The year was around 1983. We all anxiously awaited the arrival of funny man, Bill Cosby, to enter our public access television studio, owned at the time by Cable Atlanta, the predecessor of Comcast. The studio, located at 10th and West Peachtree Street was the old home of Ted Turner’s first superstation, TBS. Then he walked in wearing a mohair sweater with patterns, corduroy slacks, and penny loafers. He looked Ivy League, no doubt.
Staff rushed him into the studio where my four-year old daughter and other kids waited to shoot a public service announcement with him for the U.S. Marine Corp Reserves Toys for Tots campaign. I quickly wrote a script which ended with something like, “Fat Albert said, ‘hey, hey, hey’, give freely to our kids.” Cosby took it; read it over once or twice; gave it back to me, memorizing the copy in less than 60 seconds. Lights, camera, action he’s on, hamming it up. From start to finish, the shoot took 10 minutes, if that. “He is a pro,” one aid remarked.
Then I humbly asked Cosby if he would grant me a 10 minute on-camera interview. He reluctantly agreed. In the interview, which lasted more like an hour, I asked him about Blacks and the media. He seemed bitter and jaundiced. This was before his critically acclaimed blockbuster hit, The Cosby Show. Given his level of bitterness, he had no idea how big the show would eventually become. A year or two after my interview, he was America’s, if not the world’s number one dad. No one was better known, admired, and loved than this “handsome devil,” so called by my assistant.
For years, many, including myself, have held this man in such high esteem. He was naturally funny beyond belief. In my interview years back, I said to him, “I am surprised at how serious you’ve been in this interview.” Without hesitation, he quipped, “Yes, I am serious, and it is because of you. You haven’t offered me any money.” After a few seconds of silence, we both burst out into hearty laughter. This was Coz, the front man for the U.S. Marine Corp, the Jell-O man, the philanthropist giving to Spelman, Morehouse and other HBCUs, and the one who did more to positively, if not realistically, alter the image of black American families in the eyes of the world than anyone else before, during, or after his show.
The old handsome devil, funny man was never a shucking and jiving Negro who bowed to white men or cheated on his beautiful TV wife, Claire Huxtable (Though in real life he cheated on wife, Camille, and more). In the Cosby Show, in as little as logos worn on sweatshirts or expensive art hanging on walls in their upscale brownstone in New York City, the show screamed out black wealth, black culture, black pride! This message was palatable to Whites, too. The CS, even became number one in apartheid South Africa.
One of the reason the CS was so popular among whites is that it reinforced the perception that all Black people in the U.S. should and could be like Huxtable if only they pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps. Huxtable assured white America that Blacks could make it under the current structures and institutions in society. Blacks needed to change, not America.
So when allegations began to surface that this man habitually drugged and raped women, it threw all of America for a curve. Survivors who were victimized came forward one at a time with similar stories. They all could not have been lying, mistaken or out to get him.
Disbelief was the first reaction of some. It was shocking, something that challenged our perception of Cosby as a family man, humanitarian, and phenomenal symbol of black achievement. He could not be guilty. Some African Americans believed that the “powers that be” must be trying to bring down a wealthy, crazily successful black man. Even African Americans who criticized Cosby in 2004 when he blamed Blacks, female single moms in particular, for what he felt was misplaced values within the black community, came to his defense.
Slowly but surely many of us had to face fundamental questions—the same ones lingering over Kavanaugh’s confirmation—either he did it in which case Cosby was both criminally liable and psychologically ill or all his accusers were sick. If, Cosby was and still is psychologically sick, then does he belong in jail or in a treatment facility? My understanding is Cosby showed no remorse and often laughed and made faces in court during the trial. This is hardly the behavior of one who accepts responsibility for his actions and is ready to receive help.
As the judge handed down Cosby’s sentence, I saw many survivors of his abuse react in jubilation, but others in sorrow. The happy ones were happy that a rich, powerful man who they never thought would see the inside of a jail is now in the state pen for months, if not years. Standing in the rain after the sentence was handed down, his publicist sounded truly ridiculous blaming Cosby’s sentence on a “sex war” in this country that has claimed both Cosby and Kavanaugh as its most recent victims.
As the nation attempts to come to terms with the steep fall of Cosby, some are flabbergasted at how Republicans are dead set on pushing through the appointment of a highly suspicious nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh. Christine Blasey Ford, a credible research professor in California, has accused Kavanaugh of attempted rape. Another woman stepped forward to say he thrust his penis in her face. There are other allegations out there with varying degrees of credibility that need further investigation.
Courageously, calmly and credibly Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee for nearly four hours on Thursday, the 27th day of September. Kavanagh followed her with an angrily delivered opening statement that at times made him seem on the verge of becoming unhinged. Cosby’s lack of remorse and Kavanaugh’s partisan temper tantrum both seem to originate from the same deep pit of patriarchy and privilege. During his questioning, Senator Lindsey Graham proclaimed that Kavanaugh was “no Bill Cosby.”
I said to myself, “No he isn’t. Cosby is the one in jail; Kavanaugh may be the one on his way to the Supreme Court.” Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye!