Now that I look back, Bill Cosby has always had a presence in my life. My favorite cartoon as a kid was Fat Albert. I not only looked forward to the adventures of Mush, Dumb Donald, Weird Harold, Bucky, Rudy and the rest of the Junkyard Gang, but truly took to heart some of the lessons that Fat Albert, who was always the voice of reason, was trying to impart.
Like my childhood neighborhood crew in Brooklyn, they loved playing sports, jamming to music and getting into their share of trouble. But there was always some wisdom, integrity and a civics minded leadership that Fat Albert, as the leader of the crew, insisted upon. Whether it was about lying, playing hooky, bullying, drinking, smoking, eating too much junk food, shoplifting or gambling, the show was truly groundbreaking as a cartoon that was both fun, hilarious and educational.
The intro and closing credits of the 1970’s classic, “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids”. This is the 1972 version.
And it showed images of Black boys navigating their way, successfully through some very difficult circumstances, which was refreshing given the climate, which still exists to this day, of the criminalization of the young Black body.
Prior to Fat Albert’s 12-year-run on CBS, from 1972 to 1984, Cosby was already a groundbreaking legend in the entertainment industry. In the turbulent 1960’s, he starred as Scotty on the television series I Spy, which was the first American TV drama to feature a black actor in a starring role.
Scotty was not subservient to his white partner, but rather an equal as the secret agent buddies operated undercover to expose and catch many a villain. Scotty was in fact the true brains of the pairing, a Rhodes Scholar who spoke many languages, while his partner Kelly, played by Robert Culp, was an athlete and ladies man who seemed to get over with his wits and guile. That was a major switch on the time-worn stereotypes that had long pervaded television and movie screens when it came to the white/black actor dichotomy.
Kelly plans on going down to Tatia’s room, but Scotty is afraid that he is going to get killed and tries to stop him. Clip from the ISpy episode Tatia first broadcast November 17, 1965. Directed by David Friedkin Written by Robert Lewin
Cosby, prior to I Spy, was an exceptional standup comedian that wowed live audiences nationwide. His 1968 live album – To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With – is considered a masterpiece.
We all know how high his star rose in the constellation of celebrity. From movie star to corporate pitchman, he parlayed his earlier success into one of television’s greatest accomplishments with The Cosby Show, which was watched and adored by all.
Remember how refreshing it felt to see two college educated Black parents who’d gone on to grad school to become accomplished in the fields of law and medicine? And in addition, those characters Cliff and Claire Huxtable were raising five children to be strong and self-assured in an upper middle class household that radiated with love.
When Vanessa invites two friends over to visit, they see the large, well-furnished Huxtable home and report back to the other kids at school that Vanessa is a rich girl… and decide she must be stuck up. Angered and insulted, Vanessa gets into a fist fight to defend her reputation.
Cosby’s trajectory seemed to be the ultimate Horatio Alger story, of a young man reared in the North Philadelphia ghetto who overcame tremendous obstacles through his intelligence, talents and inner moral compass to achieve a level of wealth and celebrity that many could not even fathom.
And when my own children were born, learning to walk and form their first words, I immersed them into another Cosby dimension, the animated television series Little Bill.
My daughters loved Little Bill, and I did too. I can vividly recall their smiles and laughter, and loved the character April, Little Bill’s older sister, who was confident, smart, self-assured and a gifted basketball player. Those hours that we spent watching Little Bill exploring everyday life through his unique imagination, and the love that he had for his hamster “Elephant”, and his idol Captain Brainstorm, still brings a smile to my face.
Cosby was there all throughout my childhood and adulthood, and his work impacted the lives of my young daughters as well.
Little Bill – The Suprise The popular feel good animation for all the family of the inquisitive little black boy growing up with his family and friends. The adventures we all went through when we where little kids. They don’t make them like these anymore. Enjoy! By Bill Cosby
But I learned long ago to separate fact from fiction. And regardless of the morons out here celebrating today because Bill Cosby’s sexual case ended in a hung jury mistrial, today is not one of celebration for me.
The man is not the first, nor will he be the last to be tainted by scandal. But with his cultural footprint and impact in American culture that once loomed so large, it’s no exaggeration to say that no one other than O.J. Simpson has had such a larger fall from grace.
I can hear some of the Cosby fans, supporters and apologists now, claiming that he’s never been convicted in a court of law on any of the sinister allegations levied against him. Yeah, and O.J. was acquitted of murder, so the legal process here has no bearing on who this man was pretending to be, versus the man he truly was.
When you do your due diligence, you’ll find that over 100 women since the 1960’s have come forward with tales of rape, drug facilitated sexual assault, sexual battery, child sexual abuse, and/or sexual misconduct. Most of the alleged acts fall outside the statutes of limitations for criminal legal proceedings, but this most recent one, for which the jury could not reach a decision, does.
In July of 2015, some of the court records from Andrea Constand’s 2005 civil lawsuit against Cosby were unsealed and released to the public. In his testimony, Cosby admitted to sexual encounters with numerous women where he sedated them with Quaaludes.
In December of 2015, three Class II Felony charges of aggravated indecent assault were filed against Cosby in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania based on the allegations by Constand. Cosby’s trial started twelve days ago and ended in mistrial today.
For those who think this is some conspiracy theory of “The Man” trying to take the Black man down, think again. Bill Cosby is nothing but a monster and rapist with celebrity and millions of dollars at his disposal.
My friend was a young actress who appeared on a few episodes of the Cosby show in the 1980’s. And the man, as was his pattern, pretended to be her mentor, promised that he would help guide her, and drugged and raped her. The confusion, pain, suffering and anguish still haunts her to this day, despite her success as an artist, wife and mother.
The mirage of Cliff Huxtable, and the rapist that is Bill Cosby are irreconcilable.
One of my favorite movies is the 1975 film, Let’s Do It Again, starring Cosby and Sidney Poitier. As I sit here and think, Cosby is nothing more than a real life version of Bootney Farnsworth in that he hypnotized us into believing that he was so much more than he actually was. And when the hypnosis wore off, we realized who he really was: a weak and sorry excuse for a man we once thought was a true champion.
Bootney Farnsworth sparing. After being hypnotized! Goes from being a chump to become a champ!
Referring back to Cosby’s work, I’m reminded of an episode where Fat Albert notices bruises on the body of a female friend. He comes to discover that she is being abused at home and is insistent that she must tell someone.
She’s scared and reluctant, but Fat Albert convinces her that she needs help from those in authority in order to make it stop. She eventually takes his advice and gets the help that she needs.
I wonder what Fat Albert would tell those 100 or so woman whose abuse came at the sinister hands of Bill Cosby. And I wonder what choice words he would have for Cosby himself.