Perhaps because we Americans revere “success” with such adoration, we are equally fascinated with spectacular falls from grace. Despite a net worth of $400,000,000, comedian Bill Cosby’s fall has been historic. He’s gone from “America’s dad” to “America’s perv.”
On its own, Cosby’s resume is stunning. He was the first black star in a TV series (“I Spy”); the first black Emmy Award winner; produced and starred in “The Cosby Show,” #1 in the ratings for five consecutive years! He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a PhD and a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
But his resume also includes a walk of shame. Fifty-two women, with no apparent financial incentive, have charged that he drugged and raped them. Ouch! As Whoopi Goldberg, once a Cosby defender, admitted recently, “The evidence looks real bad.” As for drugging, Bill Maher observed, “Cosby has put more women to sleep than warm milk.”
One of Cosby’s growing legion of accusers, former American Airlines stewardess and Eileen Ford model, Colleen Hughes, has lived in my apartment building for 39 years. I’ve often written about Oscar, her 14-year-old Golden Retriever seizure alert dog. (“Rebel with Four Paws,” “Oscar’s Big Day in Court” and “The Cary Grant of Dogs.”) Because Oscar was the first service animal at the Shores I labeled him the canine Rosa Parks.
In 1973, Colleen was working a trans continental flight bound for Los Angeles. One of her passengers was Cosby who flirtatiously insisted she join him for lunch in Beverly Hills. She agreed on condition that a fellow stewardess join them.
Embarrassed the other flight attendant backed out, Colleen continued with the luncheon date. But first they stopped at her hotel here in Santa Monica. She asked Cosby to wait in the lobby but he convinced her he would be deluged by autograph-seekers.
Reluctantly, Colleen allowed Cosby to wait in her room while she took her suitcase into the bathroom. She locked the door, showered and changed clothes. “In those days people smoked on planes and I smelled like an ashtray.”
Minutes later, she came out to see that Cosby had ordered hors d’oeuvres and champagne. Having already poured her a glass, he proposed a toast, “To lunch with the most beautiful woman in the world.” Yuck!
That was noon. When Colleen awoke it was 5:15 p.m., she was nude on the bed and Cosby was nowhere in sight. Sparing you the details, it was clear Colleen had been raped. “Why not call the police? I asked. She answered, “Given his celebrity, who would have believed me?”
A year later Colleen was working another flight and Cosby flirted with her again, though apparently not recognizing her. “You drugged me once,” Colleen said angrily, “I’m not going to let you do it again.” Cosby’s only response was to ask if she had reported it to anyone.
In July, New York Magazine’s cover featured thirty-five women who claimed Cosby had sexually assaulted them. They were seated beside an empty chair, symbolically inviting other victims to come forward. Colleen did and is now represented by the famed attorney Gloria Allred.
On October 9, Cosby will be deposed by Allred representing a client who was a minor at the time of the alleged assault. The LAPD confirms that it’s examining the case for possible criminal action.
Last year, CAA dropped Cosby as a client. TV stations nationwide have ceased airing all Cosby reruns. In July, Walt Disney World removed a statue of Cosby. Last December, he resigned from the Board of Trustees of his beloved Alma mater, Temple University.
But Camille Cosby, his wife of 51 years, sticks steadfastly by her husband. And his website reads, “Far from Finished.”
I suppose a Cosby comeback is possible. After all, Nixon rehabilitated his image. (Though not with me!) Remarkably, years after Watergate, sitting presidents actually consulted with Nixon on foreign policy. That said, I don’t envision Jello consulting with Cosby about selling Pudding Pops.
Colleen Hughes’ appearance on Dr. Phil airs Thursday, September 10 at 3 p.m. on CBS. Her appearance on 48 Hours, is tentatively scheduled for Friday, September 18, at 9 p.m on NBC.