Good, clean, “family-oriented” television. This was widely considered an accurate description of the sitcom, The Cosby Show.
Starring comedian Bill Cosby, the hit series grew with its audience. People of literally all ages identified with the family on the screen, and developed nothing short of a love for Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable.
Even as a stand-up comic, Cosby was good, clean, and family oriented.
There was minimal swearing, there were funny facial expressions, and there was a guy in an eccentric sweater talking about how frustrating it is when you’re at the dentist and the man with his hands in your mouth wants to make conversation.
And let’s not forget the beloved 1970s cartoon, Fat Albert.
Cosby bonded with his son (who was shot and killed) over his work on Fat Albert.
He was a producer of breakthrough work for several African-American actors. In the late 80s, he produced The Cosby Show’s spin-off, A Different World. That show basically gave us Jada Pinkett Smith, Sinbad, and Jasmine Guy.
He has also supported education through donations to colleges and scholarships and the Hello Friend-Ennis William Cosby Foundation.
Cosby established the Franklin & Marshall College Scholarship, for students who plan to study education at Columbia University Teachers College, which is his late son’s alma mater.
Twelve years ago, he received the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award for all his contributions to educational causes “and his career of family-friendly humor.” (The Augusta Chronicle)
Cosby was, and is, an icon.
He made strides in the television industry, the comic world, the black community, and education.
As far as any decent fan, or decent human in general, was concerned, this particular pudding pop was squeaky clean.
“It was in a hotel in Reno, claims Bowman, that Cosby assaulted her one night in 1986. ‘He took my hand and his hand over it, and he masturbated with his hand over my hand,’ says Bowman, who, although terrified, kept quiet about the incident and continued as Cosby’s protégé because, she says, ‘Who’s gonna believe this? He was a powerful man. He was like the president.’ Before long she was alone with Cosby again in his Manhattan townhouse; she was given a glass of red wine, and “the next thing I know, I’m sick and I’m nauseous and I’m delusional and I’m limp and … I can’t think straight…. And I just came to, and I’m wearing a [men’s] T-shirt that wasn’t mine, and he was in a white robe.'”
That was just ONE account of such actions taken by Cosby, published in People Magazine back in 2006.
Since then, several more women came out of the woodwork, recollecting their stories of what the comedian did to them. In 2014, another accuser named Joan Tarshis alleged that Cosby drugged and assaulted her on two occasions in 1969. “As more and more of his rape victims have come forward, all telling similar stories, the time is right to join them,” she said.
To the New York Daily News, model Jewel Allison accused Cosby of drugging and assaulting her in the late ’80s. She recalls accepting a dinner invitation to Cosby’s home, where he poured her a glass of wine. Allison says now she thinks the wine was drugged. “I looked at myself in the mirror and I didn’t look good…My eyes were all over the place…There’s no such thing as Cliff Huxtable. There’s just a man named Bill Cosby. He’s a very sick sociopath.”
Between 2014 and 2015 alone, an extremely alarming number of women told various news sources about the comedian assaulting them.
All of them told their story. Some in graphic detail. They were all frighteningly similar.
New York Magazine featured a cover with 35 of these women.
At this point, many of us have no clue what to think.
Who is this man?
Is this a hoax?
Could this be real?
Fast forward to last week.
Cosby was finally charged with sexual assault in Pennsylvania, after over a decade of allegations.
Prosecutors in Montgomery County charged Cosby in the first case (2004) with Andrea Constand case. At his arraignment, he gave up his passport and was released on $1 million bail.
Sixty women have accused Cosby of sexual assault. Sixty.
This is tough. But it’s not as tough on us as it is on Bill Cosby, and certainly not as tough as it is on the people he’s hurt.
We are the consumers of the art. Bill Cosby has given us art and we accepted it lovingly. And in cases of many different artists, we consumers have had issues with separating those artists from their art.
Michael Jackson was great at singing and dancing and charity work. But he may have also hurt children permanently and disgustingly.
Bill Cosby is a great comedian, fine actor, distinguished humanitarian, and he WAS a model father figure. But the evidence that he did these things to these women is overwhelming.
If I was on a jury, I would have to say Cosby is innocent until proven guilty.
Good thing I am not on a jury.
I’m taking that first step in art/artist separation. I am accepting the fact that Heathcliff Huxtable and Fat Albert are fictional people, and that William Cosby is real.
Whose side one chooses is dependent on how they interpret the information that is available. But in this case of “he said, she said, and so did she, and she, and she, and her, and her over there, oh, and her too”…things aren’t looking too good.
We do not know Bill Cosby.
We never did.
If and when the full truth is revealed, no matter how shocking or difficult to accept, hopefully the public has an appropriate response. Because
we’re all human.