Despite the rape allegations against Bill Cosby in the past few weeks, audiences attending a Friday night performance in Melbourne, Florida showed support for the comedian shouting love at the stage and rising to their feet as he came and went.
Long before there was a Dr. Cliff Huxtable, before rumpled sweaters and a collective anointing as America’s dad, Bill Cosby was magnified a hundredfold in the eyes of the young models and actresses he pulled into his orbit. For them, he embodied the hippest of the 1960s and ’70s Hollywood scene, a mega-star with the power to make somebodies out of nobodies.
He partied with Hugh Hefner and was a regular at the magazine mogul’s Playboy Mansion bacchanals. He co-owned a restaurant and hit the hottest clubs. He sizzled.
Those wild, largely forgotten days clash with the avuncular image that has been Cosby’s most enduring impression on American culture. And they have been jarringly cast in a wholly different light as a torrent of women have told — and in some cases retold — graphic, highly detailed stories of alleged abuse by Cosby.
Sixteen women have publicly stated that Cosby, now 77, sexually assaulted them, with 12 saying he drugged them first and another saying he tried to drug her. The Washington Post has interviewed five of those women, including a former Playboy Playmate who has never spoken publicly about her allegations. The women agreed to speak on the record and to have their identities revealed. The Post also has reviewed court records that shed light on the accusations of a former director of women’s basketball operations at Temple University who assembled 13 “Jane Doe” accusers in 2005 to testify on her behalf about their allegations against Cosby.
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