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Cooper, Anderson (b. 1967)  
 
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Award-winning television journalist Anderson Cooper has traveled the globe, reporting from war zones and scenes of natural and man-made disasters, as well as covering stories on political and social issues. Cooper is a ubiquitous presence on American television, for in addition to being a news anchor, he also hosts a talk show.

Cooper is the son of heiress and designer Gloria Vanderbilt and her fourth husband, Wyatt Cooper. In his memoir, Dispatches from the Edge (2006), Cooper stated that his parents' "backgrounds could not have been more different."

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Whereas his mother descends from one of American best-known and wealthiest families, his father was born into a poor farm family in the small town of Quitman, Mississippi. When he was sixteen he moved to the Ninth Ward of New Orleans with his mother and five of his seven siblings. Anderson Cooper wrote that his "father fell in love with New Orleans from the start" and delighted in its culture.

After graduating from Francis T. Nicholls High School, however, Wyatt Cooper headed to California to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. Although he found work on both screen and stage, he eventually turned to screenwriting for Twentieth Century Fox.

Wyatt Cooper and Vanderbilt married in 1964 and took up residence in a luxurious mansion in New York City. The couple had two sons, Carter, born in 1965, and Anderson, born on June 3, 1967.

Vanderbilt, whose father died when she was a baby and whose socialite mother lost custody of her in a family dispute that was a tabloid sensation in the 1930s, was determined to be engaged in her sons' lives and to give them the happy childhood she missed. "From the very beginning," she told Jonathan Van Meter of New York Magazine, "we included them in everything," citing examples of parties attended by celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin, Lillian Gish, and Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. In his memoir Cooper recalled that "Truman Capote was a frequent guest" as well, as was Andy Warhol.

Wyatt Cooper, for his part, made sure that his son was cognizant of his heritage from his side of the family. He took him to Quitman and New Orleans and also wrote a book entitled Families: A Memoir and a Celebration (1975) that became a touchstone for Anderson. "To me it's sort of a letter from him to me and sort of a guide on . . . how he wanted me to live my life and the choices he would have wanted me to make. And I feel very connected to him," he told Van Meter.

Wyatt Cooper died during heart bypass surgery when his younger son was just ten years old. The boy was devastated by the loss and yet, he wrote in his memoir, "as hard as his death was for me, for my brother it must have been even worse."

In the wake of his father's death, young Anderson Cooper decided that he should be independent and earn money by himself, and so he became a clothing model. "It's embarrassing," he said to Van Meter, but "there's not many jobs a 10-year-old can get." Cooper persevered with the work for three years.

During Cooper's high school years his independent streak continued. He went on survival courses, mountain-climbing in the Rockies and kayaking in Mexico. Having completed his academic requirements at the private Dalton School in Manhattan a semester early, he went off on another survival adventure to southern and central Africa, "a place," he wrote, "to forget, and to be forgotten in." While there he contracted malaria and had to be hospitalized in Kenya, a fact of which he failed to apprise his mother until he returned home.

In the fall of 1984 Cooper enrolled at Yale University, where he studied political science and international relations and also participated in athletics as the coxswain of a rowing crew.

On July 22, 1988, soon before Cooper was to begin his senior year at the university, his brother, Carter, committed suicide, jumping off the terrace outside Anderson's bedroom in the family's fourteenth-floor penthouse apartment while their frantic mother entreated him to come back off the ledge.

Carter left no suicide note. Vanderbilt speculated that he may have had an adverse reaction to an allergy medicine that he had recently begun to take, but the family would never know for certain what had driven him to the drastic act.

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