Loads of love — and London accents — filled Hollywood Boulevard on Wednesday, Aug. 22, for Simon Cowell’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star dedication ceremony. The “America’s Got Talent” creator and judge, whose credits also include launching “The X Factor” and serving nine seasons on “American Idol,” was welcomed by scores of fans – not coincidentally, “AGT” was taping its semifinal round feet away in the Dolby theater – but it was the constellation of stars from music and beyond that made it something other than Wednesday in Hollywood.
As Cowell took the podium, he cracked, “Why did this take so long?” And offered: “If anyone says fame is a bad thing, I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s the best thing in the world.”
There was plenty of humility too, however as Cowell, visibly moved by the ceremony, honored his late parents and thanked friends, family and colleagues from all over the entertainment world (also in attendance was NBC’s Bob Greenblatt, producer Ken Warwick and Modest Management’s Harry Magee).
Kelly Clarkson, who was crowned the first ever “Idol” winner also at the Dolby (then the Kodak), offered introductory words which reflected on the two of them having “started out together.” The singer credited Cowell’s sincerity and acute ability to find “authentic” talent. “He’s the best friend you can ever have,” she said from the podium, “He’s honest and supportive,” she continued, but paused to note that she “never got the mean [Simon] … I’m still waiting.”
Looking around at the Cowell disciples gathered — among those seated for the ceremony were One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson, “Idol” alums Katharine McPhee (with beau David Foster) and Adam Lambert, Fifth Harmony’s Ally Brooke, Leona Lewis, Grace Vanderwaal, the members of CNCO and the cast of “AGT,” Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel and Mel B — Clarkson credited Cowell for, “So many careers that you’ve been the kick-start for — and they’re all so different — have come through this man over the years. He appreciates authenticity even if it’s not something he’s into. He appreciates you being yourself. That’s very rare in this industry.”
Speaking for the industry was Sony Music CEO Rob Stringer, who recalled Cowell’s start as a label executive. “He was a fledgling A&R guy who refused to have his office with the other A&R [staff], but rather he sat with the sales department because he wanted to know what was going on in the world,” said Stringer. “On a personal note,” he added, “the two of us grew up pretty much the same time in the 1970s. Britain in the ’70s was not in color, it was in black and white. So when we looked to Hollywood through its TV shows, music and movies, we could only aspire. … Growing up, this is not what either of us expected … to be here today.”
Stringer concluded with a declaration: “Simon Cowell is one of the greatest A&R executives in the music business.”
Read Cowell’s speech in it entirety below:
Before we start, I would just like to ask you: why did this take so long? I’m kidding. As Rob [Stringer, Sony Music CEO] said himself, genuinely, I was a massive fan of American television, American movies growing up. I remember the first time I came to Hollywood, and that was a long time ago, thinking it was the most magical place. And now I’m looking down at this. It is so surreal I cannot tell you. And I was thinking of writing down who do I thank. Well, I have to thank the people who gave me a start.
To Fox, for putting our show on initially. To NBC for saving our ass on “Got Talent” because we could not sell this show. And if it wasn’t for NBC, there would be no “Got Talent.” And then I have to thank all of the agents and the producers and of course the artists. I mean, without artists, we have no show and we have no label. And what I’m most proud about I think over anything else is that we’ve become friends as well as business partners.
Lauren, you’ve been my rock for the past few years. Put up with everything I put up with. My friends who’ve flown in from London. There you are. I really do appreciate it. And oh gosh. I suppose one thing I was also thinking about today was who would have got a bigger kick out of this? My mom and dad. And they’re not here, but I have a feeling they’re looking down and now I can look over to my son Eric and say: “Maybe one day you’ll get one of these as well.”
And I also want to thank all the fans who bought the records, who watched the TV shows because again, without that we wouldn’t be here. … It’s been a blast the last 18 years. If anyone says fame is a bad thing, I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s the best thing in the world. Thank you all of you for turning up and making this happen.