The Tragic Real-Life Story Of Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper may live a rich and respected lifestyle, but things haven't always been easy for the celebrated journalist and CNN anchor. From an early age, he has battled to overcome more tragic twists and turns than most people will experience in their lifetimes. One of those moments was the loss of his mother Gloria Vanderbilt, which left him with a substantial fortune and led to the birth of Cooper's podcast "All There Is," as he shared in a conversation with the "Longer Tables" podcast.

"I didn't plan on making a podcast," Cooper told his host, chef José Andrés. He explained that he drew inspiration from the late Austrian psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl's memoir 'Man's Search for Meaning' to record personal notes during the grieving process as a way of coping. "I decided to ultimately make it a podcast 'cause I realize how alone I felt in this process of going through my mom's stuff," he explained. Opening up publicly about his struggles, he said, invited submissions from a multitude of people who resonated with his affliction. "That helped me tremendously to not feel so alone in my grief," Cooper remarked.

Grief constitutes a fraction of Cooper's torrid past. From suicide to stalking, to estrangements and an unlikely diagnosis, keep scrolling to relive the many dark moments of the long-running broadcaster's life.

Anderson Cooper's brother committed suicide

In 1988, Anderson Cooper's brother, Carter Cooper, died by suicide. He fell to his death from his mother's 14th-floor penthouse in New York City. According to The New York Times, the 23-year-old was being treated for depression.

No drugs or alcohol were found in his system. Carter died in front of his mother, famed socialite Gloria Vanderbilt, though Anderson does not think his brother's actions were intended to hurt her. "I think he had this impulse that he could not contain," he told Howard Stern (via People) in 2014. "She was just there."

Years after Carter's death, Anderson is yet to come to terms with his passing, despite having lived for more years than they spent together. "There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about what he would be doing, who he would be, and I still think about his death and have questions about it," he disclosed in a 2021 interview with People.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Carter Cooper's death shaped Anderson's career

Although Anderson Cooper struggled to grieve and move on from his brother's suicide, the tragedy played a key role in the trajectory of his journalism career.

"I started going overseas and going to places where life and death was very real and where people were suffering tremendous losses," he told People in 2016. "Hearing their stories and hearing people talk about it sort of helped me to get to a place where I could talk about it."

In a chat with The New Yorker, Cooper mentioned that a lot of his time was spent in countries like Kenya, Somalia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Cooper also made a number of visits to Rwanda before the East African country's catastrophic 1994 genocide and a few times afterward in a quest to decode the mindset of its citizens."I was just asking people, "Why are you doing this? Why would your neighbor do this?" Trying to understand how people survive, how people make the choices they make," he told the publication.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Grief engulfed Anderson Cooper's family

Although Carter Cooper's tragic death galvanized a lifelong bond between Anderson Cooper and his mother, the one-two punch of losing two family members within the span of ten years took its toll on the mother and son. In their joint book, "The Rainbow Comes and Goes," Gloria Vanderbilt (above) recalls the dark moments following Carter's suicide, writing, "I wanted to die and I only knew the stream of pain I kept going over and over and over again was what was keeping me alive." She told People that special family moments, such as Christmas, were ultimately destroyed. "I remember the first Christmas we were together after it happened ... We went to the movies," she said. "And then we went to the automat, and from then on we've never done anything about Christmas."

Anderson admitted to Howard Stern that he often wondered if he, too, would end up suffering from depression like his brother. "I don't worry about it anymore, but I certainly did at the time," he said.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Anderson Cooper's father died when Anderson was 10

In 1978, Anderson Cooper's father, Wyatt Cooper, died while undergoing open-heart surgery. Decades later, Anderson fondly remembered the short time he was able to spend with his dad in a 2016 interview with CNN."He gave me the sense that I had value, that my ideas mattered," Anderson said."That instilled in me a confidence I don't think I would have otherwise had."

Losing a parent at a young age admittedly darkened his outlook on life. "Loss changes you," Anderson told the outlet. "The world suddenly seems a much different place. More dangerous. The person I was before my father's death, the person I was meant to be was far more open, more interesting than the person I've become. I wish it wasn't so, but the self-reliance I learned has also served me well."

When he welcomed his son via surrogacy in April 2020, the "60 Minutes" correspondent penned an emotional post on Instagram in which he announced that the then-three-day-old was named after his father, Wyatt, in addition to bearing his mother's family name.

Benjamin Maisani allegedly cheated on Anderson Cooper

In 2012, Anderson Cooper's partner of many years, nightclub owner Benjamin Maisani was photographed kissing another man in a New York City park. According to multiple reports, Cooper learned about the alleged affair while on vacation with Maisani and friends in Croatia. Despite talk that Anderson was heartbroken over the photos, he was spotted with Maisani in New York about a week later. Whatever happened behind closed doors, the couple appeared to weather the storm for a while. The following year, Anderson personally thanked his partner during a speech at the GLAAD Awards.

Alas, it wasn't meant to be. In March 2018, People reported that the high-profile pair had split. "Benjamin and I separated as boyfriends some time ago. We are still family to each other, and love each other very much," Anderson said in a statement. He insisted the pair would maintain their friendship.

True to Anderson's words, the exes remained close enough to co-parent their son Wyatt Anderson in a blended way. In a 2021 conversation with People, Anderson gushed over Maisani's parenting skills. "It's probably an unusual setup, but I knew he would be a great dad, and he is," he told the media outlet. " We're exes, but we're family to each other, and we love each other as family and as co-parents."

Anderson Cooper kept mum about his sexuality for years

From the moment he rose to fame on CNN, Anderson Cooper's sexual identity became the subject of rampant speculation in the tabloids and online. He was often criticized for remaining private about his sexuality rather than using his fame and popularity to advocate publicly for equality and reform.

Finally, in 2012, Cooper discussed his sexuality in an email published via the Daily Beast. "The fact is, I'm gay, always have been, always will be," he wrote (via CBS News). About four years later, Anderson shared his reasons for telling the public what his friends and family had known for years. "At a certain point it started to feel like by not saying something, I was saying something," he told the Daily Beast. "It seemed like I was uncomfortable about something, which wasn't the case. I was leading a very open gay life with my partner in New York; we'd go to gay bars." In his original email to The Daily Beast, Anderson said he initially remained closeted to the public for personal and professional reasons, which had evolved over the years.

He was stalked twice

In 2013, the New York Post reported that Anderson Cooper and then-boyfriend Benjamin Maisani had been stalked by a schizophrenic man named Alex Hausner for more than five years. Hausner reportedly said he loved Cooper, made menacing phone calls to the journalist's workplace and home, and tried to break into the couple's New York City home.

Hausner pleaded guilty to felony menacing and harassment charges in April 2014, per The New York Post. "Anderson has nothing to fear from me," Hausner told reporters outside the Manhattan Supreme Court at the time." "I'm sorry he feels the way he does ... I would die for him." As such, he was obliged to seek professional help and was looking at a total of time served (9 months) and a five-year probation if he left Cooper and Maisani alone, per the New York Daily News. The following year, Hausner alleged in court that he feared for his life because Maisani had supposedly been threatening him online.

Cooper's stalker woes didn't end with Hausner. Gerald Hurt reportedly showed up at the anchor's residence four times in five months in 2022. According to Deadline, Cooper had placed a protective order against Hurt which was breached. The 52-year-old was awarded a 30-year jail term in August 2023.

Anderson Cooper was estranged from his half-brother

Anderson Cooper was reportedly "devastated" after his half-brother, Christopher Stokowski, abandoned their family following an argument with their mother, Gloria Vanderbilt's shrink, Dr. Christ Zois about his love life. In a conversation with Daily Mail, Christopher's then-fiancée, April Sandmeyer revealed that the circumstances around their split, though withheld, were heart-rending."Christopher was the love of my life," she told the publication. "I felt I had no choice but to break things off with Christopher. I can't tell you what Zois said, it is just too personal. But I was heartbroken."

Stokowski, who is the son of Vanderbilt and conductor Leopold Stokowski, allegedly cut off contact with everyone in 1978, around the same time Cooper's father died. His mother was under the impression that he'd taken off with Sandmeyer, but as she would later come to learn, he led a reclusive life for decades.

This story, at least, has a happy ending. In November 2016, Cooper confirmed that he and Christopher reconciled following the 2016 release of "Nothing Left Unsaid" – a film created by Cooper and Vanderbilt. The reunion was reportedly facilitated through Sandmeyer, who told Page Six, "I'm very happy for them and glad to have played a part in them being back in touch."

He lost his mother to stomach cancer

In June 2019, Anderson Cooper's mother, Gloria Laura Vanderbilt died while surrounded by family. She was 95. In a tribute to Vanderbilt, Cooper disclosed that she'd been diagnosed with stomach cancer that had metastasized. "When the doctor told her she had cancer, she was silent for a while," the anchor narrated."And then she said, 'Well, it's like that old song, 'Show me the way to get out of this world, 'cause that's where everything is.”"

During Vanderbilt's last days, Cooper made a discovery that had gone unnoticed all his life: the mother-son duo chuckled the same way. "We had the most extraordinary two weeks together before she died," he revealed in his chat with the "Longer Tables" podcast.The years leading up to her death were equally fruitful, such that there were no lingering questions upon her demise.

"When my mom turned 91, I decided to have this intentional conversation with her 'cause I didn't want there to be anything left unsaid between us," He told the "Longer Tables" podcast. The motivation, he said, was that his relationship with his father hadn't been as open. The duo communicated via email for a year, and long after Vanderbilt had passed away, her artwork found a place in his New York City home.

Anderson Cooper paid an emotional tribute to his friend Anthony Bourdain, who died by suicide

In June 2018, the world awoke to the sad news of the demise of "Parts Unknown" host Anthony Bourdain. The popular chef and author was found unconscious in a Paris hotel room during a work trip, and confirmed to have died by suicide.Anderson Cooper honored Bourdain on his show. "Over the years, when Anthony returned [from trips all over the world] we would meet up and discuss the places he'd just been, usually at a restaurant table or in a kitchen where he'd encourage me to expand my limited culinary curiosity," he recollected in the sentimental CNN tribute.

When Bourdain was alive, the pair explored Korean food, ate spicy wings, and even had chicken knuckles, a delicacy from Myanmar. Cooper had several firsts courtesy of Bourdain, including a martini and tripe (which he quickly dismissed).

It was a no-brainer that the duo's taste buds were worlds apart, as Cooper later shared with The Hollywood Reporter. "We had lunches together and he would just look at me like I was a creature from another planet," he revealed. "Everything I thought about food was completely antithetical to his beliefs." It was clear that Cooper not only mourned the loss of a colleague but also a great friend.

He was dyslexic in his childhood

Long before he was an inarguably fluent renowned broadcaster, Anderson Cooper received a dyslexia diagnosis, albeit moderate, as he revealed at The National Center for Learning Disabilities event. "I would always carry a book around with me, but I never was actually reading the book. I just would pretend to read the book because I had trouble obviously reading and making sense of words and in particular letters," Cooper shared.

He went to a school that expeditiously noted his reading problem and nipped it in the bud. "A couple of times a week, I used to go to a doctor named Dr. Jansky, who I called my reading doctor," he disclosed.Back then, he wanted to keep the diagnosis to himself.Part of the learning process included typing exercises, which he would later become very skilled at. Although he recovered enough to be on an international platform, Cooper still mixes up a couple of letters and numbers, as he told CNN.