Sexual assault accusations have been raining down on Bill Cosby over the last week or two, above and beyond a 2006 out-of-court payoff to alleged victim Andrea Constand. 13 women have reportedly accused the comedian of intimate transgressions of one kind or another. Last Thursday the Washington Post published a piece by alleged Cosby victim Barbara Bowman. In response to which Cosby cancelled an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman and refused to discuss the issue with NPR’s Scott Simon in an audio interview posted on 11.15.
I’m recapping the basics because an old friend, former actress, music industry publicist and journalist Joan Tarshis, has decided to share her own, heretofore private story about her unfortunate encounter with Cosby back in 1969. She had opportunities to spill to the tabloids a few years back but she didn’t want to go that route. The flood of recent Cosby coverage has changed her mind. She got in touch this morning and sent me the following:
“I was 19 years old in autumn of 1969. I had flown to Los Angeles from New York to work on a monologue with Godfrey Cambridge. Two women I was staying with were friends of Bill Cosby, and they took me to have lunch with him in his cottage at Universal Studios, where he was shooting The Bill Cosby Show. He was always generous with his food and drinks, though he never drank alcohol. But he always topped my Bloody Mary’s with beer, which he called a ‘redeye.’
“Cosby seemed to take a liking to me, and so I was invited back a few times. I was naturally flattered. I visited the set on my own and he once introduced me to Sidney Poitier as ‘Midget,’ his pet name for me because I was 5’3″.
“One day he asked me to stay after the shooting and work on some material with him. I was even more flattered and thought this would help move my writing career along. In his bungalow he made me a redeye, and I began to tell him about the earthquake Los Angeles had just had and the sound it made. He liked my ideas for an earthquake bit.
“The next thing I remember was coming to on his couch while being undressed. Through the haze I thought I was being clever when I told him I had an infection and he would catch it and his wife would know he had sex with someone. But he just found another orifice to use. I was sickened by what was happening to me and shocked that this man I had idolized was now raping me. Of course I told no one.
“Back home with my parents, my mother kept bringing his name up as a source of pride. Cosby was very hot then with his first sitcom, The Bill Cosby Show, and she was proud that her daughter had written with him. So the day that he called, she answered the phone and he told her he was inviting me to The Westbury Music Theater. I was repulsed by the thought of seeing him again, but I saw no way out. I couldn’t tell my mother what he had done. Or what I had let happen, feeling the guilt that rape victims often feel.
“He sent a limo to pick me up and I was dropped off at the Sherry Netherland Hotel and went up to his suite. I remember noticing that his leather shaving kit was filled with bottles of pills, and thinking that this seemed odd. He was, of course, very friendly and I, of course, was very uncomfortable. He made me a redeye, and I, being nervous and dealing at the time with an alcohol problem (I’ve been in recovery since 1988), drank it. In the car I had something else to drink, but was already beginning to feel a bit stoned.
“When we got to Westbury and he went on, there was no seat for me. I stood in the back of the theater with his chauffeur, feeling insulted that I wasn’t respected enough to be given a reserved seat. But soon after, I remember feeling very, very stoned and asking his chauffeur to take me back to the car. I was having trouble standing up. The next thing I remember was waking up in his bed back at the Sherry, naked. I remember thinking ‘You old shit, I guess you got me this time, but it’s the last time you’ll ever see me.’
“It took me about 20 years to admit this to anyone. My girlfriend, who was a cartoonist, told me she had heard rumors about Cosby, and believed them. She always thought where there’s smoke there’s fire.
“But during those years as I grew into adulthood, I watched Cosby be praised by everyone from Presidents to Oprah to the Jello Corporation. It all made me ill, knowing first-hand there was something unbalanced about him. I had heard and/or strongly suspected I was not the only white girl he had drugged and raped but I never had any proof. No one began talking until 2004. And though I knew I should say something, I still felt ashamed. Ashamed that I didn’t earlier.
“In any event now, as more and more of his rape victims have come forward, all telling similar stories, the time is right to join them.”