No one can deny that Cosby was a brilliant comic, writer and social activist.
Now, Bill Cosby is also a convicted sex offender. This new identity happened in a Pennsylvania courtroom two
months ago, when the once powerful entertainer was convicted of aggravated indecent assault against a former
Temple University employee named Andrea Constand.
After the verdict came down, Cosby didn’t apologize. Instead, he shouted expletives at the prosecutor.
Constand wasn’t Cosby’s only victim. In fact, off-camera, the celebrity icon had long led a double life—drugging and then sexually attacking women for most of his career. Many were minors, and many were raped. So far, more than 60 courageous women have come forward.
But who knew? For most of us, Bill Cosby was the happily married father and funnyman who first caught our attention on the TV show I, Spy, playing globe-trotting espionage agent Scotty. Over the next two decades, Cosby had other high-profile gigs—including shilling for Jell-O Pudding Pops; producing Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids cartoons, and writing for PBS’s The Electric Company. He was also a passionate activist for education, especially literacy.
Then came Bill Cosby’s greatest success. The Cosby Show was a mid-‘80s comedy that starred Cosby as sweater loving obstetrician/gynecologist Cliff Huxtable, who was also America’s Favorite Dad. Looking back, could it be that the part Cosby created for himself was his own inside joke?
Indeed, Cosby’s role away from the studio—that of a serial rapist—was on full throttle.
Barbara Bowman was an aspiring actress in 1985. Bill Cosby had taken the naïve teenager under his wing, but rather than helping her with her career, assaulted her multiple times. The last incident saw Cosby trying to unclip his belt buckle while Bowman furiously attempted to wrestle from his grasp. Angered, he sent her home to Denver. Bowman’s agent did nothing, and a lawyer accused Bowman of making it all up. That feeling of futility kept Bowman from going to the police, but she did talk to the press, and kept talking, beginning in 2004.
Yet it wasn’t until a decade later that the rumors went viral. The turning point came in the summer of 2015, when a New York magazine cover featured 35 women who accused Cosby of sexual assault.
Around this time, colleges started rescinding the degrees and memberships they had given Cosby over the years. But it wasn’t until the guilty verdict that the biggest guns did the same. These institutions included Yale University; the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (which announced that Cosby’s reprehensible criminal actions completely overshadowed his remarkable career).
This is all terrific news. And, I expect that after Cosby’s sentencing in the fall—which could land the 81-year-old up to 30 years in prison—more organizations will do the same.
Still, I felt an overwhelming desire to do something myself.
I spent a lot of years living and working in Hollywood, so it hit me: even now, Bill Cosby has a star on the Walk of Fame. Embedded in the sidewalks of 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street, the more than 2,600 stars are public monuments to achievement in the entertainment industry. Those who live in the area might find the walk a bit hokey, but an astounding 10 million tourists visit it every year. Many are families with young children.
Of course, some of the entertainers here are far from perfect. Clark Gable may or may not have been involved in a fatal hit-and-run car accident; Charles Chaplin loved teenage girls (and married them), and Humphrey Bogart cheated on Lauren Bacall with his hairdresser.
But Bill Cosby’s crimes—unchecked for so long, and involving so many victims—go way, way beyond the pale.
Perhaps after seeing this petition, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce (which manages the walk) will decide that it’s time to change its rule that even when there are rumors of misconduct, no one’s star can ever be removed.
But, the charges against Bill Cosby have now been proven in a court of law.
The time has come to Do the Right Thing.
I hope you’ll sign my petition. Then, I hope you’ll pass it on.