth hormone works for combating aging, simply because they don't exist.

GUPTA: But multiple studies have found that growth hormone reduces fat, while building up bones and muscle. But those studies also find a lot of side effects, like joint pain and swelling. Dr. Perls says, that's not even the worst of it.

PERLS: It shortens life span and it probably increases people's risk for cancer.

GUPTA: Ed Lothamer says the gamble is worth it to him.

LOTHAMER: I'm sure it's not for everybody in the world. For us, we think it works, and so we do it.

GUPTA: Taking growth specifically for anti-aging is illegal. So, doctors who prescribe it have to show they're treating a deficiency. Distributing it without a prescription can get you up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.


GUPTA: Now, you may watch that and wonder, how can you get your hands on some human growth hormone, or HGH?

Well, it's interesting, Anderson. Just spending a few minutes on the Internet, I was able to find all sorts of Web sites where you can actually find the stuff, or a lot of people selling it overseas as well. She traveled. Don't know how she got it, but, clearly she had it -- Anderson.

COOPER: Well, it also seems like doctors are prescribing this. Is there any medical reason why a doctor would prescribe this?

GUPTA: Well, there -- there are some things. Like, for example, a child who has low levels of growth hormones, has short stature, for example, that might be a reason, or even adults who have deficiencies of human growth hormone.

But those are the only medically justifiable reasons -- the vast majority of people actually taking it to try and reverse aging, to try and darken their hairs, tighten their skin, get muscle mass back. That's the promise. And that's why a lot of people sort of seek it out.

COOPER: And -- and, so, there are a lot of doctors who -- who seem willing to prescribe it, or -- or come up with some sort of justification for doing it?

GUPTA: Well, yes, exactly. Finding some justification, that's sort of the key.

A lot of doctors are willing to prescribe it. If you ask them -- and we asked several -- they say that: Well, we give it for people who have low levels.

Again, it's so easy to get that you find it hard to believe that everyone that is taking it out there actually has had their blood checked, had the low levels, and they're subsequently taking it. But that's what the doctors who we interviewed, at least, say about it.

COOPER: What are the risks of human growth hormone?

GUPTA: There are some significant risks.

First of all, one thing to keep in mind is, in animal studies, it actually doesn't lengthen life at all. It actually shortens life. So, that's something to keep in mind. But there seem to be some risks to human being, swelling, for example, significant swelling, almost arthritic-type pain, as well headaches and bloating.

Some people are worried about diabetes. Some people are worried about cancer as well. Those haven't -- haven't actually proven in any long-term studies. But there are a lot of possible concerns about this.

COOPER: You say it doesn't lengthen life. Does -- does it have any anti-aging effects or any weight-loss effects?

GUPTA: So, Anderson, a lot of the enthusiasm about this came about from a paper about 15 years ago, a study of just 12 men. And it showed that, basically, you had increase in muscle mass and they some loss of body fat, your body fat composition.

There was no actual link to longevity. Obviously, doing longevity studies takes a very long time. And it was 12 men for a very short amount of time. So, it -- it is hard to say -- a lot of people buying into this, though. It's one of most popular hormones out there, as we searched the Internet. But -- but there's very few conclusive studies about it in humans.

COOPER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks.

GUPTA: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, there are a lot of people trying to cash in on Anna Nicole Smith's death. Here's the "Raw Data."

There are more than 900 items up for sale on eBay right now, everything from a bobblehead doll for around $10, to a pink Versace couture suede pair of jeans, size 29, worn by her, signed on the back pocket with "Love, Anna Nicole." The top bid at last check for that was $735.

Just the other day in an eBay auction, two of her diaries were sold to an anonymous buyer from a German businessman for more than $500,000. One was written in 1992, the other back in 1994.

Straight ahead tonight: a new shot at clearing up the other Anna Nicole mystery, the death of her 20-year-old son, Daniel, and those lingering questions about foul play.


COOPER (voice-over): Daniel Smith had lots to live for, so why did he die?

ROGER GOMEZ, CHIEF MAGISTRATE: The fact that he came to see his newly born sister, and for him to just suddenly drop down dead raises a lot of questions.

COOPER: Questions for this man and this man, as a jury gets ready to decide whether Daniel Smith's overdose was an accident, suicide, or something else.

Also: Simon says.

SIMON COWELL, "AMERICAN IDOL" JUDGE: I was once offered money to judge somebody in bed, yes, a couple.

COOPER (on camera): They wanted you to watch them in bed?


COOPER: And critique them?


COOPER (voice-over): Find how what Simon Cowell ended up doing and how a man who can barely carry a tune has become one of today's most successful music executives -- ahead on 360.



COOPER: Well, Anna Nicole Smith is buried next to her 20-year- old son, Daniel, in the Bahamas. And we know what killed her. But the official cause of Daniel's death remains a mystery. Tomorrow, a hearing in Nassau will try to answer that question.

CNN's Rusty Dornin reports.


RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty-year-old Daniel Smith came here to the Doctors Hospital in Nassau. He came to celebrate the birth of his baby sister. But, three days after she was born, he was found dead in his mother's hospital room.

A medical examiner says he died of an overdose of methadone and two antidepressants. Police have now determined his mother died of an overdose, too. Although the drugs were different, her death, they determined, was accidental.

But was the son's death an accident, suicide, or something else? That what's Bahamian investigators want to know. Chief Magistrate Roger Gomez says his sudden death on such a festive occasion was very unusual.

ROGER GOMEZ, BAHAMIAN CHIEF MAGISTRATE: And the fact that he came to see his newly born sister, and for him to just suddenly drop down dead raises a lot of questions.

DORNIN: Now, as part of the inquest into his death, 40 witnesses will be questioned, including hospital staff, friends of Daniel, and police from the U.S. Even Larry Birkhead, the man claiming to be the father of Anna Nicole Smith's 6-month-old daughter, will be one of the first witnesses.

Another person authorities here definitely want to talk to, Howard Stern.

GOMEZ: Oh, he would be a very key witness, because he's the only surviving person who was in that room when Daniel died. Anna Nicole, unfortunately, has died. And we were looking forward to hearing her evidence. But, unfortunately, we don't have it anymore, because she has died.

DORNIN: One thing that will be talked about are these photos that show methadone found in Anna Nicole Smith's refrigerator after she died.

Family and friends say the photos were staged. Anna Nicole Smith did not die from an overdose of methadone. But methadone did contribute to her son's death, according to the medical examiner's report.

(on camera): Are you still going to be interested in the fact that there was reported to be methadone in her refrigerator?

GOMEZ: Oh, yes. All that will be coming up at the inquest.

DORNIN: This is the courtroom where more than 40 witnesses will be questioned about the circumstances surrounding Daniel Smith's death. There be seven jurors sitting over here. They will reach a verdict. Their verdict will be given as a recommendation to the attorney general.

(voice-over): They could vote death by misadventure here. That means accidental or suicide. But, if there is evidence to prove criminal intent, they can draft criminal charges.

Tourists are no longer allowed at the grave site of Smith and her son. At the courthouse, the media crowd has gathered to hear the questions about Daniel Smith's death, questions Bahamian officials hope will soon be answered.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, Nassau, the Bahamas.


COOPER: Well, when Daniel died, a business card was found on his body. The card belonged to a private investigator named Jack Harding.

The two met about a month before Daniel's death. And what Daniel confided in him may surprise you.

I spoke to Jack Harding a short time ago.


COOPER: Jack, the authorities today said that they found -- and I quote -- "nothing to indicate foul play" in Anna Nicole Smith's death.

Do you buy that?



HARDING: Well, I had talked to -- well, actually, today, I had met and talked to Jackie (ph) -- I believe it's Hammond (ph). I may be mistaken.

But she was the godmother of Danny. And she was talking to me about Anna Nicole's drug habit. And she said she was constantly on drugs, and Stern was giving -- giving her drugs all the time. And it's the same thing that Danny told me when I met him. He wanted to get his mother off drugs.

COOPER: What was it that he originally said to you, when -- when he came essentially for your help?

HARDING: Well, I had met him prior to that, and gave him my business card. And -- and I told him, if you ever needed me, give me a call. And I -- you know, I never expect anyone to call me. And he did.

COOPER: He was staying with a -- he was staying with a former boyfriend of Anna Nicole's?

HARDING: Yes, he was. The former boyfriend...


COOPER: Who you knew, and that's how the contact was made?

HARDING: That's right.

COOPER: How did he strike you. When you were -- when you sat down for -- for the meeting in a restaurant, how did Danny seem? HARDING: When I met Danny, and, of course, when Danny came in to see me, he was very lucid. He was clear of skin. His eyes were clear. He wasn't anorexic that I could see. He was a good -- well, slim, but good body tone.

COOPER: And he had a -- a dream about his mother dying; is that correct?

HARDING: This is when I asked him: Oh, well, why -- why are you contacting me about this?

And he said: Well, I had a dream that my mother was in a casket, and she was gray, gray-looking.

And then his eyes started tearing up, and he was shivering a little. And, so, I didn't ask any more questions about that. And he told me that he wanted me to go to the Bahamas and investigate Stern and his co -- as he called them, cohorts, because, for one thing, when he would call his mother, if Stern picked up the phone, he would hang up on him. And...


COOPER: So, he's -- he's really painting a portrait -- he was, to you painting a portrait of Howard K. Stern that -- I mean, it seems like Stern was controlling access to his mother.


He felt that -- well, Stern had pushed him out of his -- away from his family, from his mother. And he felt that -- well, that Stern was jealous of him, and Stern wanted control, and wanted the boy out of the picture altogether.

COOPER: There were a number of drugs obviously found in his system. Did -- did he speak about that at all? Did you know he was taking anything? There was methadone in his system.

HARDING: Danny, to me, he didn't have any drugs on him. And he was -- he never stumbled. He never slurred. He -- he was lucid, very lucid.

COOPER: Jack, appreciate you -- you talking. Thanks very much.

HARDING: You're welcome.


COOPER: Coming up next tonight: guns and ammo and Congress. And we don't mean a debate on the Senate floor -- how one senator's trusted aide ended up in custody today.

Also: Every week, millions watch him reduce dreams to dust on "American Idol." He's used to having the final say. But, tonight, you be the judge. My interview with Simon Cowell is ahead on 360.


COOPER: An aide to Senator Jim Webb is in legal hot water. And a lawyer for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is preparing to take the Fifth.

Those are some of the raw material segments for our "Raw Politics" segment tonight.

For that, let's go to CNN's Joe Johns in Washington -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the list of things to remember if you're new to the Senate just got a little longer tonight.

Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia and a staffer will probably remember to leave the handguns at home. An aide to the senator, police say, was arrested packing heat with a loaded pistol and two fully loaded magazines at an entrance to a Senate office building today.

Phillip Thompson, that aide, was charged with carrying an unregistered pistol. Webb's office said: "To our knowledge, this incident was an oversight by the senator's aide. Phillip Thompson is a former Marine and is a long-term trusted employee of the senator. We're still awaiting the facts."

A congressional official told CNN, the gun actually belonged to Senator Webb, and that Webb had given Thompson the gun on the way to the airport. Thompson apparently forgot. He put it in a briefcase.

Meanwhile, Jim Webb's tactic in the last campaign of using staffers with video cameras to track the opposing candidate is likely to get a real workout in the next cycle.

You may remember videos shot by a Webb staffer caught Republican Senator George Allen calling one of the so-called trackers "macaca." That was a defining moment in the race.

GEORGE ALLEN, FORMER SENATOR: This fellow here over here with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is, he's with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere.

JOHNS: The Democratic National Committee is sending out e-mails asking for money to pay for video crews to track Republican presidential candidates in the primaries.

A top Justice Department aide is expected to take the fifth in the congressional investigation of the firings of eight United States attorneys.

A lawyer for Monica Goodling says she'll invoke her right against self-incrimination because, in the current political environment, she could get into legal trouble, even if her testimony is truthful and accurate. Goodling is counsel to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales -- Anderson. COOPER: And Joe, you know, the White House said that the Justice Department would make every official involved available for question. What's been the reaction after hearing that Goodling is going to invoke the Fifth?

JOHNS: Well, they're saying we'll do what we can. But they're also saying they can't -- not even the president can force a person on the president's staff or otherwise in the administration to, you know, go against their own constitutional rights. There's a constitutional issue here.

The attorney, of course, in this case is saying this is a perjury trap, at least potentially, for the witness.

COOPER: Interesting. Joe Johns, thanks.

Tens of millions of Americans watch him. If the Beatles were getting started today they'd probably be trying to impress him, "American Idol's" Simon Cowell. Coming up, my interview with him.


COOPER (voice-over): Simon says...

SIMON COWELL, JUDGE, FOX'S "AMERICAN IDOL": I was once offered money to judge somebody in bed, yes, a couple.

COOPER: They wanted you to watch them in bed?


COOPER: And critique them?


COOPER: Find out how Simon Cowell ended up doing and how a man who can barely carry a tune has become one of today's most successful music executives.

Also tonight, space, the final frontier? Nope, just some guy's apartment. What's up with this guy? You be the judge as we boldly go where no bachelor has gone before, when 360 continues.


COOPER: Sad anniversary today. On this day ten years ago today, it was the biggest news story in the country, the bizarre mass suicide of Heaven's Gate cult members in Rancho Santa Fe, California. Thirty- nine people died, one survived.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I walk up into the living area, the living room, and that's when I start to notice the mattresses with people lying on them with the purple shroud. And, of course, I knew from the odor what was happening, but that was the first time I'd ever been in a situation like that.


COOPER: Meet the sole survivor, what he saw that day and why he is still a believer after all of these years. That's in our next hour of 360.

Right now, Simon Cowell. Last year, "Forbes" magazine released its list of 100 powerful celebrities. "American Idol's" Simon Cowell came in 29, making him more powerful than Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington and director/producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

As a judge on the immensely popular show "American Idol", Simon is honest, he's forthright and to some, downright mean. As a music executive and a businessman, he's in shrewd, wildly successful and not shy about it.

I spent some time with Simon for "60 Minutes". Here's the full interview.


COOPER: Do you sing?


COOPER: Do you play an instrument?

COWELL: Guitar, very badly.

COOPER: Do you read music?


COOPER: Do you produce albums?


COOPER: So what actually do you do?

COWELL: Guess what's going to be popular.

COOPER: You guess what's going to be popular?

COWELL: Literally that.

COOPER: Do you feel at all like a fraud at times?

COWELL: Well, no, because I think 99 percent of the people who watch the show are in the same position as me. They know when somebody's good or not. And for me, it's been a help not knowing too much, so I can rely on my instincts.

COOPER (voice-over): Instincts are what Simon Cowell credits for his success.


COOPER: But it's how he displays those instincts that have made him a household name.

COWELL: This has been one of the worst days we've ever had, and you are probably the worst we've had today.

COOPER: And there's no shortage of people willing to take him on. "American Idol" is now in its sixth season, and more popular than ever. Tens of thousands show up to audition.

MELINDA DOOLITTLE, "AMERICAN IDOL" CONTESTANT (singing): For once I have someone that...

COOPER: There are a talented few...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Are you...

COOPER: ... but an untalented many, and that's where Cowell comes in.

COWELL: Thank you, Nicholas. What the bloody hell was that?

COOPER (on camera): Aren't some of them clearly just there to try to get on TV?

COWELL: We get a lot of people in the auditions who are going to sing badly on purpose, and we never show them. The people we show are the people who genuine believe they're going to win, and that's what's fascinating.

COOPER: Every one of those people, no matter how bad they are, they really think they have talent?

COWELL: Every single one. Every single one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): I am down...

COOPER (voice-over): And Cowell is ruthless to them, critiquing not just their performance but, in some cases, their physical appearance.

COWELL: You look like one of those creatures that live in the jungle with those massive eyes. What are they called? Bush baby.

COOPER: Cowell says the conflict makes for good TV, and he's not about to apologize for it. Quite the contrary.

(on camera) Some people have equated it to a medieval stoning, that it's -- it's the same kind of motivation which people watch.

COWELL: It's an interesting thought for a show, where we actually could do that, but...

COOPER: You would consider that?

COWELL: Why not? I can see a similarity to a point. But it's human nature, you know? We are fascinated with that.

COOPER: Do you think everything should be shown on TV?


COOPER: Public executions, should they be shown on TV?

COWELL: I think people should be given the choice to watch them, I guess. Yes, why not?

COOPER: With commercials?

COWELL: Sponsorship. Yes, sponsorship.

COOPER (voice-over): Cowell may be only partially kidding.

COWELL: And are they specifying a date in their contract?

COOPER: His critics say, if there's money in it, he'll try it. He splits his time between tony homes in London and Beverly Hills, running business simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic.

In America, in addition to "Idol", he currently has at least four other TV shows in development.

In England he created another hit music competition show called "The X Factor", with Cowell as the caustic judge alongside Sharon Osbourne and record executive Louis Walsh.

COWELL: No, I'm not going to do the B.T.'s anymore after the show.

COOPER: but TV star is just his night job. In his day job, he's a record executive for Sony BMG. He's the guy who created and cast Il Divo...


COOPER: ... a good-looking group of male opera singers who, in just three years, have sold 18 million records around the world.

Il Divo is classic Cowell, a group with a gimmick, designed to gain attention and make money. It's a formula he figured out 15 years ago as a young music executive in London.

Cowell bet there was music money to be made in a most unlikely place: the world of professional wrestling.

(on camera) So you saw that these American wrestlers come to London, sell out a stadium. You said why not give them a record contract?

COWELL: Completely, yes. And we sold a million, million and a half records.

COOPER: Didn't matter that they couldn't sing? COWELL: No.

COOPER: Radio One called you at the time the antichrist of the music industry.


COOPER: It makes you giggle.

COWELL: I couldn't care less. I couldn't care less. It's a business.

COOPER: Some people, though, would want, on their tombstone, it to say more than, you know, "Simon Cowell gave the people what they want, made a lot of money."

COWELL: I'm sure in the same way a three-star Michelin chef was looking at the people who make McDonald's hamburgers and saying, "You know, these people are terrible, but I'd rather be McDonald's than the three-star Michelin chef." I would.

COOPER (voice-over): And if Cowell wants to McDonald's, "Idol" is his Big Mac.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): It's the eye of the tiger. It's the thrill of the fight. Rising up...

COOPER: In 2001, he was part of the team which created "Pop Idol" in England. It was an instant hit.

COWELL: I don't think anyone in London is as bad as you. And London's a big city.

COOPER: But when they brought it to America, it wasn't an easy sell.

(on camera) What did you pitch "American Idol" as?

COWELL: We pitched it as the American dream, the person who's likely to win, albeit a cocktail wait dress, can't get a deal, talented and within 20 weeks will become the most famous person in this country. And...

COOPER: That sounds like a strong pitch.

COWELL: It was very a good pitch, I thought, but not good enough, because everyone threw us out of their offices.

COWELL: Even FOX didn't jump on it, but the daughter of Rupert Murdoch, CEO and chairman of News Corporation, FOX's parent company, loved the English version of "Idol" and convinced her dad to buy the show.

Local versions are now seen in more than 30 countries.

COWELL: What we need to do is to credit them with the reason it's going to go to No. 1. That's all there is.

COOPER: And Simon Cowell gets a piece of the action. He and Sony BMG control the recording rights to every "Idol" artist worldwide. That means every time an "Idol" artist sells a song, Simon Cowell makes more money.

(on camera) A lot of people who know you probably think you wanted to be on "American Idol" and you started "American Idol" because you wanted to be on TV. But in fact, that had nothing to do with it?

COWELL: My only interest was "Idol" was a vehicle to launch records. That was the only thing I was thinking about.

But what we actually did, interestingly, by doing "Idol" was I signed the biggest artist on the planet, and it's called "Idol", because every single "Idol" winner is now signed through Sony BMG. And this applies to all the countries we sell it -- we sell "Idol" to, which is over 30 countries. So there's probably now 75 to 100 artists, all signed through this one center thing.

KELLY CLARKSON, "AMERICAN IDOL" WINNER (singing): What you want...

COOPER: Among those artists are some major stars. Both Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood are multiple Grammy winners and together have sold almost 20 million CDs.

Put in perspective, Simon Cowell makes more money for Sony BMG than most of their biggest artists. Take Bruce Springsteen, for example.

(on camera) Sony BMG has a deal with Bruce Springsteen, reportedly about $100 million.


COOPER: You have a deal, very different kind of deal, obviously, with Sony BMG. Sources inside say it's in the same neighborhood. Are you as important to Sony BMG as Bruce Springsteen?

COWELL: In terms of selling records, yes.

COOPER: Who sells more records?

COWELL: I sell more records than Bruce Springsteen, sure. I mean, in the last five years I've probably sold over a hundred million records. If he got 100, I should have got 500.

But I mean, $100 million deals, that's a great deal. But like I said...

COOPER: For him or for you?

COWELL: For him. For him it's a good deal.

I'm torn here, I'll be honest with you, because...

COOPER (voice-over): Cowell's bravado is part of his act. So, too, is the verbal sparring with his "American Idol" colleagues, hosts Ryan Seacrest and fellow judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul.

COWELL: Who's asking you?


COWELL: No, no, no. You do the links, sweetheart. I'll do the judging.

RANDY JACKSON, JUDGE, FOX'S "AMERICAN IDOL": Ryan Seacrest, ladies and gentlemen. Ryan Seacrest.

SEACREST: Don't call me sweetheart.

COOPER: In truth, Cowell and the rest seem to be good friends. Though he's fiercely competitive, he knows that their enormous success is due to the sum of their parts. We joined them one weekend on a private jet to Las Vegas.

(on camera) You do get along.

SEACREST: We do get along. All of us get along very well. I think that the great thing about our dynamic, our relationship, is that we're pretty comfortable with each other. So we can say and do anything to one another and not have to worry about hurting anybody's feelings.

JACKSON: Yes. We like ribbing each other. The ribbing is cool.

COOPER (voice-over): Cowell's gotten used to private planes and constant attention. Wherever he goes, he attracts a crowd. And apparently, it's not just singers who want Cowell's critique.

(on camera) I read some story that people come up to you and ask you to criticize them.

COWELL: I was once offered money to judge somebody in bed, yes a couple.

COOPER: They wanted you to watch them in bed?


COOPER: And critique them?


COOPER: While they were making love?

COWELL: Yes. And I stupidly turned it down.

COOPER: Really? How much was the offer? COWELL: About a hundred grand. And I should have -- I should have taken the money. Because it would be a much more interesting story now, other than I didn't.

COOPER (voice-over): We were interested to learn that he loves to race high speed go-karts. When we suggested a spin around the track at the Mario Andretti Racing School at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Cowell jumped at the chance.

His longtime girlfriend, Terri Seymour, was there to watch when he got into an Indy car for the first time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys look good out there. Piece a cake when we get it to up 165, 170.

COOPER: In a matter of minutes, Cowell topped out at 175 miles an hour. He was, as usual, quite pleased with himself.

(on camera) So you thought you did pretty well?



COWELL: I got -- I got the hang of that.

COOPER: Yes? Because we have some people I want you to meet who might have a different opinion. Let's go over here.

COWELL: OK. Oh, my God.

COOPER (voice-over): He didn't know it, but we'd set up an "Idol" like panel to judge his driving. NASCAR cup champion Kurt Busch, Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip and racing legend Mario Andretti.

(on camera) Mario, how did you think he did?

MARIO ANDRETTI, RACING LEGEND: Probably the language that you would understand best was just bloody awful. It looked like you were looking at a map on your lap and then looking for a dome light that doesn't exist.

MICHAEL WALTRIP, DAYTONA 500 WINNER: It's just so sad that a man that wants something as bad as you do looks like a drunk going to get more liquor.

KURT BUSCH, NASCAR CUP CHAMPION: Really see the lack of talent. There is that drive and determination and that will, and that desire.

WALTRIP: There's no it factor. I don't feel any -- do you?

COWELL: Are you saying I'll never be a racing driver?

WALTRIP: You are terrible.

COWELL: Is that it?

WALTRIP: Look at your shoes.

Terrible shoes.

COOPER (voice-over): But a bit of his own medicine won't cure Simon Cowell's mean streak anytime soon.

COWELL: Just hopeless.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Living life...

COOPER: There's just too many people who want to hear what he has to say. And besides, there's far too much money in it for him to quit.

COWELL: Sandy, I didn't understand a word of that.


COWELL: Was that serious?

COOPER (on camera): Do you you're humiliating people?

COWELL: I don't think I'm humiliating anybody. I think possibly they're humiliating themselves. But no one is dragged kicking and screaming, Anderson, into that audition room.

COOPER: Do you think you're tough on people?

COWELL: From the contestants' perspective, absolutely. But what's -- what's more cruel? You know, I -- sometimes I want to meet the parents sometimes and say to them, "Are you aware that your son, daughter, has zero talent and that you're wasting their time when they could be doing something they're good at?"

COOPER: So you think you're helping these people?

COWELL: Completely. Like a doctor.

But, no, I don't have a conscience about this at all, because at the end of the day, if you've decided that you want to enter "American Idol", you want a short circuit to be rich and famous. If that means you take a couple of bits of criticism along the way, tough.


COOPER: You can read more about my interview with Simon Cowell on the 360 blogs. Go to Again,

Coming up on the program, the final days and hours of Anna Nicole Smith. What her autopsy report revealed today and the new questions it raises.

Also ahead, perhaps you're not sure what to call it. Geek chic perhaps? More proof that you can buy anything on eBay, including a chance to live in the starship Enterprise. Dream on, next on 360.


COOPER: In a moment, an apartment designed to be out of this world. Take a look. It's now being auctioned off on eBay by the "Star Trek" fan who built it. It's tonight's "Shot".

Bur first, Erica Hill from Headline News has a "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Anderson, Britain increased pressure today on Iran to release 15 British sailors and Marines that were seized last week in disputed waters. Iran has refused to say where the crew is being held or to allow British officials to speak with them.

But today, Iranian officials backed off claims that the crew had knowingly trespassed. The first sign Iran may be looking for a way to end the dispute.

A new study casting doubt now on one of most popular procedures for patients with heart disease. Researchers found that angioplasty, which uses stents to prop open clogged arteries, is actually no more effective than drugs when it comes to treating patients with chest pain who are medically stable.

More than half a million people undergo angioplasty every year on a non-emergency basis. Stents do remain a top treatment for people having a heart attack or for those hospitalized with worsening symptoms.

It was a mixed day on Wall Street this Monday. Strong rallies for some tech stocks helped push the NASDAQ up seven points. The S&P 500 closed just over a point higher, while the Dow fell nearly 12, ending its five-day winning streak.

Renewed signs of weakness in the housing market helped to drive the Dow down. The Census Bureau today reporting sales of new homes last month were the slowest in more than six years: 4 percent slower than they were in January, down 18 percent compared to a year ago.

The glut of homes on the market has reached a 16-year high now. So not exactly good news for sellers, Anderson.

COOPER: Especially at this next seller. Have you seen this? This is our "Shot of the Day".

Trekkies everywhere, take note. This guy, meet Tony. He's a die-hard "Star Trek" fan. And it was the Enterprise and Voyager that sort of inspired him.

He designed this apartment. This is actually his apartment.

HILL: Wait, this is an apartment?

COOPER: Yes. This is an apartment. He lived it in for ten years. It is based on the interiors of those fictional spaceships.

HILL: The starship Enterprise?

COOPER: He took the project on after his divorce in 1995. Ended up like the bachelor pad. Really like no other. He's putting it up for sale, of course, on eBay where the starting price is $200,000.

HILL: Any bids at last check?

COOPER: No, I have not recently checked. But I'm curious to know if he's remarried...

HILL: If he is?

COOPER: ... because I'm wondering, like, you know, first date bring the woman back to the apartment and...

HILL: "Hey, baby, like Star Trek?"

COOPER: Right. You just got to like Star Trek. I think that's probably...

HILL: Yes. If he's remarried she's a Trekkie or else.

COOPER: Or he's living in his mom's basement.

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: Thanks.

HILL: See you later.

COOPER: We want you to send us your "Shot" ideas. If you see some amazing video tell us about it: We'll put some of your best clips on the air.

And at the top of the hour tonight, fresh answers and new questions in the death of Anna Nicole Smith.

Also, ten years after the worst case of mass suicide on American soil, new insight into how otherwise normal rational people become suicidal cult followers.

A break first. You're watching 360.



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