A Falling Star

Comedian Bill Cosby speaks at the Jackie Robinson Foundation annual Awards Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s over.

While The Washington Post has fallen somewhat from its glory days as one of the nation’s newspapers of record, it’s hard to ignore the coincidence of the masthead and Paul Farhi’s rhetoric:

Bill Cosby’s dazzling, decades-long career as one of America’s most beloved entertainers appeared to be toppling this week amid a succession of allegations painting Cosby as a serial sexual predator.

On Wednesday, NBC — the network that roared back to television supremacy in the 1980s thanks to Cosby’s warmhearted family sitcom — joined the list of entertainment companies and TV programs that have abandoned projects or distanced themselves from the 77-year-old comedian and actor amid the cascade of shocking headlines.

And Farhi’s headline for the paper’s Style Blog (?!) is grim: “As NBC distances itself from Bill Cosby, a decades-long career crumbles”.

Then again, despite the flashbulb-quick surge in the tale of Cosby’s alleged infamy, NBC seems almost a latecomer to the lifeboat, following Netflix, David Letterman, and Queen Latifah; TVLand, a cable network home for reruns of cheesy sitcoms, has dropped The Cosby Show.

Cosby’s growing isolation from an industry that once embraced and profited from him comes amid a series of testimonials from women who said he drugged them and sexually abused them over three and a half decades — an image diametrically opposed to the affable father and humorous grandpa figures that Cosby cultivated.

The allegations, which date from 1969 until 2005, have been remarkably consistent in their details. In each alleged instance, Cosby supposedly lured a young, ambitious woman seeking career counseling, plied her with an unknown substance that disabled her, and then abused her when she was unconscious or unable to resist.

Cosby has rarely spoken in public about the allegations. That includes earlier this month when he simply shook his head when asked repeatedly about them in an interview with NPR. His representatives have denied them repeatedly, and he has never been charged with a crime.

There was a year of my youth in which it was reported that Mr. Cosby was the second-highest paid entertainer on the planet, coming in just behind Charles Schultz, and just ahead of Michael Jackson. And despite his terrible fashion sense and a string of astoundingly bad movies, the groundbreaking actor who started his long relationship with NBC in I Spy thirty-nine years ago has managed to maintain his prestige in the entertainment industry. Then again, The Cosby Show pretty much saved NBC’s entertainment division, and thus the entire network, from itself.

Cosby has a gig in Melbourne, Florida tomorrow night; stay tuned to cable news, if you must, but we already know what “Breaking News” we will hear about, that people will demonstrate outside the show. One needs no insider tip; that sort of thing is inevitable. Farhi notes that the sold-out show was booked last year; the real question will be what happens inside the King Center. He plays Treasure Island in Las Vegas a week from tomorrow, and the day after that lands at the Capitol Theatre in Yakima, Washington, a prospect about which we shall withhold any number of crass jokes. If the audience inside the King Center turns on The Cos? Well, it’s hard to imagine him canceling a Vegas show, but Yakima? Tarrytown? Kitchener, London, and Hamilton, Ontario? Pueblo? Okay, there’s Denver, but that’s the part of Colorado that votes against rape. Best to stick in Pueblo, or perhaps he should reschedule to Greely, nestled in the northwestern corner of Colorado’s Fourth Congressional District, where they actually send rape abettors to Congress.

Serial rape allegations aside, it is an impressive tour schedule reaching out to the beginning of May; the guy really is a hard-working performer. Mixing the reality of the allegations back into our consideration, one wonders how long that schedule can stand. This time, it really does seem as if the glory of The Cos is over.


Farhi, Paul. “As NBC distances itself from Bill Cosby, a decades-long career crumbles”. The Washington Post. 19 November 2014.

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