Bill Cosby: sex offender? Although I have a cynical streak after a few decades of reporting on sex crimes, I still am always resistant to early drum beats of a sex scandal. “Who stands to benefit?” “Is there a pattern of behavior?” “Is there a smoking gun.”
Working backwards, we start with the ironically titled 1969 comedy record, “It’s True! It’s True!” by Bill Cosby. Now that would be just darn silly if it wasn’t for the cringe-making biographical sketch titled “Spanish Fly.”
In this ninth and last comedy record for Warner Brothers, Cosby recalls being a 13-year-old boy and learning from another street kid about the mysterious Spanish fly.
“You know anything about Spanish fly?”
“No, tell me about Spanish fly.”
“Well, there’s this girl called Crazy Mary and you put some (mumble) in her drink and she goes, ‘Uh, (unintelligible freaky noises.)’
“Oh, yeah, that’s groovy. Spanish fly is really groovy,”
“And, any time you see a girl (mumbles), oh yeah, Spanish fly.”
“You see five girls standing alone — okay, if I had a whole jug of Spanish fly I’d light up that whole corner up.”
In the sketch, Cosby fast-forwards to his life as an adult star of I Spy And the
moment he hears the greatest news:
“Bob (Robert Culp) and I are working together on I Spy and Sheldon Leonard comes up to us and says ‘I Spy is going to Spain.’ “
As the audience erupts with laughter, Cosby pauses a beat and proclaims, “A childhood dream come true!”
“I say to Bob, ‘You know what I’m gonna pick up when I get to Spain?’ Bob doesn’t know anything….”
“He says, ‘Spanish fly… There’s a girl in my neighborhood in Berkeley called Crazy Mary…’
And so they plan their trip, sing variations of “Spanish fly, Spanish fly, this is the land of Spanish fly.” They sing in the airport, on the plane, through customs. Finally, in the cab, the driver is excited to meet the two Americans and before they can ask him for Spanish fly, he asks if they have any American fly.
So, is this a smoking gun or an outdated sexist comedy sketch? Is this just a terrible co-inky-dinky that so many accusations from a variety of women match the timeframe and spirit of “Spanish Fly.”
This weekend the 14th woman came forward with rape accusations against Bill Cosby. Sixty-six-year-old publicist Joan Tarshis says the comedian drugged and assaulted her multiple times in 1969 when she was a 19-year old comedy writer.
“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 [a Bloody Mary–beer cocktail], 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.
And she’s says it happened again, a familiar theme during a decade of “Law and Order; SVU,” but something that makes Tarshis somewhat attackable to doubters.
“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.’
I believe Tarshis; she has nothing to gain. The truth is always a bit messy. If her story was invented, it would have been better crafted. As a publicist, Tarshis knows this.
Her story also matches that of Tamara Green, a California lawyer who for years has been trying to get people to believe that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted her in the 70s. On February 10, 2005 she told Matt Lauer on The Today Show that Cosby gave her pills for a fever and then drove her to her apartment where he began groping her and taking off her clothes.
In June of that year, Beth Ferrier went public to say she had a consensual relationship with Cosby in the mid 80s that ended, she alleges, when Cosby drugged her coffee and she woke up in a car. ” My clothes were a mess,. My bra was undone, My top was untucked…
Barbara Bowman tells of continual assaults as she continued as Cosby’s protegé, saying she was terrified of him. “He was like the President,” she said. After 20 years of having no one believe her, she was able to get her story published this weekend in the Op Ed section of the Washington Post.
Andrea Constand is the woman who took Cosby to court in 2005 and was joined in her civil suit by 13 “Jane Does.” In 2002 she was director of operations for Temple University’s women’s basketball team. After mentoring her for two years she says she visited Cosby at his Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, home to discuss career advice. According to her civil lawsuit, she Says Cosby gave her three blue “herbal” pills for anxiety, Cosby “touched her breasts and vaginal area, rubbed his penis against her hand, and digitally penetrated” her.
Cosby’s lawyers called her allegations “bizarre” and filed court papers saying he gave her one and a half tablets of Benadryl.
In November 2006 Cosby settled with Constand and the 13 other women who never had to testify..
Cosby’s lawyers have denied all accusations and said just because they are repeated, doesn’t make them true.
Which brings us to the first question I always ask when scandals appear in the media, this round sparked by comedian Hannibal Buress who called Cosby out as a rapist during a comedy routine in Philadelphia in October.
Does anyone benefit? Well, Buress (finally) became an instant household name with a viral video. It’s just hard to think there’s some conspiracy afoot among bitter gold-digging vengeful middle-aged women who hatched a plot to wait until Bill Cosby’s in his late seventies to try one more time to hit him where it hurts. Who really benefits? Absolutely no one but the legend of the Spanish Fly.