Q&A: New Bill Cosby Accuser Joan Tarshis

“There was nothing to do except wait for it to be over,” she says.

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Over the weekend, the number of women publicly accusing Bill Cosby of sexual assault increased by one when 66-year-old Woodstock resident Joan Tarshis came forward with new allegations against America’s hero.

Tarshis is the fifth woman to publicly accuse Cosby of sexual assault, and according to court documents from Andrea Constand’s 2005 civil suit, there are said to be more than a dozen women out there with similar stories. Cosby has never been charged with sexual assault or rape in criminal court, and his lawyer recently said that there would be no response to the “decade-old, discredited allegations,” noting that “the fact that they are being repeated does not make them true.” Contacted by Philadelphia magazine today, Cosby’s lawyer hung up before we could ask for a comment.

Here, Tarshis — who says she is not among the 13 “Jane Doe”s who were allegedly set to testify in Constand’s suit — tells us her side of what she says happened back when she was a 19-year-old aspiring actress.

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Photo | Courtesy Joan Tarshis

How did you come to know Bill Cosby?

I was out in California working on a monologue, staying with two girls in Beverly Hills. And one day, they just took me to lunch with Bill Cosby at his dressing house. This was on the set of The Bill Cosby Show in 1969.

We had lunch, he poured drinks, and I was invited back a few times. He was very friendly to me and introduced me to Sidney Poitier and stuff like that. And then eventually he told me that he wanted to work on a monologue together, and I had an idea for something about an earthquake that had just happened. It was my first earthquake. I had some funny lines, and he said, Sure, let’s work on that.

And then?

We went up to his cottage after they were done shooting. That’s when it happened. He offered me a drink. It was a red eye, a bloody mary topped off with beer. He always made the drinks; he didn’t have a bartender.

And then next thing I know, I was being undressed on his couch. I was so out of it. But I remember saying to him — I thought I would outsmart him — I said, I have an infection down there, and if you have sex with me, you’re going to get it, and then your wife will know. So what did he do? He immediately switched to another orifice, which was worse.

So you were aware of what was happening the entire time?

Yes. He was holding me down. He’s much bigger than I am. He’s very big. I couldn’t resist. He was forceful. He definitely used force. There was nothing I could do except wait for it to be over. I was in shock.

Did you tell anyone about this before now?

I told a boyfriend about it, and I told a couple of friends.

What was their reaction? I mean, this is Bill Cosby.

They were shocked, because of his reputation. And I said, Yeah, you know, all that glitters is not gold.

So why reveal this after all these years?

My parents are older, and so they’re not going to know about this. They won’t have to be upset by it. And the other girls are talking about it — it’s come out again. And I feel I want to join them and give them credibility. Also, I’ve held this thing inside for so many years. It’s nice to finally release it.

And in an ideal world, I would love NBC to cancel the series they’re doing with him, but that involves money, not ethics. So that’s not going to happen. And I would also like to be able to say “Bill Cosby is a rapist” and have America believe it.

Did you ever see Cosby again?

Unfortunately, yes. After that incident in California, I moved back to Brooklyn. My mother knew that I had been writing with him, and so she kept asking, What’s happening with Bill Cosby? She kept mentioning him. Bill Cosby this and Bill Cosby that. He was very hot at that time.

And then he called my parents’ house. I was horrified. My mother answered the phone, and I cursed myself for not answering the phone first. Anyway, he called and told her that he wanted to have me come out to the Westbury Music Theater to see him do some of the material we had worked on together.

After he talked to my mother, I had to go. I couldn’t get out of it. What would she think?

So you went.

Yes. He picked me up in a limo. During the ride, I had something to drink in the car. I don’t remember what it was. I started to feel very woozy. Stoned.

I walked into the theater with him and the chauffeur, and we didn’t have any seats, so we were just standing backstage, and Cosby went into the dressing room. And after a while, I couldn’t stand up, I was so drugged. I asked the chauffeur to bring me back to the car. And I don’t remember anything else that happened until I woke up in the bed the following morning. Naked.

So you have no memory of that incident?

Nope. I have never been that stoned where I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t focus my eyes. It was hard to talk. I have no idea what happened that night, other than that I woke up naked in his bed.

Did you ever threaten him with legal action?

What could I say? I was 19 years old. I felt, He’s Bill Cosby. He’ll lawyer himself up. I don’t have a lawyer. It’s going to be he said, she said, and they’ll look at me like I’m crazy. Keep in mind that if I had come forward back then, I would have been the first one that would have said this.

And God knows what his lawyers would do to me. My reputation would have been ruined. They would have said that I was there to seduce him. They would have turned the story around.

And part of me was saying, hey, this guy knows a lot of big guys. Maybe they would find my body in a canyon in L.A. He became a scary guy to me.

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.

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