Photo Credit: Stewart Cohen

On IN BED WITH SIMON, airing Tuesday nights on FYI, Simon Marcel Badinter (the French romance expert who co-hosts “The Rendezvous” on iHeartRadio) pulls couples off the street and into his bed to chat about relationship and romance issues faced by singles and couples in today’s dating world. “Was it love at first sight?” he asks people. “Who is your hall pass?” is another question he’s tackled.

After a career in radio that started with Simon picking up the phone to say “I want to talk to the station manager,” he’s found that the ability to provide advice comes from a willingness to listen. The relaxed atmosphere of talking to strangers has allowed for some great revelations.  I spent some time chatting with Simon about getting into this world, why the TV show works, and why people should be watching. I also took the opportunity to ask the expert about some of my own love-life goings-on, plus how he thinks relationships can make it 50 years – “I think instead of taking for granted that the love is there forever, you have to put wood in the chimney, in the fireplace in the winter so the house stays warm.”

Check out the full story for more!

In general, how did you become a radio host and why is this the topic you focused on? Romance and love. Why that topic? Why have you covered that for your life as your chosen path here?
Actually, the original move, the energy or the desire to do radio, originated when I was back in Cleveland, Ohio about ten years ago when I used to listen to talk radio. I was a liberal kind of guy and discovered the talk radio (Rush Limbaugh, Lembeek). I said to myself, “Well, I just don’t agree with anything they say.” I pay my taxes here. I had a green card at the time. That was before I became an American citizen, so I’m going to call the station. At the time it was Clear Channel. I called the local station, WTAM 1100. I said, “I want to talk to the program director.” Then the guy said, “Frenchie, what do you want?”

I said, “I want to do a radio show.” He said, “Have you done it before?” I said, “No, I have not, but it’s like making love. There’s always a first time you have to learn.” Then the guy said, “All right, come see me.”

Luckily for me, the guy was Kevin Metheny. He became a dear friend of mine and was mocked by Howard Stern. He was a really good man. He’s passed now, but he’s the one who said to me, “Okay Simon. We’re going to give you a weekend show.” Then he said, “What do you want to call your show?” I said, “The Rendezvous.” I never thought at the time that it was going to be romantic. I did a couple years of news talk on WTAM, and then I went to WGN in Chicago. Then I guess I sucked really bad and got fired, so I went to Boston. I got fired again, so then, a guy called Jim Ryan who runs CBS radio in New York said to me that I should talk love and not news. I asked “Why?” He said, “Because of your French accent. Your joy of life will appeal to women at night.” American men did not want to hear somebody with a heavy French accent talk about news. It just sounds too French. I told him I’m not a shrink, but  he said I’m a good listener, so I should give it a try. Then I was able to get a show. It started with Kim Iverson four years ago; she was my first co-host for iHeart radio. We did “The Rendezvous with Simon and Kim”, and I just discovered myself. It’s not that I decided I was going to be romantic. That’s just my approach of life- romance, love life, love and be loved. It’s not so much that I choose to be romantic. It didn’t go like that.

You touched on it … You said you’re a good listener. Sometimes the best advice givers, are the people who listen and enjoy listening!
I think so, and I think one of the most important things is the ability to communicate. In order to communicate, you have to listen. Also, I was raised by great parents. My father’s extremely romantic. My parents have been together for more than 50 years. I learned how to be romantic watching my parents.

I’m the same way. My parents are married 35 now. And I’ve learned from them. I have a good history from that.
Absolutely. We learn how to love and be loved- or how to hate and be hateful in our childhood. Some of us get lucky. Some of us get unlucky. Some of us get loved. Some of us get ignored. Some of us will get hated, and that creates the future of your love life, unless you go to therapy, and you can change that.

How did the short form series IN BED WITH SIMON BADINTER come to be? Was that something you had been interested in doing? Did they approach you? What was the beginning of that?
Actually, I approached different stations to do a TV show, but FYI came to me and said, “Simon, we like you, but we want you to do something a bit different.” They said, “We know you’re a great listener.” I think her name is Gena McCarthy, who runs FYI. She said to me, “We’re going to hire you for a year, and we’re going to put you in the mall. I want you to ask real questions to real people the same way you do it on your radio show. Do it on television, and I want you to talk to random people. I want you to get started on that with them and have fun.” It started about six weeks ago, and I went to a mall in Chicago and sat in that king-sized bed. People randomly stopped by, and it became my thing. It’s an extraordinary situation, and for me, a very enriching experience. They are real people who do not know me. We’re together on the bed, there are four cameras filming us, and for some reason, the trust of those couples is good enough to tell their story right away. I love interviewing people, and I’m always more interested in what they have to say, their stories, than my own. I love listening to people.

It’s such an interesting thing that they’re comfortable with someone they don’t really know. I know from experience. I’ll tell people about my romantic woes after I’ve known them for a half an hour. I won’t talk to my best friends about it, but those new strangers know my life story.
It’s like if you’re in a plane, and you sit next to somebody. You’re going to have a conversation you will never have with your best friends.

It’s the same thing because you’ll never see them again. I think that what I’m discovering with ‘In Bed with Simon’ is that behind the catchy name of the show, it’s much more of a conversation a trois, than a ménage a trois. It’s a conversation where I think I’m able to ask other questions. I’m just generally interested. My favorite part of life is to ask questions.

Photo Credit: Stewart Cohen

Are there stories that have surprised you or are there favorite moments that you’ve had from doing this?
Yeah. Every couple is interesting. There is a couple, I remember this guy, I asked him who was his celebrity crush. He said, “I don’t think I should tell in front of her.” (meaning his wife), and she says, “No, no, no, it’s okay. We’re in bed with Simon. It’s the place to say those things.” After some arguing, he eventually says, “It’s not really a celebrity. When we make love … sometimes I think about other men.”

Oh gosh!
I thought that was an interesting moment. She was surprised. I said, “Listen, you know it’s just a fantasy… there was no judgment. Everybody was okay.” In life, what I’ve learned, c’est la vie. It’s life. Whatever we like- we’re all adults. This guy liked this. This woman liked this. These people do this. I appreciate the trust. I appreciate the confidence, and because I sound so foreign with my French accent, people are even more inclined to share their stories. I’m not from the mother-language English, and I think that automatically disarms defense. If I was a regular American guy, they might not say all those stories.

That’s true.
Maybe that’s why, so there are plenty of stories. What is most isolating to me is that everybody’s trying their best to love, and we all share the ups and downs of relationships. Whether we’re single now. Whether we are in a relationship. I learn from the couples. They learn from me. I’m grateful. It’s a miracle. We have got to be honest. First of all, I’m the first French man in America to ever have a syndicated radio show on almost 30 stations every night. Then I became the first French man to have a TV show every week, and all of this happened because a few people in the street said to me, “Okay Simon. We’re going to give you a chance.” How can I forget that some people said yes to me? So many people say, “No, no you’re French,” and a couple people say, “Okay, you know what? Why don’t we give you a chance and see what you got?”

All it takes is those couple people who believe in you for even a minute. And then you believe more in yourself too. When somebody’s saying yes to you, you believe you can do it also.
That’s my message. That’s it, Amrie. I do feel eternally grateful to the first guy on the radio, Kevin, to the people at iHeart Radio, all the people, to the folks at FYI, A&E. After all, I come from an advertising background. I come from an executive background- a French family of intellectuals, but I’m not a shrink. I never went to school for that, and yet, because it’s entertaining, and relaxed and fun, we have great ratings, and it’s working well.

Do people come to you with the same kind of questions? What’s a question you get asked a lot? That you’re kind of used to giving the same answer to. A romance, or a relationship question that comes up often in conversation?
Well, let’s do a little thing. What question would you ask me, Amrie? What would be the thing you would like to know?

My whole thing is, how do you know when someone is interested? How do I tell? What advice would you give to someone who is spending time with people but they’re not quite sure whether … And they don’t want to ask the question?
So you meet a guy, and you don’t know if he’s attracted to you? Or you don’t know if he’s interested?

I guess a little of both? You don’t know, like after a couple of times hanging out, how do I know without saying the words? Because I don’t say the words, whether he’s actually interested?
It’s so easy. One, he’s going to want to kiss you pretty rapidly, so if he doesn’t kiss you after two dates or three maximum, he’s not into you. He’s going to grab you and kiss you. If he’s not even there, he’s going to maybe grab your hand and maybe caress your hand. If he doesn’t touch you, if he doesn’t kiss you, if he doesn’t look at you with desire, well, you guys will be friends, but it’s not going to be romantic. The romance, the spark of the desire, is the attraction for a man and a woman, or two people of the same sex, to want to make out, to want to kiss, to want to make love. If he doesn’t look at you, and he doesn’t at one point, step closer to you so he can kiss you after three dates, he’s not into you. There is nothing you should say, or you should do. Either he’s going to try it or not. I mean, I always say that we all know what to do.

What other question would you ask?

For people that are in relationships, and they’re just kind of not sure if this is the one or how to make it last. How do you tell people, or what are you saying to make it last? How have your parents made it 50 years? What do you say?
Thinking of my father, he said, “When you meet a woman so wonderful like your mom, you don’t take it for granted because you married her. You charm her, charm her more, charm her again, you take her out, you’ll charm her until the last day of life.” Happiness is bigger than the frustration. The company is a plus not a minus. There needs to be admiration for each other. That’s what makes people stay together.

That last part you said is so true. The admiration over the frustration. It’s so funny, we joke with my parents all the time. Someone’s always flying off the handle at someone. But they’re so in love that it’s some stupid thing they forget half an hour later.
Exactly. The goal is not to be happy for 50 years or 100 years. My father always said, “The goal is that people be happy. Tomorrow we don’t know where we’ll be. Day by day by day, don’t take it for granted.” I think the biggest mistake we all make is that we get into the relationship, and we get comfortable. Instead of what my father always taught me, every day is a new day. Nothing is forever. We die anyway. That’s an illusion. There is no forever love. You die at the end. I think instead of taking for granted that the love is there forever, you have to put wood in the chimney, in the fireplace in the winter so the house stays warm. You have to put the wood for the fire of love to stay warm.

That’s great advice that people don’t really listen to, or hear often enough.
Yeah, exactly. I think that it’s key to remember that and to not take it for granted.

Why do you think that people should tune in? What is it that people will get out of watching something like IN BED WITH SIMON? What is it that you hope that they’re getting from watching you?
I would say that it’s important to listen. First of all, I hope they have a good time, and I hope they watch and enjoy what we say. Two, we can all learn from each other. I ask questions. When I ask a question and you watch the show, just share with your partner your answer. When I ask those people, you know, was it love at first sight? Can you give a hall pass? Whatever the questions I ask, answer the question with your real partner. Just like me, every couple can teach us how to love better. That’s why you should watch IN BED WITH SIMON. It’s not just about me. It’s not about the couple. It’s the dialogue. It’s the unique space in the media world where maybe I ask questions a bit differently. Maybe I have answers, but mostly let’s listen, learn, laugh, and forgive each other.

That’s great advice that I think can apply to so many things. IN BED WITH SIMON airs in Tuesdays after SEVEN YEAR SWITCH on FYI.

Some portions of this interview have been edited or condensed.