He’s not a nice guy.
It was an old and disgusting rumor that was repeatedly brushed off with an equally uncomfortable ease. There was just no way for any of the ‘crazy’ accusations to be true, because, after all, the ‘He’ in question was a legitimate and beloved living legend; as well as a cultural and social icon that changed the face of comedy forever.
And, in a strange way, it’s almost perfect that his eventual downfall began with another standup act:
‘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 raped women, Bill Cosby, so…
When Hannibal Buress took the stage at The Trocadero on October 16, 2014 (in Philadelphia — Cosby’s own backyard, no less), he wasn’t trying to save the world, or become a voice for the voiceless. Buress’ extended routine about the numerous sexual assault allegations against ‘America’s Favorite Dad’ had simply been a funny-because-it’s-true bit that received little to no notice for nearly half a year. The joke was built on the hypocrisy of Cosby’s penchant of shouting down from a soapbox — mostly at the expense of young, Black men — while running and ducking from decades-worth of unsavory and shocking criminal accusations. And, even then, it still took an unauthorized fan-made clip for everything to go viral.
I don’t remember the first time I heard a rumor, but I do remember Janice Dickinson’s 2006 appearance on The Howard Stern Show. During a lengthy chat that detailed years and years of the former supermodel’s lifestyle of debauchery, Dickinson let it slip that — due to fearing litigation — she was unable to discuss her previous interactions with Cosby. With the patience (and equal lack of awareness) of a child, Howard immediately pressed for information; wanting to know if Janice was “nailed” by a guy she would eventually accuse of rape. To her credit, Dickinson simply replied that Cosby was “not a nice guy.”
Twelve years ago, we called Janice “crazy” (among even worse insults), and accused HER of trying to milk fifteen more minutes of fame by attacking OUR hero. Twelve years ago, we were completely unable to truly imagine a world where Bill Cosby wasn’t the same guy who (innocently) shared a bed with his brother Russell, or taught Theo how to responsibly live on a budget. And, twelve years ago, I defended him.
Born in 1977, and as a child of the ’80s, I grew up with Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Picture Pages, and, eventually, The Cosby Show. While my comedic sensibilities were forever set in stone with the August 1983 release of EDDIE MURPHY: DELIRIOUS, it was just three months earlier when I first saw BILL COSBY: HIMSELF. Cosby’s set wasn’t about telling dirty or pointed jokes (the entertainer, at least, worked clean), but, instead, he shared true-to-life stories about relationships and parenthood in an incredibly engaging and hysterically honest way. Where Eddie’s HBO debut was brash, hip, and (if we are being honest) sometimes toxic, Cosby’s hour and forty-five minutes were nothing short of pure and genuine. If Eddie was his era’s Jordan, Cosby was both Magic and Bird.
I saw him up close when he was Hilton Lucas. When I was 19–years-old, I managed to get two free tickets to a taping of the pilot episode for his short-lived CBS sitcom, Cosby. My mother and I made the trip out to Astoria, Queens, and ended up seated in the front row. At the time, Cosby (less than a year shy of his 60th birthday) was attempting what turned out to be a final TV comeback with a loosely-based adaptation of the BBC series One Foot in the Grave. The laughs were mild, but, hell, I was watching Cosby perform on stage — and with both Phylicia Rashad and Madeline Kahn, no less.
At one point during a break, the star made his way over to talk to someone with the production right in front of my seat. Knowing he had extra sets of ears listening, Cosby went out of his way to tell a few jokes. To be honest, I don’t remember a single word he said… but it was an absolutely surreal moment for me.
Much like this past Thursday.
William Henry Cosby, Jr. is an American stand-up comedian, actor, author, musician, husband, father… and, now, a convicted sex offender.
I would be lying if I said it didn’t hurt to type those words, and I would be lying if I said I don’t still want to believe him. Bill Cosby was a hero and inspiration to many, and it is devastating that all the good he achieved will be mostly wiped out, thrown away, and forgotten… but that loss is not to be mourned.
Yes, Bill deserves credit for the cultural shift that started when The Cosby Show broke color barriers by introducing characters who looked like me to a world that never seemed to notice anything past that appearance. The problem with Cosby isn’t simply one concerning past entertainment and amusement — it’s that he played a major role in race relations when it comes to acceptance. If you think racism, prejudice, and bigotry are still problems today, try to imagine a world where we weren’t able to welcome and embrace the Huxtables.
However, for the more than 60 women (THAT. WE. KNOW. OF), Cosby deserves so much more. He has been accused of rape, sexual battery, drug-facilitated sexual assault, child sexual abuse, and sexual misconduct. And the only reason most of us started paying attention to those allegations is because a prominent male comedian was filmed telling jokes about a rapist.
So, at the end of this entry, I find myself no less torn when it comes to my feelings towards Bill Cosby. He is an actor and comedian I admired for over thirty years, and, even after realizing it awhile ago, I am still struggling to truly confront what is a now obvious truth. But I am no longer in mourning.
Because he’s not a nice guy.