Andy Cohen on Alcohol and Activism

·6 min read
Bruce Bozzi and Andy Cohen
Bruce Bozzi and Andy Cohen

On this year's NYC Pride Sunday, Andy Cohen posed for photographs on the rooftop of the Skylark, a multi-level event space where he was hosting his (now annual) Pride party. Wearing a Silence = Death T-shirt — ACT UP’s famed slogan during the height of the AIDS crisis — the late-night Bravo host greeted his longtime friend, Bruce Bozzi, amid a swirl of drag queens, well-heeled guests, and the glittering summer backdrop of Manhattan.

“Bruce is my best friend," Cohen asserts to Out. “I mean, his husband calls me his other husband. When Bruce is around, everything is better.”

For Cohen, Bruce has been around for a while. Indeed, the pair first met in January 1994 when Bozzi, a former co-owner of the Palm Restaurant Group, began dating Cohen's best friend at the time. Three years afterward, Bozzi left the relationship, and in "what you can call 'the divorce,' I got Andy,” Bozzi quips. They dubbed 1997 “the year of Brandy” for how close they became.

“Andy has been a fiercely loyal friend to me, not only just in my personal life, always professionally,” says Bozzi, adding, “When we met I was 27. He was 25. And now I'm 56. He's 54. So time has passed. But he's truly been — I said to him last night, 'I've never had a friend like you.'”

Their friendship was on full display at the Pride party, where there was more than a sparkle of Hollywood. Bozzi’s husband is Bryan Lourd, the co-chairman of the Creative Arts Agency. And Bozzi was throwing the event with Cohen in part due to philanthropy — the event supported the Ali Forney Center, which helps homeless LGBTQ+ youth — but also to celebrate this year’s launch of Mujen, a shochu rice-derived spirit he created with friend Sondra Baker.

Daughter Billie Lourd and her husband Austen Rydell were in attendance, posing with Bozzi on a step-and-repeat; Bozzi held a bottle of Mujen emblazoned with the Progress Pride flag. The Skylark’s David Rabin and Anthony Simone, who curated the festivities (which included a giant rainbow cupcake collage from Baked by Melissa) were also present. Guests at the invite-only Pride party sipped from cocktails created from Mujen as well as De-Nada, a tequila brand co-founded by millennials Adam Millman and Danny Neeson, the son of Liam Neeson.

These spirits swirled in a cocktail at the party called the “prickly pear.” But they also share a patron in Cohen, who made the brands internationally famous when he took shots of both brands for hours alongside Anderson Cooper on CNN’s New Year’s Eve Live special. (Neeson’s famous dad also repped for the brand on an episode of Jimmy Fallon.)

Cohen refers to both Bozzi and Neeson as “amazing friends” — Neeson has known Cohen since age 4 and refers to him as a “guncle,” Cohen says. “I’ve literally watched him grow up and…his hustle makes me so proud.” As for Neeson’s tequila, “I've been drinking it on Watch What Happens Live, and it gives me a really nice buzz without the hangover and without the bloat.”

Bozzi says he was “blown away” when Cohen drank both brands on CNN. However, he believes the endorsement was a testament not just to the friendship they all share, but also to the quality of the products themselves. He referenced a piece of advice from Rande Gerber, a businessman who partnered with George Clooney for Casamigos Tequila: “You got to let your friends taste it because if your friends don’t like it, it’s not gonna go,” Gerber said, according to Bozzi.

“You can't fake that,” Baker adds of the CNN imbibing. “I mean, Andy and Anderson, they were genuinely enjoying it. And so they were having so much fun that what I think a lot of people felt is, they want what they're having.”

And beyond celebrity connections, there's also the relationship of the spirits to LGBTQ+ causes. “It's a beautiful marriage,” Neeson notes of Mujen and De-Nada. “I think that brands that really care about being authentic, not just about the quality of what's in the bottle, but the quality of who's behind it. It's such a crazy chaotic time, but at the same time, I think celebration and loving, coming together…we just want to keep moving that message.”

Of course, liquor isn’t the only thing Cohen wants to promote. At the Skylark, he points to his shirt as a reminder of what’s at stake now for the LGBTQ+ community, particularly in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which could precede the same frightening fate for marriage equality.

“Basically, I'm not feeling very squirrely and gay today,” he shares. “I feel like we need to get our shit together because they are coming for us again. This is a real fight. And you know, this is scary and it sucks. I don't mean to be a doomsday, but, you know, now's the time [to act].”

Even just this week, Cohen used his platform on Watch What Happens Live to draw attention to monkeypox and encourage his “gay brothers” to take care of themselves. (Remember also that he was one of the first celebrities to come out as having COVID-19.) Though his show is tied in with Real Housewives drama, Cohen takes this spotlight very seriously, especially knowing that his audience may include many conservatives.

“I know that there are a lot of people who maybe don't know any gay people who watch me every night,” he says. “And maybe they see, ‘OK, he doesn't seem horrible, and he's a dad and, you know, maybe this is all OK.’ So I think visibility remains the most important thing that I can do. But, you know, any time our backs are against the wall as a community, I try to speak up on Watch What Happens Live. I'm the only gay guy in late night and I think that's a privilege but...I want to speak on our behalf.”

And would he nominate any gay heirs to host a late-night show? “Billy Eichner, obviously,” he says of the Bros star and comedian. And, “If Matt [Rogers] and Bowen [Yang] did a late night show together, it would be really amazing,” he says of the Fire Island and Las Culturistas stars.

Cheers to that!

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