After decades of rumors, suspicions, and more recently, downright accusations, those who rallied beside Bill Cosby are gradually slipping their hold. One of those people is former co-star Joseph C. Phillips, who said the revelation that a comedian he admired since childhood may have spent years victimizing countless women was “traumatic.”
Joseph Phillips played Lt. Martin Kendall on The Cosby Show, The New York Daily News noted, and spent most of his youth looking up to the “good looking, talented, smart, and … fearless” comedian he called his “boyhood idol.”
In a blog post titled “Of Course Bill Cosby Is Guilty!,” Joseph Phillips wrote that he epitomized the comic’s image of a “great Black man. The Cos was a ladies man, but also good father and husband – devoted to his wife and children. Bill was educated; he collected art and was fluent in jazz. After my father, Bill Cosby was the man I aspired to be.”
The post is illuminating and describes in detail the difficulty Phillips has had to reconcile his life-long admiration of the comic with the more sinister picture that has been forming recently of a man who indulged in “illegal drugs and illicit sex, fornication, and perhaps more.”
There are three core themes in Joseph’s post; how the comic’s behavior was commonplace and well known, to some extent, his enduring legacy, and the experience of one young woman, still shattered by her rape years later.
Suspicions and Rumor
When Joseph joined the show in 1989, he soon learned that “Bill sleeping around was a ‘fact’ that, like, the air, seemed to just be. You didn’t have to see it or hear it to know that it existed.”
A “parade” of light-skinned, pretty girls with “good” hair were constantly lounging about the studio, and their presence stimulated gossip. Though Phillips notes, any powerful, famous man is going to be a target of “gossip, lies, and slander … I love dish as much as the next person, but I do prefer to see with my own eyes.”
While Joseph never went so far as to conclude his childhood idol was doing anything explicit, that he was likely breaking his marriage vows wouldn’t have surprised him; after all, women throw themselves at famous men all the time and few have the “fortitude to turn so much nookie down.” As for his wife, Camille, Phillips believed she accepted his affairs as part of the bargain.
“I never saw (him) engage in any inappropriate behavior. I certainly never saw him drug anyone. So, all I have is the same gossip as everyone else. As the accusations began to increase, I became increasingly disturbed,” Joseph wrote. “I was fairly certain that some of the women were lying through their teeth, but certainly not all of them. Discovering that the man you idolize may be a serial rapist is a bit traumatic.”
One Woman’s Story
The most powerful excerpt from Phillips’ revealing post is his recounting of a conversation with a young woman who also knew Cosby. At the time of their conversation, sinister accusations were swirling, and he asked her if she’d ever been victimized. She immediately started to cry.
Joseph and his friend talked for two hours, and when her story was done, “She cursed him for violating both her trust and her body… As she began to run out of steam, she turned to me. ‘Do you believe me?'”
When Phillips said he did, she asked why.
“Because I don’t believe that you are crazy and only a crazy person would sit with me all this time and share a fantasy.”
Enchantment and Idolization
It has taken concrete evidence — in the form of court documents from 2005 — and not just the words of rape victims, to convince the public that Cosby is perhaps guilty of the disturbing acts women have been accusing him of committing for years. Perhaps that is why Joseph Phillips’ friend expressed tearful disbelief when he said he believed her story.
Despite everything he has learned about his idol, Phillips said he is not ready to let go of that perfect image — the funny family man with the wholesome image who has given so much to the world of comedy.
“I was angry with Bill. He had money, fame, and power; he was a walking aphrodisiac! Why? I was also angry at myself for falling for the okey-doke, of putting Bill on a pedestal. The good Bill has done over the years is real and enduring. I am not prepared to simply dismiss his brilliance, his wisdom, or his legacy.”
Joseph concluded with a plea directed at Cosby, asking him to please leave the public eye, and “allow those of us who truly love you to preserve just a bit of our enchantment.”
[Photos by Frederick M. Brown and Spencer Platt/Getty Images, Twitter]