There's a lot of things Simon Cowell isn't exactly known for: tact, warmth with contestants, timing. But now he's finally ready to offer an apology…for one of them.
While chatting with Oprah Winfrey, set to air tomorrow, TV's Mr. Nasty admits that announcing his departure from American Idol on the same day Ellen DeGeneres took a seat at the judges table wasn't exactly the most embracing welcome-to-the-gang gesture he could have made.
Though the words "no" and "duh" immediately spring to mind, we'll let him explain:
"I think it was difficult for Ellen because the timing was horrific," he said. "On her first day, and I hadn't thought about this, I announce I'm leaving. And she didn't know. And I think that put her into a very tricky situation. And then everyone starts getting a bit paranoid about who my replacement is, blah, blah, blah."
And that blah, blah, blah is as close as you can expect Cowell to come to naming names.
"A couple of weeks ago, I remember we were arguing or whatever, kidding around on the panel and it was—there were only about five people left and I remember suddenly thinking at that point, 'I think it's too much about the judges at the moment and we've forgotten what the contestants are going through.'
"So to answer your question, I think primarily you've got to have somebody on that panel who actually knows what they're talking about."
Hear that, Hugh? Elton? Howard? Harry? Oddly self-aggrandizing music producer?
As for his new show, the Americanized X Factor, Simon said his ego is not so far gone that he doesn't sense a bit of competition from Idol.
"I have to not even think about that at the moment. What I have to do…is to make a show I'd like to watch. And I promise you that's how I'm approaching it, which is all the things I'd like to see on a talent show, I'm gonna try and make happen."
And all the things he doesn't want to see on a talent show…well, those are pretty much covered by Idol.
"For sure," he said when asked if he would produce Fox's current smash differently. Not that he's about to spill his trade secrets to the soon-to-be enemy.
"I'm not gonna say anything!" he laughed. "Wouldn't change a thing. Everything's perfect."
In his love life as well, now that he's found all-but-confirmed fiancée Mezhgan Hussainy. But are there little Simons in his future?
"I—you know, I worry about that because of my age," the 50-year-old said. "You know, when I was younger, you know, my dad used to play soccer and, you know, games with me and I worry—I worry that if I was 70…It worries me a bit."
Not that it's absolutely out of the question, even considering his half-century on the planet.
"If they could be born at the age of five…maybe. Maybe that will happen."
(Originally published May 19, 2010, at 2:30 p.m. PT)
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Simon's not the only one who's sat in Oprah's hot seat recently. We've got the lowdown on all her recent guests.