Lately there has been a swirl of press around Bill Cosby and his alleged raping of women. The response from fans have been everything from total bewilderment to shock, outrage and disbelief. I understand their reactions, after all we watched him as an amazing father on a break through television show in the 80's. He sold jello for heavens sake and in interviews or in his act he always spoke with love and reverence about his wife Camille. What's not to believe? He was seemingly a family man who prized education and laughter. To not believe the charges that have been levied against him is understandable. Maybe even fair...it's all a "he said, she said" kind of thing, right? And what good does it do to dredge it all up now?
I felt the same way most of you did about Bill Cosby, but that was a long, long time ago.
I have blogged about my early twenties before, it was all dancing and tennis and not much else. I worked nights at one tennis club and spent most of my days at Caesar's Palace where I hit with guests, picked up balls after lessons and washed courts. Not very glamorous, but it was when tennis was the thing to do and Caesars was the place to be. The guests and vip's I played with were captains of industry, athletes, actors, and comedians. One of those tennis playing guests was Bill Cosby. He starred at the Hilton and played tennis around town. We played several times and he took a great interest in me. I was young and his interest seemed "dad like". I thought he just enjoyed playing tennis and needed someone to hit with while he was in town.
That's what I thought...I thought he was his public persona. This was before his actual Cosby show when he was the quintessential dad, but he was still Bill Cosby the funny guy, certainly not dangerous. He even joined me on the indoor courts at the Tropicana where I played tennis every Mondays with a friend. To me it was all about tennis, having fun playing tennis. I certainly didn't think he was dangerous. Underscore, he never acted dangerous.
Then one night my girlfriend Wendy, Cosby and I went out. When we got back to the Hilton he asked if I wanted to see his hotel room. I was interested to see what that particular penthouse looked like, Elvis got married there! Besides Cosby was harmless. Thinking she would like to see it also I asked Wendy to go with us. She was the DJ at the disco of the Hilton and for 20 minutes every hour she would play music and then the live band took over for 40 minutes. After a brief tour of his penthouse things changed dramatically and quickly. He made it clear in a very aggressive way what his intentions were. He chillingly said to me, "I will have you." Those words are imprinted on my brain along with the evil I felt. My first thought was immediate, "No you will not." Then shock took over, and when words wouldn't come a paralyzing feeling did. Wendy started talking very fast, she was explaining that she had to get back to work, she would surely be missed and how would we all explain that, and I was going with her. Wendy never left me, for that one instinctive act of love and protection I will never be able to thank her enough. It is a blur how we left or what force propelled us out of there, but we were safe. I had no idea that he drugged his victims until I read the stories of late, and I have no way of knowing what would have happened if Wendy had not been there. What I do know is his words were an assault to me never to be forgotten. And the betrayal of friendship was staggering.
I still saw Cosby in passing after that although we never played tennis again. He acted as though nothing had occurred. A case can easily be made that I was foolish and starstruck, and I never should have gone to his room, agreed...But nothing I was foolish of warranted the treatment I received.
As I saw him on television so broadly loved and so completely opposite of that one horrible night, I thought there must have been something wrong with me. I have learned over the years that is a typical reaction to abusive behavior. If you wonder why no one came forward before now, I imagine that is why. Who would have ever believed he was like that? Think about it, how many of us can say that about a boss? A date? A teacher? A coach? We have to provide our sisters a safe place to fall. A place where they will be believed and protected....no shame and no guilt. Maybe the more we shine a light on abusive behavior the less it will occur. In the mean time we must teach as much protection as possible.
Never go alone.....casual dating, parties or walking home.
Please, don't go alone.
And one more time, thank you Wendy...