Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Bill Cosby and Bob Hope and that old devil Sex

Bill Cosby, one of the most popular American actor-comedians of the latter half of the 20th century, is experiencing a definite fail when it comes to public opinion. Several women have come forward to allege that they have been raped by him. The reason he isn’t in prison right now is because he paid them off. And, in that grand legal tradition, the statute of limitations on the crimes has expired. Whatever he did then he cannot be prosecuted now.

Bill Cosby might be wearing this very expression as you read this.

Reading the stories of the women has been a reminder of the Janus-faced ability of some men to be good guys in public, yet criminals in private. The stories about Cosby began to surface some years ago, just about the time his 37-year-old son, Ennis, was murdered on the side of a freeway. Public sympathy swayed toward Cosby and the rape stories were quickly buried. Of course Cosby, as well as his publicists, have vehementally denied that there is anything to the allegations. Why wouldn’t they? At this stage of Cosby’s career if he admitted he had been drugging and having sex with semi-conscious females, then paying for their silence,that would put a real damper on a magical and trail-blazing career. Cosby was one of the first African-American comedians to break through to the larger white audience in the sixties with his popular mainstream comedy albums. His appearance as a lead in a popular television, show, I Spy, that decade was equally groundbreaking.

Cosby refuses to talk about any of the allegations, preferring to issue general denials and then stand mute on specific charges.

It is probably too late to salvage his reputation.

I did an Internet search, hoping that cast members of his sitcom, The Cosby Show, might have come forward to tell their own stories, or deny that they knew of, or were privy to, any of the stories about Cosby. So far the only one I have been able to find is from Raven-Symoné, who says any stories of her being taken advantage of by Cosby are false.

No quotes from Phylicia Rashad,* Malcolm-Jamal Warner, or Lisa Bonet, as of this date. Are they being approached by reporters and asked their opinions? My guess is that when they were on the show they signed non-disclosure agreements.

Besides Cosby’s fellow sitcom cast members being quiet, I haven’t heard a lot of outrage from the general public. Maybe we have become immune to celebrity scandals. We love them, but maybe we just aren’t so surprised when we find out people we have put on pedestals don’t really deserve such an honor. Yet we also have a problem when we have a public persona that is well established, when we find out there is a darker side we have not experienced. There was some resistance to the stories about Cosby the first time around. The repetition of the charges has now sunk in. The women who have come forward with stories of Bill Cosby’s crimes found out firsthand that just because a person makes you laugh does not make them a good person. Just someone who can tell a joke.

Bob Hope. Ethel Merman...really?

Another famous 20th century celebrity, Bob Hope, is the subject of a new biography by Richard Zoglin, Hope: Entertainer of the Century. I have not read the book, but reviews have picked up the non-traditional view of Hope as a serial adulterer who cheated on his wife, Dolores,** throughout their marriage. A review in The New Yorker describes Hope having sex with Ethel Merman — of all people! — in doorways on 8th Avenue in New York. The difference with Hope’s sexual proclivities is that none of them are described as rape. Hope is linked to other women, including a longtime affair with Marilyn Maxwell.

Maxwell and Hope in 1953 doing a little squeeze for Off Limits.

The difference with Bob and Dolores Hope is that they are dead. Hearing about the secret histories of the long dead is just more historical record. It has little impact on me now to know that Bob Hope, a man I thought was a straight-arrow type, was another horny male...much like the character he played on radio, television and his movies.
*UPDATE, January 21, 2015: Rashad did come forward in early January, with statements that spanned two days:

Ms. Rashad, speaking to Roger Friedman of Showbiz 411, said that she had never seen any of the behavior attributed to Mr. Cosby, a longtime friend.

. . . “Forget these women,” Ms. Rashad said. “What you’re seeing is the destruction of a legacy. And I think it’s orchestrated. I don’t know why or who’s doing it, but it’s the legacy. And it’s a legacy that is so important to the culture.”

The next day, ABC News quoted Rashad:  "We are really missing what is wrong here, which is, this is the United States of America. I know it's changing, but it's still the United States of America and there are tenets that we live by," she told ABC News today. "There is the Constitution of the United States, which ensures innocence until proof of guilt and that has not happened.

“But what has happened is declaration in the media of guilt, without proof. And a legacy is being destroyed because of it. It's being obliterated."

Rashad, 66, worked with Cosby for more than seven years, playing his wife, Claire Huxtable, on The Cosby Show. While she never intended to publicly speak about the allegations made against her former co-star, she said she was dismayed to see that she was falsely quoted as saying, “Forget about these women" in a recent story by Roger Friedman's Showbiz 411.

"I am a woman. I would never say such a thing. I would never think such a thing," she said. "My message is, what happens to a nation in which people knowingly and willfully disavow the tenets that describe the nation? ... This is not about the women. This is about something else. This is about the obliteration of a legacy."
 **An unusual fact is that no marriage certificate has ever been found for Hope and Dolores. His divorce decree from his first wife is found, but his marriage to Dolores is not supported by documents. 

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