What's left to say about this "unauthorised" (sort of), hilarious (definitely) book except: how could anyone be angry or upset about it? Least of all Simon Cowell, who gave 200 hours of access and finds himself in the illustrious company of Tom Bower's other subjects such as Gordon Brown, Richard Branson, Robert Maxwell and Conrad Black. The image on the back cover sets the tone, showing a bare-chested Cowell sunning himself on a yacht, like a Duran Duran video sponsored by Sanatogen. A lone cover-quote from Cowell says: "People have taken advantage of me in the past. I have a long memory and I've been very patient. One day I'll get my revenge." Oh dear, you think, someone's in a mood.
As the book begins, Cowell is once again on a yacht. Like the multimillionaire TV mogul he is, he is guzzling sausage and mash, slapping on face creams and plotting how the US X Factor could beat (arch-rival and nemesis) Simon Fuller's show, American Idol. Cowell is also fleetingly considering hiring a company to freeze and store his corpse for reanimation. At this point it's difficult to work out whether this latter detail is intended as a metaphor for Cowell's musical output.
Joking apart, part of me empathises with Cowell's lifelong scorn for "musical snobs". Still, his indisputable legacy will be as a television genius rather than a music one. Indeed, after a brief glimpse into Cowell's privileged showbizzy childhood and under-achieving adolescence, Bower gets cracking on his career. There he reveals not the corporate-antichrist of legend but rather a hustling singlet-clad desperado, either turning down Take That, missing out on the Spice Girls or sneering at Britney Spears ("No one could be successful with a name like that").
Instead, Cowell obsessively promotes the hauntingly inexplicable Sinitta. Then he's on to Roland Rat, the Teletubbies, and Robson & Jerome, revealing himself to be the one-man Spinal Tap of the TV-pop music hook-up. At music industry parties, Cowell is greeted with: "Oh, you're that idiot who signs that shit."
Indeed, thank God TV success beckoned for Cowell because musical taste never would. Sadly, once "Nasty Simon" is ensconced as an international television judge-producer-mogul, the book becomes markedly less funny, and Cowell less endearing. It's not as if we don't know "The Simon Cowell Story" by now: Pop Idol. X Factor. Leona. Susan Boyle. Jedward. Britain's Got Talent. Conquering America. Getting even with Fuller for allegedly making off with the Idol format. Blah blah. Yak yak. Who cares? Like many people in long-running feuds, Cowell and Fuller appear to find each other endlessly fascinating in a way the rest of us don't – unless you're into what amounts to "iPhones at dawn"? The sense of ennui and déjà vu isn't helped by the fact that the half-decent showbiz gossip ("bonks" with Dannii Minogue; having a crush on Cheryl Cole) has already been splashed over the newspapers.
On a personal level, it becomes clear that age cannot wither Cowell – especially not with all the Botox, vitamin injections and dentistry Bower mentions. Where women are concerned, what could be said about a man who has "giant vaginas" performing at his 50th birthday party? Or appears to treat lap-dancing clubs as health spas. Personally, I never believed that Cowell was gay – but why should heterosexuals have to put up with him? It's hard not to shudder at Cowell's "K&C"s (kisses and cuddles), his pitiful harem of dependent exes or his turbo-charged commitment phobia.
When then-fiancée Mezhgan Hussainy gets upset, he bitches with his mother about the "problem". Dining with a previous girlfriend, Terri Seymour, he says: "We'll speak about general matters for the first five minutes, and the rest of the time we'll speak about me." (Is Disney missing a prince?) It's not surprising to hear that Cowell gives his women the "golden elbow" of cash or houses. With this treatment, I'd probably want paying off too.
The book leaves Cowell on yet another penis-extension yacht, munching shepherd's pie, watching cartoons, proving yet again how quickly "immature saddo" becomes "intriguing eccentric" when great wealth is involved.
However, as the book reveals, Cowell isn't all bad – generous, hardworking, GSOH, loves dogs, something of a "saviour of Saturday nights" for those of us who are stuck at home in front of the television. Indeed, Sweet Revenge is a must-buy hoot and, certainly in the initial pre-fame half, Cowell never looked funnier or more lovable.
In the final passages Cowell is observed firing off memos about the Olympics and enthusing about his recent colonic irrigation. "It's so cleansing. And it makes my eyes shine brighter." Shine on Simon, shine on!