Monday, November 17, 2014

Who is Bill Cosby?

I grew up watching Bill Cosby on television. I grew up laughing at his jokes and stories. He was a family man. He was an intelligent man. He was a role model. He was funny. But, no one is laughing any more. Another woman came forward today, number 14 I think, with rape allegations. This isn’t doesn’t fit with the Bill Cosby I knew and loved.

Who is the Bill Cosby I know? About 30 years ago, 1986 to be exact, I found out I was pregnant for the first time. The news coincided with my brothers birthday. My husband and I decided to get three tickets to Cosby’s one man show on Broadway and take my brother. We had a great time that day. Cosby sat in a chair in the middle of the stage and did some new material and some of his best loved material. The thing that stands out in my mind is his routine about going to the dentist. We had lots of laughs. Fast forward to 1998. I had two daughters, ages 10 and 7. Cosby was auditioning children for a new show, “Kids Say The Darnest Things.” My husband and I took our girls down to try out for the show. There were so many kids there that day. My girls weren’t the most outgoing kids, but they were smart and cute. They weren’t picked, but the whole experience was exciting and a lot of fun. Around that same time, give or take a year, I got four free tickets to a taping of “Cosby,” the show that followed “The Cosby Show” with the Huxtables, which featured Madeline Kahn. We couldn’t bring the kids to the taping because no one under 18 would be admitted, so we asked our friends to join us. The taping took a couple of hours. They shot two different endings to see which one got the most laughs. It was very entertaining and we all enjoyed ourselves. That is the Bill Cosby I know.

One thing I will never forget was the day the news spread that Bill Cosby’s son, Ennis, was shot to death while changing a tire on the highway. I couldn’t even begin to imagine the depth of his sadness of losing his only son in such a senseless act of violence. Bill Cosby was at work when he was informed of his son’s death and went home to comfort his wife, Camille. The media, like a pack of wild wolves, followed him to his home, flashing camera lights in his face and imploring him to make a statement. Standing on the front steps to his door, seconds from going in, they yelled to him, “how do you feel?” With grace and composure, Bill Cosby, still in shock about the devastating news, made a brief statement about his grief before entering his front door. That is the Bill Cosby I know.

I’ve heard Bill Cosby speak out against the ills of society. He blamed parents for the high incarceration of black youth, for their illiteracy and drop out rate. He has spoken at many university commencements. He has no shortage of advice and wisdom for college graduates on what they should do with their lives. He has advice for everything: parenting, marriage, education, declining morality, you name it and Bill Cosby will talk about it. He will talk about everything except these rape allegations that go back 30 to 40 years.

Recently, Hannibal Buress, a comedian, made a joke about the rape allegations against Bill Cosby, during one of his sets in Philadelphia. Here is what he said that ignited a huge controversy:

“It’s even worse because Bill Cosby has the fuckin’ smuggest old black man persona that I hate,” Buress said. “He gets on TV, ‘Pull your pants up black people, I was on TV in the 80s! I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom!’ Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches.”

"I guess I want to just at least make it weird for you to watch Cosby Show reruns," Buress says later. "I've done this bit on stage and people think I'm making it up.... when you leave here, google 'Bill Cosby rape.' That shit has more results than 'Hannibal Buress.'"

Shortly after this incident, Bill Cosby (or more than likely his social media manager) invited everyone on Twitter to make memes of him. The unexpected results were a barrage of Cosby memes all about rape. And now, Cosby is being cancelled from a booked personal appearance on Letterman.

Today the fourteenth woman came forward with rape allegations against Bill Cosby. Fourteen woman have said something. It makes me wonder how many haven’t? I have read a couple of their stories and they were similar. I find it hard to believe that Bill Cosby, a beloved comedian, could be an alleged serial rapist. I knew of one case where a woman said she was the mother of his child and the matter was settled out of court. That’s it. I chalked it up to a case of marital infidelity that resulted in a pregnancy. But apparently there was a story about his being accused of rape in People Magazine many years ago, that I never heard of. I don’t understand it. How could he do the things he is accused of and how did I not hear of it before now? This is not the Bill Cosby I know. So who is Bill Cosby? I just don’t know any more.



  1. I share your bewilderment and grief at the disintegration of a man who was such a beloved icon, and like you, I don't want to be involved in tearing him down before we know more. But it's hard to imagine that 14 women are part of some conspiracy against him. How could he be the person he seemed to be and also be a rapist? That's a question that may never be answered. I feel great sorrow and sympathy for the women in the case, and for his wife.

  2. Thanks for reading Susan. It took me a few days to wrap my head around this and be able to write about it.