One bit of fallout from the Woody Allen-Dylan Farrow story is that folks are starting to remember that Bill Cosby once was accused of sexual assault himself. The accusations emerged on the Today show, then were detailed in a 2006 Philly Mag story by Robert Huber—then quietly died, with Cosby’s folksy, funny image reasserting itself in the public mind. No more.
Bill Cosby, last seen bemoaning the Supreme Court’s decision to dismantle a key section of the Voting Rights Act, has decided to go contrarian on us again–his default, when it comes to race. “Let’s not go into a racial discussion unless we really have something there,” adding that “he found that the prosecution did not tell the story well. And they lost.” He did seem to suggest, however, that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law was a little out-there, delivered in classic Cosby-speak:
So you have a gun and you come up to me and I don’t have a gun, but then you show me your gun and I become frightened and according to the State of Florida, I have a right to defend myself. According to the State of Florida, the person with the gun has the right to defend him or herself. I mean this is getting out of line.
Hey hey hey! Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids is getting the deluxe treatment, with all 110 episodes being released on DVD as a boxed set later this month. Bill Cosby, the show’s creator, talked to the New York Times about the show and its roots in his North Philadelphia childhood.
Q. Did “Fat Albert” start as an idea that you pitched to the studios and networks, or did they come to you about it?A. Wrong on both sides. [laughter] “Fat Albert” was first a monologue, and it had people in it like some of the guys that I went around with, in both my early pre-teens and into my late teens, in North Philadelphia. In the close quarters of the housing projects, people had nicknames, invented by the kids. So a guy with a lot of fat, that was the first thing he got. Later, as we decided to not hurt people’s feelings, “Fat Albert” would become “Big Fella.” Overweight people, back in the 20s, 30s and 40s, on the Broadway stage and in movies they immediately became the funny person, the clown. The person you could make fun of, the person who made fun of himself. But these characters were invented because I wanted to change, break the stereotypes. I changed Albert, making him the leader and giving him the intelligence.
Q. Did you see “Fat Albert” as presenting an authentic depiction of the world you grew up in, or was it meant to be more idealized?A.I saw it as a black, who’s been rejected as a human being. In the eyes of some – capital letters – people, this color causes an insanity in their minds. Their joy is in pulling the legs off, wrapping a rope around the neck of, denying any place, specifically attacking the mind of the brown-skinned person. All over, these crimes, these atrocities, placed on these people of color. I’m specifying where I lived, and who I am, to these people. It is not idealized at all. It is a continuation of the thought that, if what I’m saying happened to me and to my guys, and you are of a different culture, color, race, religion, and the same thing happened to you, where’s the difference?
Germantown High is closing at the end of this school year, but one of its most famous alumni—Bill Cosby—isn’t shedding any tears. He told NewsWorks why in a May interview that’s just now being published:
“I gave a talk there maybe four years ago, and on the way there, the area felt drug-infested.
“When I got up on stage, they said, ‘Here’s Bill Cosby to talk to you, students.’ I looked out and they were looking back at me like I’m the problem. Kids laughing, not paying any attention, not wanting to be there. Some were just sitting there and trying to look angry; some really were angry.
“Ordinarily I’d say it’s a shame and just do my talk. But, I said look, some of you may not care, but a lot of you don’t know what you’re future is going to be. You may think you do, but you don’t. Without credentials, an education, whatever it is you want for your future, it’s not going to happen for you.”
Cosby said that years of diminishing enrollment force administrators to make such choices. “When this all came about, we were looking at it, and Johnny Baines called and said we should get out and protest. I said, ‘John, it’s too late.’ The ministers, the politicians, they know that’s the truth.”
Cosby was on Fallon last night, and it took him half the segment to get to his chair. That’s because he was busy dancing to reggae music, which he says doesn’t even like: “It’s sort of like dancing with one leg shorter than the other.” Fallon, for his part, flails awkwardly and spends a lot of time bending over in forced laughter. Not because Cosby isn’t funny, but because Cosby was literally taking over his show and he didn’t know what else to do.
By the time they get to the actual interview, Cosby basically calls Jimmy out for fake-laughing, resulting in another round of fake-laughing and desk-slapping. Then again, it’s written into Jimmy Fallon’s new “Tonight Show” contract that he become less hip, to appeal to the old-timers. So maybe this was just a dry run.
Here’s the Cosby show scene the Roots crew were referencing, when they cued up the song.
The Daily Show’s “resident expert” and Deranged Millionaire John Hodgman is coming to Temple tomorrow night, along with two of the show’s producers/writers, Rory Albanese and Adam Lowitt. The performance, which is come-one, come-all, first-come, first-served, is called “Comedy Central Presents: ‘The Daily Show’ Live” and is being described fairly non-descriptively as a “night full of laughter.” At the very least it will feature stand-up comedy and Cosby sweaters.
— Adam Lowitt (@AdamLowitt) March 19, 2013
Doors at 7, show at 8. Event will be in Room 200 of Temple’s Student Center on N. 13th St. The room fits 800 and 40,000 students attempt Temple. Do the math.
For adults of a certain age, the term “Cosby sweater” is instantly evocative—a reminder of the multi-hued creations that Bill Cosby always seemed to wear onscreen during his spectacular run as Dr. Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show.
Thankfully, Collectors Weekly has come along and done what’s probably the best and fullest exploration of how the sweaters came to be. Why? At whose behest? And did Cosby or the show’s producers realize they were creating a cultural icon?
Mostly, they were built to keep Cosby comfy:
In fact, Cosby adopted the fuzzy fashions out of necessity: Costume designer Sarah Lemire, who worked with Cosby from his sweater vest Jell-O ad days, says that intially, she had various suits made for Dr. Huxtable to wear. They quickly realized that Cosby, and by extension Dr. Huxtable, couldn’t really be at ease wearing a suit around the house. “Bill basically likes to be comfortable, and in his real life, he’s in his sweats or his PJs,” says Lemire.
And they were production-friendly:
“Usually you don’t do close-ups on TV, and that’s why we started using sweaters,” says Lemire. “As our bodies move around, the clothes are going to shift between the first and second take. If you have a jacket on, and the shirt collar’s in one spot, it’s going to slide off a little on one side or the other, or it might do something else that didn’t match. Sandrich was a real stickler for things matching, so we just did the sweater thing. I actually sewed his shirts to the sweaters so that nothing moved.”
But it took awhile for the crew and creators to understand what they’d unleashed:
Regardless, Van Den Akker loves that his reputation is tied to the gaudy sweaters worn by Dr. Huxtable. “You know that movie ‘High Fidelity’ with John Cusack?” Van Den Akker asks. “Well, I think that was the first time I heard the term ‘Cosby sweater,’ and it was so much fun. There have been jokes about the sweaters in the ‘New Yorker’ and places like that, and it’s always negative. A Bill Cosby sweater stands for ‘crazy,’ and I love it.”
The piece concludes with Cosby’s bewilderment at the phenomenon: “As for Mr. Cosby, does he still have any of his classic sweaters stashed away somewhere? ‘I have no idea what I have,’ says Cosby. ‘I’m married 49 years, and all I know is I have one drawer left, and I don’t where the rest of my stuff is. I have a feeling, and some people say it sounds cruel, but I have a feeling upon my death, some 20 minutes after, eBay will explode.’”