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Friday, April 27, 2018

Bill Cosby

Most everyone has an opinion on the conviction of Bill Cosby yesterday for his nefarious drugging and raping of women, and of course I have one, too. Except for Cosby's inner circle, that appears to be: good! Finally! And, wow, what a fall!

What changed from Cosby's first trial, which ended in a hung jury, and the one that will put him away perhaps for life is that sexual harassment in all its forms has become a hot button issue. So many famous people have lost their careers because of accusations--even the slightest ones--that the country appears to have finally come around and believed the women who have been victimized. Cosby has had 59 different women accuse him. That's a pretty strong case.

What is so shocking about this is that Cosby has been a presence in American homes for fifty years, from I Spy to great comedy albums, to Saturday morning cartoons. He was a pitchman for Jell-O Pudding and New Coke. I remember fondly his show from the '70s, The Bill Cosby Show, in which he played a gym teacher. But after a stand-up special that was mostly about being a parent, he changed the face of television with The Cosby Show, in which he became America's dad. Turns out America's dad is a serial rapist.

He is undeniably a monster, but I can't forget how much I loved his comedy. I had a Bill Cosby album as a kid and played it numerous times. I still remember the bits about Noah: "What's a cubit?" and the stories about Fat Albert and Old Weird Harold. I loved the bit about driving in San Francisco: "Somebody put a stop sign on the top of the hill!" In his parenting special, a special memory is his realization that chocolate cake is a fine breakfast food for the kids.

The Cosby Show came along when everyone thought the sit-com was dead. Not only did it revive that art-form, it changed how black people were represented on television. It showed the country that there were affluent, married, caring couples. I watched it for several seasons, just like many Americans.

In his old age Cosby became a scold, urging black boys to pull up their pants and speak proper English. The man behind the affable mask was starting to come out, and people didn't like what they were seeing (except for white conservatives).

One wonders what prompted his crime spree. Was it his power, or just a predilection to dominate and humiliate women. Unlike others caught in this snare he drugged his victims, dispensing with the tactic of using his power to give them favors--there was no quid pro quo. What was he thinking? That he would never be caught? What did he think of his wife? Not much, apparently.

The network that runs Cosby Show reruns has already pulled them from the air. His comedy albums will likely become rare as hen's teeth. If I still had it, could I play it without feeling guilty? Probably not. Bill Cosby is arguably the biggest celebrity who will ever go to prison (sorry, OJ). Time's up.

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