I do not know what to make of the Bill Cosby situation. Certainly something is amiss, especially after listening to him during an interview last week. It all makes no sense to me, or I don’t want it to, probably because I am one of the people in his fan base and, as such, it is really shocking when something like this happens to an individual for whom you have had admiration and respect. Let me put this in perspective and begin at the beginning, when Cosby first surfaced as a nationally recognized comedian. It was in the 1960s. While many comedians like Cosby gained exposure in clubs around the country, the masses got to know them via their television appearances and the record albums they produced.
The record albums were especially popular with my generation. I had all the hot albums for comedians like Mike Nichols (yes, later the famous movie director) and his partner Elaine May. They focused on an exceptionally dry humor and it was outrageous. Bob Newhart was my favorite. He’d often used the telephone as a prop to hold one-way conversations that were hilarious. He was famous for his deadpan style that followed him into two ultra-successful television sit-coms. A creatively wild performer was Jonathan Winters, a frequent guest on the Jack Paar Show (Paar was the host who preceded Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show). I think Robin Williams fashioned his style after Jonathan Winters since he had many of the same comedic affectations as Winters. They both could instantly break into alternate voices and characters.
And then there was Bill Cosby, a young clean-cut college man who went to Temple University right there in my hometown of Philadelphia. Cosby did street-savvy stuff. In fact one routine that was spot on was about kids playing football in the narrow, row-home streets of Philly. Boy, could I relate to that. I also remember that just as teens of every generation have an innate capability to instantly memorize the lyrics to every popular song, anyone in my teen group had no problem mouthing every word verbatim of every popular comedy routine. I don’t think there was one among us who couldn’t do a perfect “Noah” ala Bill Cosby. But it was Cosby’s later television show that cemented his most relatable personality that most of my generation fell in love with. And now this…sexual assault allegations from more than 30 women who claim that Bill Cosby did such horrendous things like drugging them beforehand.
For me, it’s harder to grasp this situation even more than Bill Clinton’s insulting behavior to the highest ranking office in the nation. Cosby became an institution in this country. He was real…honest…pure. And now, he has no rational explanation to give us about the charges against him, except to say that he can’t “speak to it.”
Last Friday he appeared on Good Morning America in what one anchor introduced as “an explosive interview” that Cosby had with ABC’s Linsey Davis. It was the first time, we were told, that Cosby would address the charges against him. Well, it was about as explosive as a cardboard tube of Pillsbury biscuits. Cosby appeared in the role of “do-gooder” at an Alabama community organization looking for recognition (translation: funds) to help improve educational benefits to young children. A worthy cause and one that Cosby, heretofore, would have “been a natural.” But not now if you ask me.
Guilty or not, he is too entrenched in this scandal to choose to ignore it as he seems to want to do. It has become the proverbial 500 pound monster in his room. As I watched the implosive Cosby interview , I interpreted it as the sad ramblings of an old man whose once immaculate verbal skills have aged and become almost incoherent. Cosby appears a bit distant now. As he speaks he seems to stare off into some far away zone. Perhaps he’s in his own land, where he wants to rule as he has always ruled and where he will believe in what he wants to believe in. Anything to the contrary, as he implies, he simply cannot speak to. Is it that he cannot…or will not?
Now comes some comments that I fear I may not articulate well enough not to offend some of you. I don’t mean to. But as much as I find Cosby’s avoidance response offensive, I feel the same for many of these women who are his accusers. I realize some of you will definitely disagree with me but I have lessened my sympathy these days for women, or anyone for that matter, who say they were victims but did not come forward because they feared embarrassment or shame, or that no one would believe them. I get it. I know that happens, but dammit, victims who do not come forward are only contributing to the crime, or the criminal, perpetuating itself. Society—that’s me and you and everyone else—needs to know about these things and about the people who do them. Otherwise, we cannot stop them from harming others. Where were these 30+ women all these years? It is my understanding that only about four came forth a decade ago, all of whom were dismissed in one way or another. Where were all the others who could have backed them up? They chose not to do anything. That’s a joke. Not a ha-ha joke like Bill Cosby or Bob Newhart might tell. No, I’m afraid not. Instead, it’s a sad joke about a sad man and a group of sad victims…and nobody is laughing.
A big THANK YOU to the following people who checked out my last posting: Timothy Pike, Eric Wong, Del Nolan, Stuart Perkins, Mike Fuller, Robert Okaji, Damyanti, Nina Karadzic, Rita Petrushansky-Mastroni, Wuji, Elan Mudrow, Ron Carmean, Camie Dunbar, Kathleen Neiman and Rick Alpern.