Of course, we’d never seen anything like it: an intact, attractive, non-self-loathing black family headed by two educated, accomplished parents who clearly liked and supported one another.
Shamefully, for America and American television broadcast networks the Huxtables — a dream referred by Bill Cosby — were an aberration, a space oddity and a mundane exoticism in the post-soul babies era of the Jeffersons, the Evanses and Rog, Dee and the gang from That’s My Mamma and all the low-budget shows like it.
The Jeffersons were successful — wealthy, even — but their American Dream was counter-balanced by George’s angry black paranoia packed into a bigoted man suffering a Napoleonic Complex.
His success (by white definitions) was merely a narrative tool for Norman Lear to show that the rarified air of black class status is as crass and miserable as its white counterpart.
With all its groundbreaking accomplishments, it is important still to keep separate Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable of The Cosby Show from Bill Cosby himself.
Cosby, 77, is the one who, despite being married to Camille for decades, has held the open secret of being a serial philanderer. He’s the one who disparages black popular culture and is embarrassed by young blacks and who shows an aging curmudgeon’s disdain for sagging pants and backwards baseball caps.
Cosby’s the one who in 2005 got hit with a massive civil suit by Andrea Constant, a former staffer at Cosby’s alma mater, Temple University, who claimed Cosby drugged then sexually assaulted her in his Philadelphia mansion. Thirteen other women came forward, all named as Jane Doe in the suit.
Many claimed to be teens at the time, with identical allegations against Cosby dating back several years.
Later, Barbara Bowman, Tamara Green and another woman came forward and claimed they, too, had been drugged, sexually assaulted and raped by Cosby.
However, Philadelphia officials could not find enough evidence or people who’d filed complaints against Cosby about his allegedly lascivious behavior and declined to file charges, according to National Public Radio.
NPR is the nexus of Cosby’s identity in America as the loquacious raconteur (reality) and the benign All-American Dad (television).
It referred to him as “a benevolent titan” in its follow-up to last Saturday’s awkward interview between Bill and Camille Cosby and NPR Weekend Edition host Scott Simon.
Simon was ostensibly doing a quick story on the Cosbys’ loan of 62 pieces of their art to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art for an exhibit called Conversations: African and African-American Artworks in Dialogue. The museum-quiet conversation got even quieter when Simon did his journalistic due diligence and asked Bill Cosby about the resurfaced allegations against him.
“This question gives me no pleasure, Mr. Cosby,” Simon says, as a prelude to asking about the stories in the news about rape and sexual assault and the settled civil suit.
“You’re shaking your head no,” Simon says.
“But people who care about you would love to hear from you,” Simon tries again. Cosby still shakes his head no. Simon tries one last time. Still a no from Cosby.
Simon then awkwardly moves to recap the details of the exhibit to segue out of the piece.
“Thank you both,” he says to the Cosbys.
“Thank you, thank you,” Camille says, almost exuberantly but probably with great relief. Wonder what the Cosbys’ conversation was in the Town Car on the way back to the hotel?
Maybe they were talking about video of comedian Hannibal Buress’s recent routine calling Cosby a rapist going viral and belching all this ugliness back up.
In the video, Buress calls Cosby a smug old black man who doesn’t like black people and who derides them to “pull your pants up, black people! I was on TV in the ’80s!”
The punch line: “Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, sooooo, that brings you down a couple notches.”
Imitating Cosby, Buress continues: “I don’t curse onstage.” Then: “Well yeah, you're a rapist, so …”
Buress then tells the crowd that if they weren’t aware of allegations that Cosby is a rapist, all they had to do is “Google 'Bill Cosby rape' ...
it’s got more hits than animal births that shit has more results than 'Hannibal Buress.' ”
Ironic that a comedian is the one keeping the lights on Cosby’s nefarious behavior that will keep besmirching all his accomplishments and obliterating his bank accounts until he comes clean with someone; doesn’t have to be the host of a national radio program.
And since we’ve been talking about the lines between TV and reality, Camille should binge-watch The Good Wife to see that it’s OK to decide to abandon that empty space beside your man after a lifetime of lies and betrayal and disrespect.
If a television network can yank an already-taped season of a hillbilly “reality” show because Mama June knowingly welcomed her daughter’s convicted abuser back into her home and ostensibly her bed, shouldn’t NBC suspend its talks with Cosby over a proposed new TV show?
Damn that no criminal charges have ever been filed; Cosby settled a civil suit. Who knows how many times girls and women are raped and sexually assaulted but do not file charges? It doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It means the systems for reporting against especially high-post assailants is broken.
And, after all of it, why can’t it be that a woman is just scared?
Scared of having her character further assailed, scared of having to defend every action, every outfit, every word.
Scared of even admitting that maybe she was star struck and that she trusted her idol — a man who espouses and financially supports education, art, professional accomplishment — to take good care and not advantage.
Watching Bill Cosby, now an old, grey-bearded grandfatherly man, remain mum on character-damaging claims while he promotes an art exhibit, appears at comedy festivals and on late-night television talk shows is like watching “The Real Cosby Show” about a man who thought he could get away with certain evils once the kids were grown and his wife was fatigued by apathy.
CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: [email protected]