Bill Cosby: Finished
Instead we will be told the sordid tale of "history's most successful serial rapist" as he was referred to a couple of days ago by one of his alleged victims. I cannot recall in my lifetime a career crashing as completely and unexpectedly as this. As a longtime fan and admirer, this is indeed a sad and disturbing thing to behold.
Not all of the women who have come forward thus far with accusations of sexual assault should be taken seriously. One of them, who claims that her confrontation with Cosby took place in the year 1969, says she would jokingly call him, "Mr Jell-O". Cosby would not become the pitchman for that brand until 1974. As of this moment I seem to be the only one to have noticed this little discrepancy. What does that tell you about our media?
But where there's smoke....
Bill Cosby may very well end up as the Joe Paterno of comedy. A brilliant, scandal free career and reputation that has endured for over half a century is in the process of immolation.
One of the first books I ever purchased to read - with my own money, for my own enjoyment - was called "Cool Cos". It was a biography of Bill written especially for kids. I sent away for it to a school book club. I was around ten at the time.
In a lifetime that has been devoted to comedy in general and comedians in particular, Bill Cosby was my first comedic hero. When I was a kid I thought that he was the smartest, coolest, funniest human being who ever walked this earth. As I write these words his second LP, "I Started out as a Child", is lying atop a small stack of records directly behind my right shoulder.
Like Chaplin, Bill appealed to both adults and children. When I was a very small child I couldn't understand the humor of Bob Newhart. I understood and appreciated Bill Cosby perfectly well. Anyone who grew up in the sixties and seventies has their own, personal Cosby memories:
In June of 1968 my father came up with the brilliant idea that it would be a wonderful thing to send my brother, Pete, and I to a summer camp in Lenox, Massachusetts, on the campus of Cranwell School. The place was inhabited by hundreds of spoiled-rotten, rich Catholic kids, and run by humorless Jesuit priests. Sound like fun? My only cherished memory of that utterly wasted summer was that every Monday night before we went to sleep, a seminarian named Jim Leroux would gather us in his room and play a Bill Cosby record. I can still hear the guy's voice forty-six years later:
"ATTENTION CAMPERS, EACH OF YOU WILL BE READY FOR BED IN EXACTLY TEN MINUTES OR THERE WILL BE NO - I REPEAT - NO BILL COSBY!!!"
That threat was enough to get us moving, believe me. Bill Cosby was, for me, one of the very few bright spots in a perfectly miserable childhood. That is what makes this spectacle all-the-more heartbreaking for me to have to witness.
The only time in my life I ever saw a comedian in concert was in the mid-eighties when I took a date to see Bill Cosby at Radio City Music Hall. I could not resist the opportunity to see my childhood hero in the flesh. One of my nagging regrets is that I'm too young to have ever seen Lenny Bruce in person, but at least I could say that I saw Bill.
All of the sudden that's not too big a deal any longer, you know? A few nights ago I was driving home with the radio on when it was announced on CBS News that the TV Land network would no longer be airing reruns of the classic Cosby Show. In an era of hideously mediocre comedy, that particular program was one of television's depressingly few high marks. I won't even bother trying to explain to you how sad it made me to hear this.
I loved Bill Cosby.
His meteoric career is over. We shall not hear from him again except as a figure of shame, ridicule or dark satire. There will be no second act in this American life. As tragic as Lenny's end was, death and posterity would ultimately vindicate him. There will be no such vindication for Bill Cosby. The show is over; the curtain has closed. 2014 has been a horribly unfunny year for comedy, have you noticed that?
Don't be heartbroken when your heroes let you down. They always will, you know. They always will. They're just too damned human.
Here's a YouTube link to watch a twenty-five-year-old Bill Cosby way back in 1963, at the very beginning of his career as a standup comedian, performing his classic skit, Noah:
We'll never look at him the same way again.
UPDATE, 11/27/14, 10:10 AM:
The number of Bill Cosby's accusers has risen to nineteen. What a pathetic end to a brilliant career. Ashes. This is too sad for words.
I hope you're all having a grand Thanksgiving.