Category Archives: Bill Cosby

Rocks In The Attic #767: Bill Cosby – ‘It’s True! It’s True!’ (1969)

RITA#767.jpgThomas Newman’s American Beauty score landed in my mailbox this week. Showing the LP to a young colleague at work – who was born only a couple of years prior to its release – I felt a pang of shame mentioning Kevin Spacey’s name in the cast. I loved this film when it came out, but now it feels illicit, like I have to justify liking it. It got me thinking about this climate we’ve found ourselves living in.

Kevin Spacey. Bill Cosby. Rolf Harris. Michael Jackson. Woody Allen. There are others. The list seems to be endless. Formerly loved and respected musicians, artists, and actors, shrouded in a cloud of disgust. Some found guilty in a court of law, some in the court of social media. It doesn’t matter anymore with respect to how the general public think about them. Guilt and perception are intertwined.

Hang around on social media for a while and you will encounter three types of people. The liberals among us will say that you have to separate the art from the artist. At the other end of the spectrum, people will feel that the art is forever tainted by the crime of the artist. And in the middle will be the fence-sitters who either don’t care, or will agree with the last person who spoke.

For me, I have to separate the art from the artist. I just have to. I just can’t live without American Beauty. Or Thriller. Or Manhattan. Or Chinatown. Or the genius of Bill Cosby’s early stand-up. Think what you think, but I just have to.

If you do take the hard stance against the art for the crimes of the artist, then where do you draw the line? If we take Spacey as an example, do you distance yourself from all of his films? And if so, what about the directors of those films, or the studios that released them? Do you stand outside movie theatres and protest every time Sam Mendes directs a film, and set fire to billboards every time Dreamworks Pictures advertise their latest release?

One extreme example is the work of Welsh rock band Lostprophets. Their singer was jailed in 2013 for a string of truly horrible offences. Justice was served. But I’ve always felt sorry for the other members of his band, who had worked hard to get to that stage in their careers. The same goes for those in the periphery of the band – the technicians, record company people, and anybody else who had contributed to their success. All of their hard work is now swept under the carpet. The other band members have moved on and formed another band, yet the level of success they reached in Lostprophets has eluded them. It doesn’t seem fair.

Will I look back on this blog post in ten or twenty years’ time and see its naivety, or will I applaud myself for being able to overlook a piece of art for what has tainted it in real life? I don’t know.

Hit: It’s The Women’s Fault

Hidden Gem: Burlesque Shows

Rocks In The Attic #537: Bill Cosby – ‘Bill Cosby Is A Very Funny Fellow…Right!’ (1963)

rita537The other week, during the Auckland leg of A Conversation On Making A Murderer, with lawyers Dean Strang and Jerry Buting, the talk turned to the subject of jury selection.

The problem in the second decade of the 21st century is that smartphones are everywhere, and access to social media and instant news media is so high that it’s getting to be harder and harder to find a truly impartial set of jurors for some cases.

Strang’s great example was the raft of sexual allegations against Bill Cosby. He claimed that of the thousand or so attendees to the show that night, any judge would find it hard to select twelve impartial jurors to stand at Cosby’s trial.

“This is Mr. Huxtable, or whatever he’s called…” Strang said.

Dr. Huxtable!” I wanted to shout out.

“…he was our friend,” Strang continued. “He came into our house every night and made us laugh.”

And he did. He made people laugh around the world. In America though he would have been more than just a household name, he would have been part of the household. It’ll be interesting to see how America deals with Cosby, if a trial ever happens…

Hit: A Nut In Every Car

Hidden Gem: Noah: Right!

Rocks In The Attic #463: Bill Cosby – ‘I Started Out As A Child’ (1964)

RITA#463A couple of weeks ago, Real Groovy, the largest record store in Auckland moved sites – just across the road, in fact – due to their long-standing premises being redeveloped into city apartments (what else?). They took this opportunity to clear the decks and run a record sale to get rid of all the bottom-end stock. $1 a record, or 50 for $25. That’s 50c a record! I couldn’t pass this up.

There was a lot of junk in there though – I even saw the most copies of a Nana Mouskouri record in one place I’m ever likely to see:

RITA#463a(Side note – was Nana Mouskouri just decades ahead with her look? Those spectacles always defined her, but they don’t look much different to the styles of today).

To reach 50 records was a really hard slog, especially as it’s the middle of summer here. Thankfully I managed to find records I was at least interested in, or looked interesting. One thing that did help in terms of sheer numbers was that I found an almost complete Bill Cosby stand-up collection in decent condition.

Which leads me to the moral question – is it still okay to listen to Bill Cosby? As my friend Krista recently pointed out, Cosby was the greatest TV Dad of the late 1980s, which is why it’s so sad to hear all the allegations against him. The mounting evidence doesn’t look good; but if you stopped listening to artists because of what they do in their private life, then your record collection might be a constantly shrinking concern.

You’d have to throw those Beatles records away of course, due to the antics of self-confessed wife beater John Lennon, and the Who would be off limits because of Pete Townshend’s arrest. Oh, hang on, that was for “research”, wasn’t it?

I admit I’m rather partial to a bit of Gary Glitter’s Rock And Roll Part Two, and who doesn’t go teary-eyed when they hear Rolf Harris’ Two Little Boys? If you took everything into consideration, you’d have to boycott Roman Polanski films too – so no Chinatown, no Frantic or The Pianist. And those Tippi Hedren allegations against Hitchcock might rule his films out too. Screw that. I think I’d rather be a walking contradiction – consuming their art with one side of my brain and trying my best to ignore their private lives with the other.

This is Cosby’s second album, released in 1964, but the first to include stories of his childhood which he would cover throughout most of his career, not least on 1968’s To Russell My Brother Whom I Slept With. There’s a weird coliseum echo on the album, which kind of makes it even more authentic and of its time, and as with most stand-up comedy from that era, it’s not offensive or vulgar; just charming.

Cosby’s album titles make me laugh though – they sound like confessions that the prosecution team might take as evidence of his wrongdoing. I can imagine the following dialogue in court:

Prosecutor: Mr. Cosby, can you tell us when your offending began?

Cosby: I Started Out As A Child.

Prosecutor: I see. And is there any particular person in your childhood you would blame?

Cosby: My Father Confused Me… What Must I Do? What Must I Do?

Prosecutor: Interesting. Is there anybody else in your family you would point to?

Cosby: To Russell My Brother Whom I Slept With.

Prosecutor: Your own brother? You can’t expect us to believe your younger brother is at fault.

Cosby: It’s True, It’s True.

Prosecutor: And what was your motivation for the offending?

Cosby: Revenge.

Prosecutor: Against women in general, or against your family?

Cosby: Those of You With Or Without Children, You’ll Understand.

Prosecutor: Please don’t address the jury, Mr. Cosby. Now, can you point to where this…sickness originated?

Cosby: Inside The Mind Of Bill Cosby.

Prosecutor: Are you saying that you weren’t thinking rationally at the time of the wrongdoing?

Cosby: Bill Cosby Is Not Himself These Days.

Defence: Your honour, my client pleads insanity.

Judge: Order! Order! Order in my courtroom!

*

Hit: Sneakers

Hidden Gem: Street Football

Rocks In The Attic #399: Bill Cosby – ‘To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With’ (1968)

RITA#399I bought this simply for the title, which I find greatly amusing, but ended up enjoying the record – especially the long second-side where Cosby talks about sharing his childhood bed with his brother.

I’ve always been a fan of Bill Cosby, ever since The Cosby Show was part of the fabric of 1980s after-school television. In the 1990s, that baton was passed in spirit to The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, which had a similar mix of family friendly comedy filmed in front of a live studio audience.

At the time of writing, Cosby’s in a spot of bother with numerous historic rape allegations by women – yet to see the light of day in a courtroom. Who knows what’s going to happen with that, but it doesn’t look very good for him given the number of accusations.

Will the shadow of a conviction – which looks likely at this point – mean this album won’t be funny anymore?

Hit: To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With

Hidden Gem: Conflict