Wednesday, December 03, 2014
Cos and Effect
Posted By Pam On Wednesday, December 03, 2014
Bill Cosby, we hardly knew you.
At least it seems that way as one allegation after another has surfaced the past few weeks from women who claim Cosby sexually assaulted them, usually while they were under the influence of alcohol and/or a drug. The 21 (and rising) women range from a girl barely out of her teens at the time who wanted a part in Cosby's movie Ghost Dad to Kristina Ruehli, who knew Cosby from his days starring in I Spy.
It's just so hard to believe after growing up as a Cosby kid so to speak during the 1970s and 1980s. Besides The Cosby Show, which I watched diligently in the 1980s, Cosby was everywhere: on those JELLO pudding pops commercials, Sesame Street, stand-up appearances, and talk shows. I'm sure I watched Fat Albert once or twice. One of my friends in the 6th grade had a vinyl record of Cosby's infamous stand-up routine of Noah's Ark which we listened to and laughed at during a sleepover night. Cosby was one of the few comedians whose humor was completely safe for kids to partake in.
When Cosby gave interviews in the ‘80s and ‘90s, we got the impression at the time that he wasn’t that much different than his on-screen character Cliff Huxtable. The Cosby Show, after all, was based on comedy routines from Cosby’s stand-up act, where he drew material from his home life; a devoted husband and father doling out common sense parenting with a sense of humor to his real-life clan. Plus in his senior years, Cosby got rather preachy with the way kids in black neighborhoods dressed, spoke, and conducted themselves as well as the decline of family values. I applauded his infamous Pound Cake speech that he gave during an NAACP awards ceremony in 2004, when he admonished parents for allowing their children to become petty crooks and teenage mothers, and to wear droopy pants. Of course, in light of what has happened, that speech seems rather hypocritical now.
When his only son Ennis Cosby was murdered in 1997, fans across the country including myself ached for him.
But I guess we were duped. Today, I'n not so sure I want to watch an episode of The Cosby Show, and I feel funny watching him shill pudding pops alongside tots in those archived commercials. It's an icy reminder that everyone has a private and a public side, and that just because someone plays a devoted husband on TV does not mean he's he same way in real life.
Maybe it's something about TV dads. Robert Reed, the patriarch of The Brady Bunch, was gay but kept it under wraps because he feared it would have ruined his career (not that I have anything against homosexuality or that I think there's anything wrong with keeping it hidden to protect a career; just that it was a bit of a surprise.) Stephen Collins, the reverend father on 7th Heaven, was recently revealed to have admitted on tape that he had a thing for underage girls and molested and exposed himself to two (the case was dismissed because of how long ago the incidents occurred and the statue of limitations.)
Then there's the bizarre tale of Max Wright, who played the nerdy, chin-challenged adoptive dad of a furry space creature named ALF. As Willie Tanner, you couldn't find a dorkier guy on television. He's been married since the 1950s to the same woman. But a few years after ALF ended, the National Enquirer ran an expose that showed Wright in video footage screen caps smoking crack from aluminum cans and engaging in sex acts with homeless men he'd picked up moments earlier. He's also been arrested twice for drunk driving. Wright revealed in an interview that he hated his role on ALF, where he played second fiddle to a puppet that got all of the good lines. Maybe that's what drove him to have unprotected gay sex and do drugs?
But Cosby's legacy definitely trumps them all. I'm not sure what to make of it, except I can never think of a chocolate JELLO pudding pop as just a food item ever again.