Fallen From Grace

Bill Cosby: America's Dad

By Joshua Resnek and Todd Feinburg

Published January 07, 2016, issue of January 07, 2016.

In startling fashion two weeks ago, the great American humor genius, Bill Cosby, once affectionately known as America’s Dad, came face to face with a harsh new reality when he finally, fully, cruelly fell from grace.

Cosby’s arrival at court in Pennsylvania to answer to charges of sexually assaulting a woman in 2004 was a scene of unsurpassable irony and reckoning.

Cosby had difficulty stepping out of a dark Chevrolet Suburban with black tinted glass. He wore a sweater and dark pants and carried a briefcase. Unshaven and with a confused, befuddled stare, a bit bent, surrounded by a media hoard and protected by local police, Cosby began the 100-foot walk into the courthouse accompanied by his lawyers, who supported him on both sides with their arms tucked under his.

Was he feeling sorry for himself because he is an innocent man? Unlikely. What was he feeling? Only he knows and he wasn’t saying anything other than, “I’m innocent.”

Is Cosby innocent? Also unlikely.

Does he deserve the benefit of the doubt? Not at this point, we think.

Will he beat the rap? Probably, but to no avail for his shattered reputation and the lives of countless women who allege they were sexually assaulted by him.

Was he worried his legal expenses could wipe him out?

Not really. He is said to be worth $360 million. Among black entertainers, only Oprah is wealthier.

In his youth, Cosby was a track star and a football player, a real time star at Temple University. He was also a gifted student – a brilliant thinking man floating about in the white man’s world, trying to make his way. Time has taken its toll.

The worry of legal entanglements and perhaps incarceration was dogging him.

Carrying a cane to steady himself, Cosby, 78, stumbled on the sidewalk, almost falling over, but continued uneventfully into the courthouse where he was charged with one count of felony assault.

His accuser, Andrea Constand, a former college basketball star, called it a day of reckoning.

Could he even recall what she claimed he did to her back when he was 64? He wasn’t about to say anymore than he had already revealed, that he gave her drugs and that the sexual encounter following between them was consensual.

Not so far from the peak of his power in 2004, Cosby surely had an unlimited supply of women – even young ones – prepared to throw themselves at him for the perceived privilege of gaining proximity to his aura. Why would that not have been enough for him?

Cosby maintains that all allegations of sexual assault made against him during the past decade by 50 women are the stuff of fantasy.

He was photographed, fingerprinted and released on $1 million bond.

It appeared he was a man in ruins, a bit broken and slightly unsteady when he exited the courthouse and was driven away in a black Suburban.

This is not what he has been used to.

A 78-year-old superstar shouldn’t be facing prison, he thought, perhaps.

He might even have thought about his wife who has stood by him. And we all wonder how his wife could remain by his side at this point – a reminder that no one knows what goes on inside a marriage other than its partners.

Cosby got his start as a comedian but he gained early fame and attention for his role in ‘I Spy,’ written and produced by David Friedkin and Morton Fine.

If you grew up during the early 1960’s and into the 1970’s, or if you were young suburban parents with a television room in your home, ‘I Spy’ was a weekly treat for the family.

This was certainly true in Lexington and Marblehead, where the writers of this commentary grew-up. In fact, ‘I Spy’ was an overnight success, part of the new energy rising up in America. It showed the nation taking a small step on race, able to embrace a man of color in a starring, prime-time role.

The takeaway is that, according to numerous allegations, Cosby was already a serial sexual predator. We were all being fooled as early as 1965, when ‘I Spy’ debuted with Cosby and the late Robert Culp as international spies.

Everyone watching the program seemed to like Cosby – Southerners who didn’t care for blacks, Jewish comedians, of which there were dozens in Hollywood – producers and movie moguls, men and women alike, and kids.

Black people liked Cosby. They admired him.

Cosby never used race as part of his routine. He was never controversial. He made his reputation with humorous recollections of his childhood.

The formula worked.

He repeatedly told his critics, who wished he would be controversial, that white people laughed at his act without nasty material or highly political routines. 

“Hey, he’s white. I’m Negro,” said Cosby. “We both see things the same way. We must be alike. Right? So I must be doing something right,” Cosby argued.

When he began with ‘I Spy’ in 1965, the racist and segregated America we had all peripherally experienced coming of age was melting away. The Vietnam War was tearing the nation apart. The divisions between blacks and whites, men and women, rich and poor, educated and uneducated were reaching the breaking point when Cosby came onto the American television scene.

“When I was hired to do ‘I Spy’ Robert Culp already had the part of Kelly Robinson. People writing said I was the Jackie Robinson of television drama and I say to all of you if this is true, then Robert Culp has to be Eddie Stanky and Peewee Reese. Those men stood by Jackie and put his arm around him. Pee Wee Reese, who was from the deep South, put his arm around Jackie,” Cosby said. After a pause, Cosby added, “Racism is a waste of time,” during an interview in 2006.

Culp admired his talent.

“He was the brightest man I knew. The fastest mind. When it came to race relations I’d say to him, ‘do you want to do anything about that?’ ‘Let them make of that what they see fit,’ he told me. I said, ‘Get on partner.’” Culp died in 2010.

During the 1980’s, The Cosby Show brought him extraordinary success and wealth. It was his greatest television victory and became the highest ranking sitcom of all time.

Of all things, Cosby played the role of a gynecologist. That show ended in 1992.

Cosby’s reputation has been tarnished by sexual assault allegations that began in 2000. He has been accused of rape, drug facilitated sexual assault, sexual battery, child sexual abuse and sexual misconduct. The earliest incidents apparently took place in the mid-1960s. Again, he denies all the allegations.

His close relationship with virtually all the great modern Jewish comedians he came up with and, later, with the current stock of black comedians, remained close and friendly even after the first rumblings appeared about his private life more than a decade ago. But many have recently pulled away publicly.

“It’s sad and incomprehensible,” Jerry Seinfeld said recently. Seinfeld, of course, is Jewish and the most successful comedian of this era. In 2010, Seinfeld and the popular black comedian Chris Rock presented Cosby with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center.

Rock has also disavowed Cosby although he still wants to believe he is innocent, according to reports.

Billy Crystal, another of the great Jewish comics of this era, considers Cosby his mentor.

“I did Bill’s ‘Noah.’ Just took the routine from him, word for word, and didn’t even think it was stealing. Years later my friends started calling me up saying, ‘There’s this guy, Bill Cosby, who’s doing your stuff!’”

Crystal has abandoned his mentor. He even pulled his endorsement from a Cosby biography published last year.

Seinfield also pulled an endorsement, as did David Letterman.

In an odd twist, Mia Farrow has compared Woody Allen, who is Jewish, to Cosby. She took to her Twitter page to post about her former husband, who allegedly assaulted her then 7-year old daughter, Dylan Farrow.

Her son, Ronan Farrow, wrote on his Twitter page in answer: “So happy to live in a society where all it takes to get the legal system moving against powerful men is testimony from 50 women,” referring to Cosby.

Whoopi Goldberg, who consistently says she is Jewish and she talks to God, has reluctantly deserted Cosby after supporting him throughout the past few years.

The late comedienne Joan Rivers, very Jewish, and Cosby, shared the stage in 1964 in New York at the Bitter End. Cosby recommended her and wrote liner notes for her first album. Rivers would always credit Cosby for putting her on the map.

And Donald Trump – while not black or a comedian – loved Joan Rivers but had an intriguing response to Cosby.

“I’m not a Cosby fan,” Trump said. “I don’t like him for a very specific reason.” He declined to disclose the nature of that reason.

In 2013, Cosby, appearing on Jon Stewart’s show, spoke Yiddish back and forth with the Jewish funnyman. Cosby chastised Stewart for his vulgar tendencies. Stewart, who is Jewish, replied, “It was Yiddish.”

Stewart has deserted Cosby. Bill Maher, the television comic, whose mother is Jewish, has also chosen to poke fun at Cosby’s excesses.

In 2014, on his show, he called Cosby a creep.

Of all the incongruous charges flying around Cosby, there is an enormous amount of internet chatter claiming that Cosby’s difficulties are a Zionist plot.

NODISINFO.COM reported in 2014 and 2015 that Zionist Jews were attacking Cosby with fake rape allegations.

“The Zionist controlled media is doing all that is possible to slander the man’s name,” NODISINFO.COM wrote.

Gloria Allred, the Jewish trial lawyer representing 29 of Cosby’s alleged victims, was said to be using a convicted prostitute to frame Cosby, another allegation raised on the internet.

When you are rising in fame and fortune as an entertainer, the world wants to be by your side. It is a bit like standing on the peak of Mt. Everest and looking out at the world when you arrive at the top.

But nothing lasts forever. Nihil durat in aeternum, as the ancient Romans would have said in Latin: not fame, not stardom, not reputation. Everything we do is subject to challenge, to change, to reordering and often to collapse.

In American celebrity culture you are only as good as your last victory. Life is long, memories are short, loyalties are broken and lives are sometimes shattered.

Besieged, deserted, ridiculed and under attack from a hundred quarters, a man ignominiously alone, Cosby is out on bail and awaiting trial.

My how the mighty have fallen.

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