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.

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  • ImNotMe

    A few things: Horrible story and if true, he deserves the maximum penalty. Second, I wish so much that women would come forward when terrible things like this actually happen. I understand the fear and stress factors, but the longer rapists maintain their freedom, the more people they can hurt, including the initial victim. And finally…she took the second drink in the limo??? Why???? The hell?
    Young girls/women need help and training on what to do before, during and following these tragic events. Be proactive, tell a friend/parent and have them go through the justice process with them! Something!!!
    Innocent until proven guilty, but sheesh this looks bad for Billy. And with Sandusky numbing the public with his abuse of power while having access to children, can’t help but to fear nothing happened with any of the thousands upon thousands of children Cosby surrounded himself with through the years.

  • Maybe a word to the wise…Always report Any assault, sexual or otherwise. That way, there’s a record to build on. The whole idea is to report these things so it doesn’t happen to someone else. If somebody Had reported an incident like this, Maybe it would Not have happened to YOU!
    Now it’s too late and it’s just hearsay. Anybody can make this up and then have other disgruntled folks pile on, so you screwed yourself. Without Evidence [like a rape kit done in an emergency room] it’s just your word against his.

  • TheHeavy

    One thing I know is that when you are a young girl, you can rationalize or evaluate things in ways that as an older, more mature woman you would never do. When I was 18, I was home from college and decided to take a walk by the home of the guy I had just started dating, just to see if he might be there, at around 10 p.m. A car drove up with a few guys who claimed they were lost and needed my help. I gave them directions but a minute later they came back and said they couldn’t find the street,etc. They asked me to get in the car to show them. They happened to be black and at that time back in the 70’s, I was aware of racism and how black people were treated unfairly, and I didn’t want them to think I was afraid of them because they were black. I got into the car because they seemed nice and actually pressured me a bit with smiling pleading (I was naive and softer than I am today), and the next thing I knew I had a gun put to my head. Without going into detail, I’ll just tell you that when I read these stories from these women who have made the allegations against Bill Cosby, I can understand and relate to why they did some of the stupid things they did, like seeing him again, or feeling pressure from their mother to see him, etc. I almost didn’t report it to the police because my mother told me that people would ask “Why did you get into the car with them?” I reported what happened and it turned out they had kidnapped and raped 3 other young girls.

    • Oliver

      I hope you found out who you are…someone who TELLS! Maybe getting in the car was a mistake, but your reasoning is so “young girl” – trying to please, be fair, make a statement about who you are – someone seeking social justice for those at the bottom of the heap. You should be proud that you did the right thing for others when something so awful happened to you.
      No one asks to be a victim, just like no one asks to get a disease. But if you become that unfortunate statistic, the socially responsible move is to tell, even when it might bring on more pain without the satisfaction of justice.
      That said…this victim of Cosby’s was up against a lot in the ’60s and dealing with celebrity on top of that and those who would say, “She took the second drink in the limo! Why??? The hell?” ImNotMe needs to remember all the stupid things he or she did at a young age and realize if he or she didn’t get his or her foot caught in the door, he or she is VERY LUCKY. No one gets out of youth without doing something youthfully stupid. Just reflect a little and count your blessings if you’re here to count them.

    • Hank MoHank

      I am so sorry to hear of this terrible thing that happened to you. May God heal you. I think of one thing I read regarding a behavioral experiment – A human being is the only Animal that will – when confronted with a Potentially dangerous situation – will over-ride natural instinct, with feelings involving “not offending” someone. Same situation with the little old lady who’s instinct tells here don’t get on the elevator with two Men she does not know – but she does so as not to “offend” anyone- then gets mugged. Security specialist experts tell people – Listen to your instinct to avoid certain situations – if a Man or men is decent he will understand the concern – if a Man is not decent, they won’t understand and deserve to be avoided anyway. I really hope young people reading this will listen to this and don’t be shy to “offend” anyone when your safety is potentially at risk – all good people will understand your choice.

      • Sordatos Cáceres

        The problem is that with that line of thinking is that it pretty much excuse people like George Zimmerman, “My instincts told me that the black kid had a gun so I follow them and shot him”

        Nothing in evolution prepared us for modern society

    • Spinner

      that is because of liberal thinking and brainwashing that everyone should be trusted. There is reason stereotypes exist – because a lot of it can be true and to know about them is called self preservation and can save your life. I imagine others who felt the same way as you and they did not want to stereotype and they ended up in bad situation. It is not racism if it gives you caution and saves your life.

      • Sordatos Cáceres

        The rally cry of supremacists, I kid you not, “self preservation” “vital space” etc

        • Spinner

          That is called being smart and staying safe. Nothing wrong with that. Because not everyone is nice and rosy or brought up right as liberals have you think.

  • Hank MoHank

    So This chick Whoopi knows, the majority of rapes go un-reported, Whoopi knows the majority of rapes that ARE reported do not end in a conviction. So here we have 2 credible sources being publicized with their story, and several other women also claim they have a Cosby – rape drug story – Yet Whoopi feels strongly he “probably didn’t do it”.. Hey Whoopi what about women’s rights?? I guess you don’t support women’s rights when they’re dealing with a Blck rapist. What a total A-hole. She’s trying to cover for another persecuted Blck artist, There’s your proof people, racism is alive and well…..

  • What A Phoney

    This is so fake. A black person in 1969 didn’t stand a chance of not being arrested and charged for extreme allegations like this against a white woman , particularly for something like rape.

    • allabout$$$

      You nailed it! Aspiring actress = have sex with ANYBODY to get a part, obviously did nothing in show business, now she’s bitter and sees a way to get even. 45 years, statute of limitations won’t allow him to be charged so why speak out now??? $$$$$$ that’s why.

    • Alice

      Who would believe her against Bill Cosby?? You must be black … only black people will defend a criminal no matter what, just look at the O J Simpson murder…. that says it all right there.

      • Deacon_Sam1

        You’re right because they all thought that Casey Anthony, Charles Manson and
        Robert Blake were also innocent.

        • Heidi-lyn Depper

          “They all?” Dude, I think you’re late for your Klan meeting.

          • Deacon_Sam1

            “Alice” is saving me a seat.

          • Alice

            Charles Manson ??? LMAO .. you’re a bigger fool than you make out to be.

          • Deacon_Sam1

            And still not as big a fool as you are.You’re not even smart enough to see you’re being ridiculed because your initial post is so stupid.

      • Heidi-lyn Depper

        This isn’t about race. It’s about a wealthy, powerful man who drugged and raped young women and has been getting away with it for decades. Now the truth is coming out and it’s ugly. It doesn’t matter what race Bill Cosby is. This is about a beloved entertainer being exposed as the serial rapist that he is. Period.

      • Prophetess Christina Asher

        right like all of history never defended and or allowed a white person who killed say Medgar Evers or the 4 little black girls from the 16th street Baptist church and Martin Luther King Jr,Trayvon Martin…….go free…..

        • Alice

          I know I know… slavery was wrong, y’all need money for being wronged etc. etc. Cleopatra was evil ….

    • Joy

      He remains to be the target of his past.

      I make enough with these sites to pay the bills–See proof

  • Mike

    Bill Cosby has been a known womanizer for many years, and his wife should have kicked him to the curb many times over.. But she didn’t..I suspect partially out of love/family and partially out of a degree of financial security the relationship provides. At least one of these 20+ women should have reported him immediately to law enforcement, but they didn’t. I suspect they didn’t because many were hoping Cosby could help them in their career..and at a younger age, their priorities were much different then they are now..many years later. It’s now impossible to either prove his innocence or guilt….and without the support of either the Black Community or much of the news media, he continues to be the target of his past…right or wrong.

    Having said that, also remember that Cosby has also been the target of past extortion attempts related to past relationships with women. As reported by one such article in the July 1997 New York Times.. So it cuts both ways..

    “An F.B.I. agent who searched the California hotel where Autumn Jackson once stayed testified yesterday that she and other agents found tape recordings made by Ms. Jackson and her co-defendants of telephone calls demanding as much as $40 million from Bill Cosby. The documents presented yesterday included what appeared to be a draft of a Jan. 16 letter that Ms. Jackson sent to Peter Lund, the president of CBS, in which she claims to be the actor’s daughter. She also refers to a contract with The Globe, a supermarket weekly, to which she threatened to sell her story if Mr. Cosby did not give her money.” Later DNA tests proved she was not related to Cosby.

    • Prophetess Christina Asher

      Well at last someone whose comments at least make sense

    • Alice

      Basically, Bill Cosby thought he was immune from prosecution. But he never could’ve forethought that social media, via the internet, would expose him like it has.

  • AH

    Why did it take her 45 years to come forward?

  • Carol

    When a woman gets raped it is a serious matter. I read over this article and so much of it rings untrue. Also, when a woman is raped once with force (as stated in this article) doubt she would consider going with him anywhere else alone.

    • Spinner

      people do the craziest and dumbest things especially when you are young and naive.

      I actually wonder what happened to cosby’s wife to make her stand by her man after his infidelity and most likely her husband being serial rapist. I watched new Associated Press video interview and Cosby was scary and said no response to rape allegations and his wife just smiled. It was cringe worthy.

  • Hanyo990

    I’m with some of the other initial comments here. In 1969 a white woman could’ve accused Barry Gordy of Rape and they would’ve thrown his butt in the poke quicker than an inmate can say “I’m bubba”. Am I going to straight out say she’s full of it or lying for the publicity? No. Am I going to say her stories and reasonings don’t seem to hold up to well under the harsh light of investigative curiosity? Yes.

    • eddie kay

      Well police would never pick on a black icon like Cosby .I’ll tell you why.the country was in turmoil cities were burning because of the death of martin luther King.The country would have really a bigger problem if they the cops arrested a success in the black community like Cosby.

      • darth vader

        They put Cassius Clay aka Muhammad Ali in jail and he was an international celebrity.

      • Prophetess Christina Asher

        tht is thee most reediculous statement…smh

        • eddie kay

          Hey were you alive in the late sixties.Cosby was an up an comer, a rising crossover star.Why else would all these women be ignored.

  • Tommy Ge

    Bill Cosby is a serial rapist plain and simple. Too many women have come out with the same accusations. Cosby has settled with quite a few of them. Why? Because he is guilty. He settled bacause he didn’t want these rape allegations to gain traction, and then all the women he raped would come out. Too late! They are coming out, and we all can see Cosby for what he is. A serial rapist!

  • patrick

    why take a drink at 19 years old in the first place? Then if you knew he drugged the first drink why take another drink from him? I can understand not getting out of seeing him but to first be an underage drinker, and second to be dumb enough to take it from him again when you knew you were drugged the first time. It doesn’t make sense.

    • blackhawk915

      The drinking age was 18 back then, not 21. But as for taking another drink from him, well that defies explanation.

  • JD04

    I can’t help but wonder if Ms. Tarshis sold her parents short, and still does. Of course, she knows them better than I do. But I can’t imagine they would have wanted to willingly send her back into the clutches of a sexual predator if they could have stopped it. As a mother to a young daughter, it is heartbreaking to read that Ms. Tarshis was either afraid of what her parents would think or protecting them (then, and all these years later) from knowing the truth. It makes me want to work harder everyday to make my daughter understand that she can come to me and my husband with anything, no matter how horrible or devastating it is, and know that she will receive nothing but love, comfort, and support in return.

  • Spinner

    For someone who made his career from talking and being really wise about it – it is strange he just shook his head and was just silent in NPR interview. He could have easily just deny it and move on.

    He is 77 years old with 350 million dollars. If it was not true you would think he would spend some money to sue some of these women for defamation because it is reputation and business empire at risk. He lost many millions from losing NBC project and now his netflix show being shelved. Surely suing in court would have cost tint fraction of that. Celebrities have sued tabloids for less. But strange silence.

    Also when you are that old with that much money I would think you would do everything in your power to save your reputation because that is part of your legacy. Does he want to be known to friends and families and fans as serial rapist if it was not true? These are people that look up to him idolize him as America’s dad and suspiciously he stays silent and let them believe these serious accusations.

    The point is he may never be given a TV or business project ever again because of this. But Cosby stays silent and does not sue these women and prove they are liars. He is rich and powerful and maybe Cosby is also a coward who does not want to face and look in their eyes these women he raped in court. He is doing what guilty rich person does and hide behind his lawyers hoping people will forget like before.

  • TahoeR

    I don’t know for certain but I’ve always had the feeling that Cosby raped a friend of mine back in 1972 in Tahoe. We were all about 21 or 22 and BC and his entourage would join us after his show at Harrahs and we got off on swing shift at Harveys. I thought he was creepy. He focused on my friend. I knew he was married and thought he was a putz for hitting on my friend the way he did. He left town and she never said anything, but acted withdrawn. I never watched any of his shows because I thought he was a liar and represented himself as a good person, when he was not. Thirty years later, I saw the friend again and asked her about Cosby. She put up her hands and said “no”. We didn’t discuss him, but I have always known there was something wrong. She wanted to be on stage before, but after that, she went back to school. It all makes a lot more sense to me now. I’m sorry this happened to you Joan. I know it’s hard because now you are facing ridicule from people that haven’t a clue. Stay strong. I’m sure my friend will never come forward, but I am also sure she is watching all this very closely.

    • darth vader

      I think he did the same thing to my Joanie. Joanie is my golden retriever and she’s never been the same since his visit.

  • Justin Long

    The proof is in the pudding..