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The Cos of Bad Behavior

Bill Cosby has been a fixture on television since the mid 1960s. A Temple University graduate. A Navy man. A stand-up comic with millions of records sold. The first African-American with top billing on a network TV drama ("I Spy"), frequent guest and then guest host on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson." There were all those commercials for those genuine American products: for Jell-O. For Kodak. For Coca-Cola. and, of course all his own shows, His first sitcom: "The Bill Cosby Show." His Saturday morning cartoon: "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids." His Variety series: "Cos." And his later work, "The Cosby Show" and "Cosby."


Throughout his career, both on stage and off, Bill Cosby maintained a high profile and a squeaky-clean image. He was a family man. Yes, he was the long-time host of the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, but he was there for the Jazz, not the Playboy. He dabbled in movies, though the films he made were mostly flops, like "Leonard, Part Six" and "Ghost Dad." And we all mourned the loss of his son, Ennis, who was murdered by a would-be thief, when he blew out a tire in Bel-Air and was shot in the head as he attempted to change it.

The Huxtables, the family on "The Cosby Show," had become America's Family. And, all the while, Bill Cosby was becoming something of a legend. A spinoff series from his massively successful program, "A Different World," also became a hit, and Cosby was at the pinnacle of the entertainment industry.

Off the set, Bill Cosby was critical of a lot of people. He was critical of the black community, often suggesting that they were completely responsible for the lives they led and that they needed to make changes in order to achieve success. He did speaking engagements to pontificate on these topics and became something of a politician when delivering these messages.

Also, he was critical of other comedians for their subject matter and for their style of delivery. Cosby was known for never using curse words and for telling tales that the entire family could listen to and enjoy during his routines. It seemed he had a problem with people who presented things in a style that didn't fit his method.

Now we know.

Now we know that the Bill Cosby we all thought we knew was Dr. Jeckyll and that his Mr. Hyde was a sexual predator, intent on drugging, sexual assaulting and/or raping as many women as he could. And the women who have come forward run the gamut, from staffers and day players who were hoping for a break, up to names we actually know, like Janice Dickinson (who at the time was also starting her career) and Beverly Johnson, the first African American model on the cover of Vogue. Are there more we haven't heard about? Probably.

But the question about this isn't to do with whether Bill Cosby did this or not. Obviously he did do it, he did it all, did it with the help of others, paid off at least two of the victims and callously appears to care more about his personal image than the women he has harmed to get his jollies. The question is what was this all about?

Hollywood itself is a kind of drug; the people who are successful there often have many opportunities to use other kinds of drugs because of their success, be they narcotics, alcohol or sex. If it were just an opportunity for him to have sex with a bunch of random women, Cosby was already there without the need for anything else.

But Bill Cosby's apparent need to incapacitate his victims, by making them take Rohypnol or one of its derivatives, more colloquially called "roofies," makes this into a statement about who Cosby is and what he wanted. There was no mutual consent. There was no interest in safety. There was no care for the health, well being or even the respect of these women who he drugged, used, then tossed away, like empty Coke cans.

There are so many women who were victimized, you have to wonder, was Bill Cosby a pharmacist on the side? Did he always have drugs at the ready to slip into the drinks of these trusting and unsuspecting models, actresses and staffers? How many was enough to satisfy his sexual and domineering appetite?

Now, there is the aftermath. Bill Cosby's career is over. So are the royalty checks for the episodes of "The Cosby Show" that all of the actors on that program were receiving. The disgrace and disgust he is now being viewed with is something that he has brought upon himself. And he will have to deal with the ramifications of all of this in a personal way with his family.

Even though he won't be charged with a crime, as the statute of limitations has run out on bringing him to court, what looked to be a great Hollywood story will conclude with an ugly and embarrassing ending. As Chris Rock noted in his interview with Frank Rich for New York magazine, on the topic 2014 in comedy: "We lost Robin (Williams), we lost Joan (Rivers) and we kinda lost Cosby."

Really, though, based on the behavior now coming to light, we lost Bill Cosby a long, long time ago.

//

Bonus: this sort of fits the LJ Idol topic - "The future outwits all our certitudes"

Comments

( 54 comments — Leave a comment )
ragdoll
Dec. 12th, 2014 05:26 pm (UTC)
This whole thing breaks my heart. I (like you) grew up with Bill Cosby being part of my family, watching the original Cosby show (the one where he was the PE teacher named Chet), Fat Albert etc. and all the comedy albums. When I worked in a video store in the 80s, "Himself" was always playing on a tv somewhere.

That said, I always knew he wasn't the nice guy he played on tv. A friend's uncle was a big commercial director in the 70s, which was around the time of the Jell-O campaign. I remember her telling me that Cosby was a real blowhard who didn't like working with the kids very much. There've been other stories about him being difficult to work with, so it rings true.

The sexual predator stuff...*sigh* Aside from the fact that it's just plain disgusting and awful, you'd think a star of his stature and power could've gotten plenty of willing tail. I'm sure he had to have plenty of groupies, so why the hell did he have to resort to drugging and raping these women? (Not that I'm advocating being a sleazy screw-around kind of guy, but let's face it, that's Hollywood!)
penpusher
Dec. 13th, 2014 03:19 am (UTC)
I think one of the things that is much more apparent now than it was back in the day is that people can be, are and sometimes must be different from their public personas. But there is the small matter of understanding right and wrong, especially in the case of someone who seemed to want to judge others.

Clearly Cosby had a fetish or desire to have women who wouldn't remember their encounter and who couldn't do anything about it. Really, he should have just bought himself a couple of "real dolls" and it all would have been fine!

No, but seriously. We have discovered that Bill Cosby has issues, and wanted his women to be comatose and amnesiatic, which says a lot about who he is, all of it, bad.

It is heartbreaking for everyone... all of the people he had worked with, all of the advocates that had previously stood by him, his family (or families?) and of course all of those victims who endured the behavior when it happened and are in a very big way, reliving it again now, with everyone watching and asking questions.

Bill Cosby might have retained his brand had he just stopped being so critical of everyone else. I'm not saying he should have, and really, he should have been brought on charges at the time (however the death of Ennis really happened at the best time for avoiding all of that, which is freakishly sad to me). But Cosby was the ultimate Glass House resident and now, the walls have come crashing.
(no subject) - stevegreen - Dec. 13th, 2014 07:28 am (UTC) - Expand
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stevegreen
Dec. 13th, 2014 07:35 am (UTC)
The past couple of years have seen a large number of such 'cold cases' coming to light within the British entertainment industry. The death of the DJ and tv personality Jimmy Savile, someone who had sidestepped such rumours for decades, has been followed by high-profile prosecutions of many of his contemporaries, as the public demands no further predators use fame or fortune to evade justice for their victims.
penpusher
Dec. 13th, 2014 03:15 pm (UTC)
The Savile story has been brewing for quite a while, and it appears there were many red flags throughout the years he hosted to suggest that a lot of bad was going on. I mean, people specifically asked him if he was a pedophile! (Not sure what answer they expected him to give...) It's too bad he's not still alive because he should be there to face the music, as it were.

There's another fellow in Canada named Fergie Olver who hosted a game show with his wife where mothers and daughters tried to match each other's answers (similar to how the Newlywed Game worked) and he would constantly try to kiss the little girls, right on camera! there are YouTubes of him doing it! That may not be quite the same, but it is inherently creepy to see.

Olver, I don't believe, was ever charged with anything, if those little girls ever felt abused or molested and I don't know if anything else happened off camera. Still, he is sometimes compared with Savile in that way by the critics who viewed his behavior.

I think the thing that makes this whole Bill Cosby issue so disturbing is that the "family man" image was so strong, his work around kids was so noted and his comments about "right" and "wrong" were so definitive. Here's a guy on the moral high road, dictating what the rest of us should be doing.

Beverly Johnson, in one of her first interviews since describing her experience stated "This is bigger than Bill Cosby. This is about women and violence on women. This is about women finding their voice. I feel that Cosby took my power that evening and that I took my power back."

Ultimately the power that Bill Cosby wanted was beyond all reason. He wasn't a king, he was a tyrant. And as long as he ruled, he had his way. Could Cosby be brought up on charges? I don't know. But in the court of public opinion, the verdict is in.
(no subject) - stevegreen - Dec. 13th, 2014 03:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
ravengirl
Dec. 13th, 2014 09:06 am (UTC)
He's absolutely a sociopath and may be a psychopath. He's an arrogant, self-serving monster who needs to control everything and harm others to feel superior. And so he has. I wonder now about his wife; not only what she knew and knows now, but how she has been treated all these years. I'm sure there was household staff who witnessed some of these atrocities and I wonder if they ever called police and how that panned out.

This is not "heartbreaking" to me. An actor, a comedian, is a person. Cosby was paid for his work. And we watched and listened and laughed. But the man is a monster who needs to pay now for these crimes. I cannot wait to see him go down and I LOVED his comedy albums.
stevegreen
Dec. 13th, 2014 03:50 pm (UTC)
People cover up. From fear, from a desire not to lose their income or place in society, from plain denial. Anyone who ever heard a story about Bill Cosby's sexual predation, then ignored an event they'd witnessed which seemed to play into that scenario -- you are at least partially responsible for his roaming free these many years, and you should consider your own culpability.
(no subject) - penpusher - Dec. 13th, 2014 04:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
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penpusher
Dec. 13th, 2014 04:05 pm (UTC)
Definitely a sociopath with his on camera behavior/public image and his off camera criminality. I wonder when he started, what set him off?

Are sociopaths and psychopaths made? Or is that a function of brain chemistry or genetics or something mental that happened, somehow? On one hand, the experiences we live do shape us into who we are... our reactions, our choices, our feelings do inform what we do, what other experiences come our way and how we move on from there. On the other, we are told that sometimes this is who that person is, that this couldn't be helped...

In either event, there is a need to understand. That is the heartbreak of this. If we think that sociopaths are made, there was a point when he wasn't one, when he could have been reached and reasoned with. If we think that sociopaths are born, then we still have to wonder how he managed to convince everyone that he was normal when he clearly was not.

You bring up an important point - that of the enablers, the people who worked for him. When you are the head of a production company, and all your employees rely on you being there or being unemployed, there is going to be a lot of silence about behavior that might get you removed from your job. So, this is an unconscionable circumstance. I'm sure there were moments when people saw something and might have said something, except it would mean they would suddenly stop getting a paycheck, and so would all their co-workers.

The other layer about this is that as one of only a handful of African American television stars, and I mean bona fide stars, not just working actors, there was a certain level of pride in Cosby's career. And he wasn't just the actor. He directed some episodes of his series. And more importantly he was a producer, so there was a lot of potential for him getting people hired and fired. There haven't been many African Americans before or since who have had even a fraction of that kind of television success and fame as Cosby.

Based on what we're seeing, it seems like Bill Cosby is never going to answer any of these charges. Will he actually be brought to court? These accusations date back 25 to almost 30 years. I suspect the only way he will say anything now is by a subpoena.

Though, in a sense, he has been tried and his career is over. He had to cancel his stand up comedy performances. His return to NBC with a new TV series pilot will never happen. Reruns of any of his television series will not air anywhere ever again, and it probably means that YouTube accounts that have clips of those shows might be closed as well, if they haven't already deleted the videos themselves.

It's not a judgment in a series of court cases, but it is punitive, certainly for a person who was at the top of the world and is now viewed with revulsion by the same people that admired him before.
(no subject) - stevegreen - Dec. 13th, 2014 05:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
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herwonderfulday
Dec. 13th, 2014 02:13 pm (UTC)
this was all very shocking to me when I saw it on tmz. my dad and I used to watch and quote Himself all the time.

"daddy's great! gives us the chocolate cake!"
"I don't know!"

I find the whole thing very bizarre.
penpusher
Dec. 13th, 2014 04:16 pm (UTC)
Shocking and bizarre are the first adjectives I thought of when I heard this. Well, maybe not shocking, as there was the payoff of Autumn Jackson that was widely known about, and how she gave birth to Cosby's child. But then it all sort of went away and you didn't hear anything else. But obviously, there was a lot else!

Hollywood is a bizarre place and people will overlook a lot of horrific behavior from those that can provide them with work.

As I stated to ravengirl, I don't know if sociopaths are made or born. Maybe it's both? But Cosby either was made into or was born a sociopath.
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fodschwazzle
Dec. 13th, 2014 07:07 pm (UTC)
It's been hard coming out from under the shelter of not wanting to destroy my own concept of Cosby. That contradiction of clean language and family man and even sanctimonious attitude that seemed to especially creep out after the death of his son against the absolute vileness of his attacks against women... it's such a stark contrast that, at first glance, is difficult to believe. I give Hollywood less credit for making the monster than I give them for protecting their monster, though, since I am relatively certain that you and I could become ridiculously famous without ever thinking that giving a person Rohypnol in order to have sex with them was a good idea.

A very well stated discussion piece, this is.
penpusher
Dec. 13th, 2014 07:45 pm (UTC)
Really, isn't this the issue when it comes to the cases of white police officers killing unarmed black citizens? Even when you have video evidence, people are still siding with the cops because we fully expect the police to abide the law. So we can look at a video and see what happened and still justify it in our own minds as appropriate because we really want to believe that a police officer would never do something illegal, or there had to have been a reason, or that person was a criminal anyway.

It's that kind of psychology that makes situations like those, and like this one, with Cosby, so slow to change, so difficult to examine and so excruciating to resolve.
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dmousey
Dec. 14th, 2014 03:42 am (UTC)
I grew up on Cosby fare,and being from Philadelphia, I can tell you he was a beloved figure here. His contributions to Temple University and Hospital, plus his connections to the jazz scene had a lot to do with it, along with his stand-up and TV success.

I want to touch on something, more on the psychological make up or mind set. He was in the Navy. I have found more than a few ex-military men tend to be authoritarian and have a high need for control, when they leave the service. That is something that may have fed into the sociopathic behavior.

I would really like to know when he started. When he started believing his own hype, so to speak.

As a woman who's had to deal with sexual assault-lets just say I'm happy his dignity is being stripped bare...


Edited at 2014-12-14 03:48 am (UTC)
penpusher
Dec. 14th, 2014 02:11 pm (UTC)
We are only just now, in the last decade or so, really examining the state of mind of military vets coming home from war. Obviously, war today is different from World War II or Korea, but it's also very different from Vietnam and the first Iraq. The point is that the traumas of war are not necessarily something you can just "get over" and they definitely have changed people. And even though World War II was a more standard style battle (Fat Man and Little Boy not withstanding), war is war and people see things in war that will never fully go away. I mean, all of us saw the events of 9/11, and some saw the people leaping out of the World Trade Center to escape the inferno. As horrific as that was, being in a battle where the person next to you got killed or maybe your ship got sunk... well, we know it's worse.

I'm not certain Cosby actually had combat duty. I heard he worked in a hospital where he saw troops who were suffering the physical and maybe mental effects of war, though. Then he went to Temple and on to his career...

I wonder if being in the military creates the authoritarian mindset or if those that are attracted to being in the armed forces are already of that thought process? Like everything, it's probably some of both.

i_17bingo
Dec. 14th, 2014 10:16 am (UTC)
Bill Cosby is one of the greatest storytellers of all time, and probably one of my top three heroes and inspirations. And now I don't know what to think.

But it's not about me. It doesn't matter what I think. I can be confused and a little torn up, but it's not my problem. The ones with the problem are the women he drugged and raped and who are being judged and questioned by the media because they had the audacity to be victims of a talented blowhard.

A female friend of mine, in the course of a conversation yesterday, flat-out said she believers his accusers are opportunistic liars--or at best, exaggerators--all because one of them may have had a hole in her story. Though I'm sure The Cosby Show and "He makes us chocolate cake!" have something to do with it. I went quiet and got a little sick and I'm still reeling. This attitude *cough cough Woody Allen* is why *cough Roman Polansky cough* this kind of thing is never going away.
i_17bingo
Dec. 14th, 2014 10:36 am (UTC)
As an aside, I had a buddy in college... he had a man crush on me, and I thought he was pretty awesome too. My two favorite memories are when we each bought a flask of Wild Turkey and drank ourselves sick, just because we were trying to impress one another; and how he found me wallowing after my girlfriend dumped me (he raced over as soon as the rumor got to him), and he took me on a long drive through town, playing my favorite artist on his tape deck (PJ Harvey), which was cute because he only had one song by her on his mix tape.

His only flaw was his girlfriends, who were all pretty not-with-it, and sometimes positively unhinged. Years after we graduated, a good friend dated him for a long time, and I thought, Finally, someone cool worth his attention.

And when she finally extracted herself from that relationship, she reported that this guy was physically and verbally abusive, and utterly, totally controlling. And it explained everything. Now, upon this revelation, there was no conflict in my mind about my loyalty. To me, he seemed like bromance material. To women, he was a piece of shit, and that made him a piece of shit to the core. I don't care how much I liked him.

But what makes me cringe is this: Am I allowed to have good memories of him? How could I just not see the common thread with these women he dated? How could I miss this about him? How could I be so fucking stupid?

This is the first time I've shared this, so it's a little rambly. But the Cosby thing has really rattled me.
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