NEW YORK — All day long at Cipriani Wall Street, Andy Cohen was flying high, wrangling genus Real Housewivicus, species New Yorkicus. He is, at least in part, their maker, as honcho of original programming and development for Bravo. Now he was actually making the program, before a swooping crane camera and amid much ferocious reality show posturing and cruelty, as the host of a post-season reunion special of "The Real Housewives of New York."
How did it feel to negotiate this group hostage-taking? "They wear everything on their sleeves -- well, it's Vietnam," Cohen said later of the ladies and their uncharming behavior.
The ladies left; he stayed behind another hour, shooting teasers and reaction shots and questions to thin air. "Was I too smiley and weird?" Cohen asked the producers after one take. No, there is no such thing on TV. Coming up: "More reality show nonsense!" Cohen tried. "Can I say that?" No, he should not.
Then he got in a waiting black car for a trip up to NYU, where he would lecture students on the joys of television executivehood -- and maybe he'd talk a bit about being the improbable face of a celebrity-possessed network, which is doing quite well, thank you -- the executive turned on-air talent. Cohen is an odd new thing: a public conduit for a network that hangs shows on making people into personalities. Now he is finding out that proximity to fame makes you famous.
"I'm just going to talk about my career path, and I'm going to give them advice that they either want or don't want," Cohen said. "And I'll tell them about Bravo and why and how we do what we do, and I'll have a face full of makeup so they'll probably all be making fun of me and what a tool I am."
After that, he went home to the West Village. To come down, he had a bottle of wine and watched "Schindler's List."
Two months later, on a weekday afternoon in June: Andy Cohen was atop his West Village doghouse, fighting with the red baron of television viewers.
He had just turned 41, and there was a big white orchid in the unused kitchen. Also: two bedrooms plus office, two baths, no terrace, but great views everywhere, plus a picture that he took himself of Madonna licking either an Oscar or a very small gold man.
Bravo is the only network with an on-air representation of the executive office. Since 2006, and because he used to send Lauren Zalaznick, the channel's boss, dishy e-mails from the sets and she was like, uh, why are these not public?, he has been its on-Web talent, conducting a vivid blog and live-streaming online program with a very gay flavor, like much of the network's programming.
At the same time, Cohen would make the rounds of TV chat shows, committing random culture punditry. They were doing it all wrong! Why should they alternately hide and give away all this content?
He began hosting the televised reunions/brawls that air in the aftermath of the most popular Bravo shows. And he was and is good at it, asking the often wounded reality folk hard questions while not appearing smug. ("The Real Housewives of New Jersey" reunion shows -- a two-parter, as befits a show that drew 3.5 million viewers to the first airing of its finale -- will air this Tuesday and Thursday.)
Now the logical evolution: Cohen's once-a-week live show, "Watch What Happens," will begin airing July 16. He has given himself the midnight slot. "It'll be me and a couple Bravo-lebrities and maybe a real 'lebrity taking phone calls and e-mails and tweets from Bravo fanatics live at midnight. And we're going to be sipping cocktails," he said.
The show will be produced by . . . Michael Davies of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."
"It's going to feel like it cost five dollars, and it cost a little over five dollars but only a little over five dollars," Cohen said.
Recently, Bravo TV star Kathy Griffin started making jokes onstage about Cohen and his (mildly!) wandering eye. "Ultimately, she sees pop culture and puts it through her filter and if I somehow became part of that filter, I'll take it, you know?" he said.
And last Christmas, stealthily taken pictures of Cohen with actor Daniel Craig in St. Bart's, seaside and attractively be-swimsuited, showed up on the gossip blogs.
"Well, look," Cohen said, "I think the definition of celebrity -- in the age of Facebook and 18 million other tweets? Celebrity is relative."
But where you wouldn't have seen those pics is Cohen's blog. "I didn't talk about those pictures or what I did on that trip, nor would I," he said. "As much as I do over-share about ridiculous things, there are a lot of things I don't talk about."
But where does all this growing 'lebrity take him? "I don't know. It's really too soon to tell. At this moment, people really want to talk to me about the 'Housewives.' "