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Requiem

January 22, 2016

I’m here to lay to rest a beloved person from my childhood, someone who gave me hours of laughs and served as a fatherly role model for many years—Bill Cosby.

           

I’m not referring to the Bill Cosby currently in the news, the fellow accused of drugging and sexually assaulting nearly fifty women. I don’t know that Bill Cosby. The Bill I knew, or thought I knew, was warm and funny, a comedian who never swore or belittled anyone, whose keen insight brought to life universal humor based on the heartwarming foibles of the human condition.

           

When I was a kid, I mowed lawns and collected newspapers to afford records. The first album I bought was Cosby’s Why Is There Air? Eventually I’d own all of Cosby’s comedy albums, and there was a time when I could repeat every word of his famous routine Chicken Heart.

           

In 1965, I desperately wanted to watch Cosby in the groundbreaking series I Spy, but it aired at nine o’clock, past my bedtime. By then my family had purchased a color TV and the old black and white Zenith, big as Robbie the Robot, was parked in the bedroom I shared with my older brother. He was the one who climbed out of bed and challenged parental authority by turning on I Spy, until my mother put an end to it. When we heard her walking down the hall toward our room we turned off the TV and jumped back into bed. Mom pushed through our closed bedroom door and observed us pretending to sleep. She placed her hand on the TV, which was still hot from all those tubes, and left without saying anything. The next day the TV was removed from our room.

           

I wasn’t deterred from my wholehearted enthusiasm for Bill Cosby, sticking with him through the Fat Albert and Jello years, along with several failed comedy series until he struck pay dirt with The Cosby Show, which made Bill rich enough to consider purchasing NBC.

           

I thought it great when Bill encouraged young black men to avoid drugs and support the children they fathered, providing firm yet gentle methods for raising children on his wildly popular TV show. Frankly, I know precious little about American black communities, but anyone watching episodes of Cops or Bait Car—or the evening newsknows we have a problem with black incarceration in this country. I couldn’t help but believe Cosby’s message of responsibility and accountability was beneficial for young black men, and America.

           

It’s true that Bill Cosby has yet to be convicted of any crimes, but it’s inconceivable to me that, with this much smoke, there isn’t fire. Can so many women telling remarkably similar tales of drugging and rape be lying? Hard to believe. In light of these numerous accusations, Bill’s advocacy for responsibility leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I can only imagine how black youth who’d looked up to Bill must feel. The words hypocrisy and betrayal come to mind.

           

So today I’m burying the Bill Cosby of my youth, the gentle man who once brought so much humor into my life. Bill Cosby is Midas rich and wealthy enough to afford the best lawyers, making it unlikely he’ll ever be found guilty of any crimes, but fame is a multi-edged sword and my heart has been wounded beyond repair.

           

So long Bill. Goodbye Fat Albert. Farewell Chicken Heart. Rest in Peace.

 

           

 

 

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Comments

30 Comments
Totally sad and he is just one of the one's we know about!
By: John on January 22, 2016
RIP the Bill we all loved. Just one flaw, but what a huge flaw, the hypocrisy is staggering, how his wife sold herself out is also staggering. Very sad. My favorite bit from that album was "Turtle Heads" it nailed a battle my brother and I had every morning.
By: cranky on January 22, 2016
Totally agree with you. Not something I had ever expected to hear about our friend, Bill. He is not who he presented himself to be.
By: Rita on January 22, 2016
I feel betrayed too. It just doesn't seem possible that the Bill in our past turned out to be someone none of us recognize. R
By: Rick Watson on January 22, 2016
I totally agree with your point of view. I also grew up with and loved Bill, had a TV in my room my mom would check to see if it was hot and scold me, and I thought he had good accountability messages for the black community. Very sad to see the truth come out and tarnish him so. Just goes to show absolute power corrupts absolutely. :(
By: Lexa Cain on January 22, 2016
Like many others, he abused the 'trust' people had in him and his 'star power' plain and simple. Yes, he is innocent until proven guilty by the judicial system. In the peoples court, not so much.
By: Daniel LaFrance on January 22, 2016
Well said, Stephen. Shame that the man behind Fat Albert, Jello, and responsibility no longer exists. That's why we can't put our faith in men - they are imperfect and will fail.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on January 22, 2016
Amen. So sad.
By: The Bug on January 22, 2016
My wife's kids grew up on Cosby, too, as did I. It's maddening that he turns out to be such a creep.
By: Catalyst on January 22, 2016
Incomprehensible and reprehensible behavior. How very sad and it makes a lot of us more than angry. Why couldn't he just be the man he portrayed; the man who made things funny without making fun of someone? Excellent post Stephen.
By: Kathe W. on January 22, 2016
We saw Cosby at the Hungry I in San Francisco. He was hysterical!! We loved him in I Spy & as Dr. Huxtable. Now I feel exactly the way you do about him. So sad!!
By: fishducky on January 22, 2016
What he did was terrible, but maybe there is something to be salvaged (think of David in Scripture). We are all flawed. This is sad.
By: Sage on January 22, 2016
I was never the fan you were, but I appreciated his moral leadership, and that makes what he appears to have done all the worse.
By: Snowbrush on January 22, 2016
I too was a huge fan of the man and the standards he represented. They were standards we could all live by. Now we realize it was a facade and it just hurts. RIP old Bill and damn you real Bill.
By: Arkansas Patti on January 22, 2016
I loved I Spy because I had a huge crush on Robert Culp. I also loved BC in it. I was just like you. Everybody just loved BC. He was so funny and so cool. His skit of childbirth is on the funniest I've ever heard. Now when I see him, he makes me sick to my stomach. His wife too because there's no way she didn't know anything after all these years. Sick and sad.
By: Bouncin Barb on January 22, 2016
It's a sickness, I guess. To have so many things going for him, and to throw it all away. Unless he thought he was above the law. Or that he'd never get caught. Still. A sickness.
By: Val on January 22, 2016
It's so sad. What he had to say is still right on the mark, it's a shame he wasn't really living by it.
By: messymimi on January 22, 2016
I did enjoy the Cosby show but I',\m not familiar with the other material. I do hope he's convicted. It would be an excellent example.
By: red on January 22, 2016
I believe you perfectly described a lot of people's thoughts and feelings regarding Bill Cosby.
By: Pixel Peeper on January 22, 2016
Maybe this comment is stupid, but I don't understand why everyone seemed surprised. Rumors and accusations about Cosby were around for years. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on January 22, 2016
Pixel Peeper pretty much summed up what I was going to say as I do believe you perfectly described a lot of people's thoughts and feelings regarding Mr. Cosby.
By: Mr. Shife on January 22, 2016
Your comments and sentiment are excellent.
By: Tom Cochrun on January 23, 2016
it's a shame what fame does to a person. not many people can resist it, they begin to believe their own hype and think that they can do whatever they want. that he can drug and rape cause, hey, he's Bill Cosby, and those women should be glas he picked them. as for his admonitions to black men, do as I say, not as I do. that was actually my parent's family motto. they made a mosaic table which was used as the coffee table in the family room with our family tree and the motto. I always thought it was hypocritical.
By: ellen abbott on January 23, 2016
I wanted to ignore this, but you have made me realize we should bury the hero with the accolades that fellow deserved.
By: Tabor on January 23, 2016
This pretty much sums up how I feel, too. How did the old Bill ever turn into the current one?
By: jenny_o on January 23, 2016
Most poignant. I feel the same way. So, you had to be in bed by nine, too? In comparison to many childhoods, mine and my younger brother's were wonderful, but our parents also inflicted a lot of damage--especially upon me. Whether or not he was just better suited to endure it, I do not know, but not being allowed to say up past nine until I graduated from high school left scars in my mind. The only exceptions were when basketball games ran later on Tuesday and Friday nights. As soon as I felt safe to escape their custody, I did.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on January 24, 2016
I agree, too bad. But we do all have to remember that the image projected on a TV or movie screen does not always reveal the real person.
By: Tom Sightings on January 24, 2016
Stephen: My heart goes out to the women whose lives were forever changed by these violent events. It is heartbreaking.
By: Michael Manning on January 24, 2016
I wish our society had more truth to it. I despise the idea of looking up to someone because they are good looking, funny, or clever. I want a society where everyone has equal worth and everyone has a high standard of living. People on a pedestal should always have their flaws exposed to the world so that people don't get hopelessly depressed thinking that "my life doesn't look anything like this." That's one reason I despise Facebook...it's a highlight reel for everyone's best moments and people buy into that shit with their "likes" etc. It's all contributing to societal narcissism, which kills off empathy. And without empathy, this world is a terrible place. Anyway, I'm glad the truth of Cosby's wickedness is exposed. Now the press needs to get to work tearing down other heroes like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. I'm sure these "heroes" have skeletons in their closet. Knowing what they are will help kids who want to be Brady or Peyton to realize that they should just work on being themselves and be happy with what you got.
By: Michael Offutt on January 25, 2016
The guy deserves to be in prison but he will not serve any time. He has made his own prison because he will never leave the legacy that we thought he would have-that ship has sailed. he is not as evil as Hitler and I don't mean to make any comparison but Hitler did create Kindergarten and the volkswagon as well as the modern day freeway. Cosby gave a lot as well and this will be recognized, reluctantly. I believe he is guilty and never really took to him. There was something about him that I found fake. I never saw I, Spy but I saw him in Mother, Jugs and Speed and he was not playing Mr. Innocent in that film. Later, he would not talk about these roles because he only wanted to be shown as some kind of prophet. I also remember how he "disagreed" with Lisa Bonet when she acted in Angelheart. She played a young woman who goes all orgasmic over a chicken during some voodoo thing. She was trying to stay on the show but she left and was quoted as saying that Bill Cosby is not all that he appears to be. Funny that, even though she got rave reviews for that film, she disappeared as if she was blacklisted.
By: Birgit on January 25, 2016

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