They didn’t see a comedian. They saw the “king of the world.”
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.
The accusations, some of which Cosby has denied and others he has declined to discuss, span the arc of the comedy legend’s career, from his pioneering years as the first black star of a network television drama in 1965 to the mid-2000s, when Cosby was firmly entrenched as an elder statesman of the entertainment industry, a scolding public conscience of the African American community and a philanthropist. They also span a monumental generational shift in perceptions — from the sexually unrestrained ’60s to an era when the idea of date rape is well understood.
The saga of the abuse allegations is set in locales that speak to Cosby’s wealth and fame: a Hollywood-studio bungalow, a chauffeured limousine, luxury hotels, a New York City brownstone. But it also stretches into unexpected places, such as an obscure Denver talent agency that referred two of Cosby’s future accusers to the star for mentoring.
The allegations are strung together by perceptible patterns that appear and reappear with remarkable consistency: mostly young, white women without family nearby; drugs offered as palliatives; resistance and pursuit; accusers worrying that no one would believe them; lifelong trauma. There is also a pattern of intense response by Cosby’s team of attorneys and publicists, who have used the media and the courts to attack the credibility of his accusers.
Martin Singer, an attorney for Cosby, issued a statement Friday defending his client and assailing the news media.
“The new, never-before-heard claims from women who have come forward in the past two weeks with unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40, or even 50 years ago have escalated far past the point of absurdity,” he said. “These brand new claims about alleged decades-old events are becoming increasingly ridiculous, and it is completely illogical that so many people would have said nothing, done nothing, and made no reports to law enforcement or asserted civil claims if they thought they had been assaulted over a span of so many years.
“Lawsuits are filed against people in the public eye every day. There has never been a shortage of lawyers willing to represent people with claims against rich, powerful men, so it makes no sense that not one of these new women who just came forward for the first time now ever asserted a legal claim back at the time they allege they had been sexually assaulted.
“This situation is an unprecedented example of the media’s breakneck rush to run stories without any corroboration or adherence to traditional journalistic standards. Over and over again, we have refuted these new unsubstantiated stories with documentary evidence, only to have a new uncorroborated story crop up out of the woodwork. When will it end? It is long past time for this media vilification of Mr. Cosby to stop.”
During an interview on Friday with Florida Today, Cosby said: “I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy doesn’t have to answer to innuendos. People should fact-check. People shouldn’t have to go through that and shouldn’t answer to innuendos.”
If his accusers are to be believed, the earliest allegations against Cosby remained hidden for decades, private artifacts of an era when women were less likely to publicly accuse men they knew of sexual misdeeds and society was less likely to believe them. But they have flared periodically throughout the past nine years, both because of changing attitudes and, particularly over the past month, because of social media’s ability to transform a story into a viral phenomenon almost impossible to suppress or control.
The allegations represent a reshaping of Cosby’s legacy. Cosby built his fame on a family-friendly comedic persona. He has lectured black youths about proper behavior. He has been honored with a Presidential Medal of Freedom and been lauded for making the largest donation ever by an African American to a historically black college, Spelman College in Atlanta.
But since the avalanche of accusations this month, there has been mostly thundering silence from his longtime allies. An exception is Weldon Latham, a prominent Washington attorney and Cosby friend. He noted in an interview with The Washington Post that his friend has never been charged with a crime and wondered whether “some of the women coming out now, seem to be making it up.”
“What you’re hearing is clearly not the entire truth, and how much of it is true, you have no idea,” Latham said.
“I’m pained,” said Virginia Ali, owner of Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street in Washington, which Cosby has frequented since he was 21. “He has been part of the family for many, many years. I’ve always found him a very kind, generous person. I like to say he shares his humanity.”
The influential producers of “The Cosby Show,” the ‘80s sitcom that made Cosby famous as a family man, issued a brief statement. “These recent news reports are beyond our knowledge or comprehension,” Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner said Thursday.
Cosby was on the verge of what appeared to be a comeback this year, but projects scheduled for NBC and Netflix have been postponed or canceled in the fallout. Several of Cosby’s upcoming comedy shows have been canceled, but when he took the stage Friday in Melbourne, Florida, he received a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd.
Americans who sat in front of their television sets on Sept. 15, 1965, had never seen anything like Alexander Scott, the jet-setting international spy. Black stars had appeared on their screens before but never in a leading role, and this one happened to be a 28-year-old comic who just three years earlier had dropped out of Temple University.
The reaction to Cosby’s breakthrough as a co-star appearing on equal footing with a white actor, Robert Culp, reflected a nation still haltingly emerging from its segregationist past. Some Southern television stations banned the program because of Cosby’s prominent role, but much of the nation embraced it, making “I Spy” a hit.
“At Howard University, we used to go wild when we saw a soul brother with a gun allowed to shoot back,” Latham once said.
The Hollywood establishment went wild, too, awarding lead-actor Emmys to Cosby in all three seasons that the program aired.
Soon he would have his own program (“The Bill Cosby Show”) and all the trappings that went along with it, including his own Hollywood-studio bungalow. A teenage comedy writer named Joan Tarshis was more than thrilled to get an invite to that private hideaway in 1969.
Tarshis was only 19, but she had already written monologues for Godfrey Cambridge, one of a handful of nationally prominent black comedians in the mid- and late-1960s, she said in an interview with The Washington Post. But getting to hang out with Cosby was almost like taking an express elevator to the penthouse without stopping at the upper floors.
Cosby was a familiar face on the party circuit, knocking around with Hefner, author Shel Silverstein and John Dante, the second-in-command at Playboy, according to “Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream,” by Steven Watts.
“Hef and his three buddies loved to fly up to [Playboy’s resort on Wisconsin’s Lake Geneva], catch a show, and throw a party for the Bunnies and performers,” Watts wrote.
Cosby was also hitting it big with comedy records, though in hindsight one of his riffs seems particularly insensitive. On his 1969 record, “It’s True! It’s True!,” Cosby joked about drugging women with Spanish Fly, a purported aphrodisiac. Cosby tells the story of a character who convinced him of its powers by recounting how he had slipped some into the drink of a woman named “Crazy Mary.” After that, Cosby said, he’d “go to a party, see five girls standing alone” and think, “Boy, if I had a whole jug of Spanish Fly I’d light that corner up over there.” The audience roars with laughter.
At a lunch at Cosby’s bungalow, Tarshis recalled, he urged her to mix a beer with her bloody mary.
“We call that a redeye,” she said he told her.
Cosby invited her to the set of his new show, and then went back to his bungalow to work on some jokes about earthquakes, since Los Angeles had recently been hit by tremors.
“I said, ‘Sure!’ “ recalled Tarshis, who first disclosed her accusations this month in a column for the website Hollywood Elsewhere. “I mean, I had written for Godfrey Cambridge and now I was going to write for Bill Cosby!”
In the bungalow, Tarshis said, Cosby made her another redeye. “I don’t know what was in that drink, but it knocked me out. The next thing I remember after having that drink was waking up on his couch,” she said. “I was really foggy. He was trying to take my underwear off.”
She tried to talk her way out of an unwanted sexual encounter, she said. She made up a story about having a genital infection.
“’If you have sex with me, your wife will know,’ “ she recalled telling him. “He didn’t miss a beat. He knew exactly how to respond. He made me give him oral sex. It was pretty horrible.”
She told no one. Instead, she went home to Brooklyn, New York.
A few weeks later, Cosby called her house and spoke to her mother, who had no idea what had allegedly happened on that couch in the bungalow, Tarshis said. Cosby told Tarshis’s mother that he wanted to take her daughter to the Westbury Music Fair on Long Island to hear him deliver a monologue to which Tarshis had made a small writing contribution.
“She was over the moon,” Tarshis said of her mother. “She was so excited.”
Looking back through the prism of four decades, Tarshis, now 66, wonders why she went. “I didn’t know how to handle it,” she said. “I thought, ‘Okay, I’m going to be in a theater. It’s going to be safe.’ I didn’t see any way out.”
A limousine picked her up at her mother’s and took her to Cosby’s New York hotel room at the Sherry-Netherland, Tarshis recalled. Tarshis — who has acknowledged having a drinking problem but says she has been sober since 1988 — remembered being “nervous and uncomfortable.” She had a drink with him to calm down because she was so uneasy about being in his presence after the first alleged assault, she said. By the time they got to the theater, she was feeling so unsteady that she had to leave, she said. She asked the limousine driver to take her back to the car. She lay down.
“The next thing I know, I’m in his hotel room, in his bed, naked,” Tarshis said.
She said she believed he had sexually assaulted her.
“My first thought was, ‘How do I get out of here?’ “ she said. “Also, ‘How do I get out of here safely?’ I didn’t want to aggravate him. I didn’t know what he’d do.”
John Milward, a freelance reporter and author, confirmed that Tarshis told him about her Cosby allegations in the early 1980s, though he never wrote about them. And, Tarshis said, she never contacted the police.
“Who was going to believe me?” she said. “If he was a regular joe, I might have done something.”
One of Cosby’s attorneys, John Schmitt, issued a statement last week saying that repeating old allegations “does not make them true.”
She wanted an adventure. With high school graduation behind her, Linda Traitz and a group of friends left Miami Beach in 1969 to see what it would be like to live in California.
She took a job as a waitress. It wasn’t about the job; it was about the place, a place filled with stars, a place that glittered.
Traitz worked at Cafe Figaro, a West Hollywood spot that was notable, in part, because of Cosby, who co-owned it and made it his hangout for business meetings.
“I was young and star-struck,” Traitz, now 63, recalled in an interview with The Washington Post.
Traitz’s year of adventure coincided with Cosby’s emergence as a solo phenomenon. He was no longer Culp’s co-star or merely a clever comic; he was showing he could do it all: conceive, write and act. NBC debuted an animated TV movie version of his brainchild, “Fat Albert.” His situation comedy, “The Bill Cosby Show,” launched, and he was about to win his fourth Emmy for a television special he headlined. He even did a Crest toothpaste ad. Everything he touched glistened.
In the midst of all that, Traitz said, Cosby chatted her up one day at his restaurant and offered a ride home. She could not have imagined saying anything but yes.
The minutiae of that day are carved into her mind. She even remembers what she was wearing: a long “hippie days” peasant skirt. She climbed into Cosby’s Rolls Royce and he suggested they drive out to the beach, Traitz recalled. Once they parked at the beach, he opened a briefcase, she said.
“It had assorted sections in it, with pills and tablets in it, different colors arranged and assorted into compartments,” she recalled. “He offered me pills and said it would help me to relax, and I kept refusing but he kept offering.”
Cosby “lunged” at her, she said, “grabbed my chest, grabbed me in the front all over.”
“I was crying and horrified,” she said. She broke free, she said, and tumbled out of the car. She ran down the beach with Cosby in pursuit, but she tripped on that long peasant skirt and fell onto the sand, she said.
Cosby agreed to take her home. Her skirt was torn. Walking back to the car, they passed a block filled with shops. Cosby bought her a new skirt, she said.
They rode in silence. “He froze me out,” she said. He never tried anything again, she said, but Traitz could not keep the incident to herself. She told her co-workers and her family what happened at the time. She decided not to go to the police.
“It was a different time,” her brother, Jim Traitz, told The Washington Post. “We all also knew this was a really big guy with a big PR operation and lawyers, and that he could crush us — that he would crush us — and her.”
Life has not been easy for Linda Traitz, who has a history of drug addiction. In the past decade, she has amassed a criminal record with multiple convictions, mostly related to prescription drugs, according to Florida court records. She received a five-year prison term, serving from 2008 to 2012.
“I know there will be people who are going to say: ‘You have a drug problem. Why should we believe you?’ “ she said of her decision to go public now.
Just as the allegations against Cosby span generational shifts in attitudes about what constitutes out-of-bounds behavior, they also span historic shifts in how information is disseminated. At the time when Traitz alleges Cosby assaulted her, there was no such thing as social media.
But this month, two events compelled her to make a public statement, Traitz said. First, the comedian Hannibal Buress touched off a social-media frenzy by asking an audience at one of his shows to Google “Bill Cosby rapist.” Then, on Nov. 13, The Washington Post published a first-person account by another accuser, Barbara Bowman. Traitz, furious about the attacks on Bowman and other Cosby accusers, posted her story on Facebook.
Singer, Cosby’s attorney, called Traitz “the latest example of people coming out of the woodwork with unsubstantiated or fabricated stories about my client.”
He added, “There was no briefcase of drugs and the story is absurd.”
Victoria Valentino was living what appeared to be a version of the Hollywood dream. Playboy magazine picked her as Playmate of the Month for September 1963 when she was just 19. The next year, she helped open the original Playboy Club as a bunny on the Sunset Strip on New Year’s Eve.
But by the end of the decade, she had drifted away from those glitzy heights, she recalled in an interview with The Washington Post. In September 1969, her 6-year-old son, Tony, had drowned in a swimming pool. She battled a deep depression, she recalled.
Francesca Emerson, a fellow Playboy bunny who befriended Valentino at the Playboy Club, sensed her despondency. Emerson, who is black, said she was one of the first “chocolate Bunnies” of the 1960s and had trained Valentino in her role as a “Bunny instructor.”
Emerson had a plan to lift Valentino’s spirits. “I want you to meet my friend, Bill Cosby,” she said.
Emerson and Cosby had hit it off at the Playboy Club. “He always gave me $100 tips, and he tried to get me to come down to the studio to read for his show, but I was always so nervous.”
After Emerson lost her job at the club in 1968, she said, a chauffeur arrived at her home and handed her an envelope. Inside was $1,000 and a note. “This is for you so you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Love, Cos,” Emerson said it read.
“That’s the Bill Cosby I knew,” Emerson said. “He was a perfect gentleman.”
She said she introduced her “stunning” friend Valentino to Cosby in January 1970 at Cafe Figaro. Weeks later, she said, she met Cosby there again. Valentino said she was with her friend and roommate at the time, an aspiring actress named Meg Foster. She said Cosby offered to pay for massages for the women at a local spa and then sent a limousine to pick them up for dinner.
Valentino said they had dinner at a restaurant called Sneaky Pete’s. They ordered steaks and wine, and toward the end of dinner, Valentino said, Cosby offered her and Foster red pills.
“He was trying to cheer me up, and he stuck a pill in my mouth,” she said. “He said, ‘This will make us all feel better.’ ”
She and Foster each took a pill, and Cosby did, too, she said.
“We were slurring words. I couldn’t function,” she recalled, adding that Cosby said he would take them home but instead drove them to an apartment in the hills above the Chateau Marmont hotel. Valentino said Cosby wanted to show them some memorabilia from I Spy.
Once inside, Valentino said, Foster passed out. The room was spinning, and Valentino said she remembered feeling as if she was going to throw up. She said she saw Cosby sitting in a love seat near Foster and she noticed that he had an erection.
“I reached out, grabbing him, trying to get his attention, trying to distract him,” Valentino said. “He came over to me and sat down on the love seat and opened his fly and grabbed my head and pushed my head down. And then he turned me over. It was like a waking nightmare.”
She protested but could not stop him, she said. Cosby slipped out alone, telling Valentino to call a cab if she wanted to go home, she said.
Valentino said she never called the police. “What kind of credibility did I have?” she said. “In those days, it was always the rape victim who wound up being victimized. You didn’t want to go to the police. That’s the last thing you wanted to do back then.”
She was too embarrassed to tell most of her friends, but she did tell Emerson — the woman who had introduced her to Cosby.
Emerson, who lives in Australia, confirmed Valentino’s recollection in an interview with The Washington Post.
“I remember she said that he had drugged her and she came to and he was trying to rape Meg and she pulled him off,” Emerson said. “But I feel devastated that I didn’t do anything or say anything.”
Foster, an actress known for roles in TV shows such as Cagney and Lacey and movies, including The Osterman Weekend, declined an interview request.
About 10 years ago, Valentino was contacted by another former Playboy Playmate, Charlotte Kemp, Miss December 1982, who said she was writing a book called Centerfold Memories.
In an interview, Kemp — whose real last name is Helmkamp — said she videotaped an interview with Valentino during which she talked about her alleged encounter with Cosby. Helmkamp said the account she gave matches the account Valentino provided to The Washington Post.
Valentino, now 71, said she decided to come forward after seeing Bowman’s allegations in The Washington Post.
“Every time I hear his name mentioned and see him getting an honorary doctorate and see him as this father figure, it makes me nauseated,” Valentino said. “It’s so humiliating. Forty-four years later it makes me feel shameful.”
When contacted by The Washington Post about Valentino’s allegations, Cosby’s lawyer responded by issuing the broad denial to the recent accusations.
He liked to watch her brush her hair, Tamara Green recalled. Cosby would sit and watch her pull the brush through her long, thick blond locks as she sang lyrics made famous by the sultry, smoky-voiced jazz great Julie London.
“You need to be taught. You need to be groomed,” Green remembered him telling her.
Green was in her early 20s when she met Cosby through a mutual friend, a Los Angeles doctor, she said. “He was king of the world,” Green said in an interview with The Washington Post. “Full of himself. I Spy. Man about town.”
When Green met Cosby — in 1969 0r 1970, she said — she was doing some modelling and singing. Los Angeles felt like the host of one long, awesome party. Knowing Cosby made it even more awesome.
“We slept all day and were up all night,” Green said.
It was a “very hippie-dippy, very free-love” time, Green said. The big shots in her circle of celebrity friends kept “stables of girls,” Green said. “They had a total disrespect for the girls.” Green did not want to be Cosby’s girl.
Green went to work for Cosby in the early 1970s, she said. She was supposed to be raising money from investors for a new club Cosby intended to open.
She called Cosby one day to say she was feeling sick and was going to go home. He told her she would feel better if she ate something and invited her to join him at Cafe Figaro, she said. When she arrived, he gave her some red and grey pills, saying they were over-the-counter decongestants, she recalled.
Cosby drove Green to her apartment and she started to feel woozy, she said. “I remember him being all smarmy: ‘Let me help you take off all your clothes,’ ” she recalled.
“I couldn’t control my body. I couldn’t run,” Green recalled. “. . . He was naked. I was naked on my bed. His hands were all over me.”
Cosby penetrated her vagina with his fingers and fondled his penis in front of her, Green said. She screamed in protest, she said. “You’re going to have to kill me,” she remembers telling him. But he would not stop, she said, until she managed to upend a table lamp.
Cosby tossed down two $100 bills as he left, a gesture that Green took as a deep insult, she said. She did not think of herself as a girl who could be bought, but she felt helpless to do anything. She feared Cosby’s power. But there was another thing that she fretted about. Her young brother was dying from cystic fibrosis, and the day after the alleged incident, Cosby visited him at the children’s hospital where he was being treated, showing up with gifts and entertaining the other young patients, Green said. Her brother adored the star, and knowing Cosby gave him a certain cachet in the hospital ward and garnered him extra attention from nurses in his final days, she said. She worried about jeopardizing all that.
Green, now 66, went on to become an attorney and got married. She is retired in Southern California, where she grapples with Parkinson’s disease and with the echoes of that long-ago alleged incident. She said she is forever checking the perimeter of her home. She still sleeps in her clothes.
Another Cosby attorney, Walter Phillips Jr., called Green’s allegations “absolutely false.”
“Mr. Cosby does not know the name Tamara Green or Tamara Lucier [her maiden name] and the incident she describes did not happen,” Phillips said in a statement issued this past week. He said it was “irresponsible” to publish an “uncorroborated story of an incident that is alleged to have happened thirty years ago.”
Cosby’s legal team has also questioned Green’s credibility because her law licence was suspended in 2004. Green said that the suspension resulted from an overdraft related to her depositing a retainer check in the wrong account and that her licence was reinstated.
Cosby’s team has also used legal-ethics issues to question the credibility of a more recent accuser who is now a lawyer — Louisa Moritz, an actress who appeared in the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. On Thursday, Moritz told the website TMZ that Cosby forced her to have oral sex in a dressing room of The Tonight Show in 1971. Singer, Cosby’s attorney, questioned her credibility because she had been disciplined by the California State Bar last year in a dispute over a legal fee.
Jo Farrell pursued clients so relentlessly that she became known as the “red-headed barracuda.” She operated her JF Images talent agency far from Hollywood in Denver, but she wielded such clout that she could make or break careers.
Farrell plays one of the more unusual roles in the decades-long drama of Cosby and his accusers. She referred two women to Cosby who later alleged he sexually abused them: Barbara Bowman and Beth Ferrier.
Farrell is now 83 and suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s, according to her daughter, Kathleen, who said in a recent interview with The Washington Post that her mother retired five years ago and knew nothing about the claims of sexual abuse until they appeared in People magazine in 2006. “It’s mind-boggling,” Jo Farrell told the magazine at the time. “I don’t set up interviews in bars. Here I am pulled in on this, and it makes me sad because my reputation has always been golden in this city.”
Farrell’s relationship to Cosby dates back decades. She first met him at the Turn of the Century nightclub, which was near her talent agency. Kathleen Farrell said Cosby worked with a number of the agency’s young female clients through the years, taking them on outings and asking them to auditions. She said she had heard allegations that other men — photographers and bookers — had abused actresses. But she said her mother never mentioned any complaints about Cosby. If she had heard complaints, she said, her mother would have severed her relationship with Cosby “to protect the girls.”
“Nobody ever addressed with her that there was an issue,” Kathleen Farrell said. “She’s a mother hen; she would have addressed it.”
Farrell discovered Bowman, then 13, at a 1980 beauty pageant.
“She pulled me over and said, ‘What’s your name?’ “ Bowman, now 47, recalled in an interview. “She said I looked like a movie star. That was quite a compliment for a scrawny little kid trying to make it. . . . I was feeling really glamorous.”
She said Cosby came to town in 1984 and Farrell took Bowman, 17 at the time, to a comedy club for an audition. Bowman said she prepared a monologue and performed before one of the most famous comedians in the country in a small conference room tucked away inside the comedy club.
But she made an impression. Both Farrell and Cosby gushed that she was destined for big things in the business and advised that she move to New York, where she could hone her craft. Cosby also took her to the New York set of The Cosby Show.
“That was the bait: the promise of an audition, being seen and adored by a big name,” Bowman said. “And he enjoyed knowing that people knew he was the one who was discovering hot new talent.
She said she was “terrified” of Cosby and Farrell. “They isolated me and made me totally dependent on them,” she said.
At the time, Cosby was in the process of becoming the biggest television star in the world. The Cosby Show had debuted the year before, introducing viewers to his career-defining role as Cliff Huxtable.
“At a time when the situation comedy was supposed to be moribund on television, The Cosby Show has leapt to No. 1 in a single season,” New York Times critic John Connor wrote in May 1985. “At a time when blacks were once again being considered ratings liabilities by benighted television executives, the middle-class Huxtables have become the most popular family in the United States. And at a time when so many comedians are toppling into a kind of smutty permissiveness, Mr. Cosby is making the nation laugh by paring ordinary life to its extraordinary essentials. It is indeed a truly nice development.”
Bowman said she saw an entirely different persona from the one Cosby played on television. Once, while at his brownstone in New York City, she said she blacked out after one glass of wine and awoke to find herself wearing nothing but her underpants and a man’s T-shirt.
In another alleged incident in Atlantic City, N.J., she said Cosby pinned her down on a hotel bed while she screamed for help and he struggled to pull down his pants.
“I furiously tried to wrestle from his grasp until he eventually gave up,” she said in an interview with The Washington Post.
Cosby called her “a baby,” Bowman said, then he told her to go home to Denver.
At first, Bowman said she was in denial that the alleged assaults had taken place. She then convinced herself that she did what she needed to do to make it in the entertainment business. She said she also became financially dependent on Cosby and her agent.
“They were subsidizing me in New York until I started booking jobs,” she said.
When asked why she did not come forward sooner, Bowman said she did not think anyone would believe her.
Cosby’s attorneys had previously called her claims “absolutely untrue.”
In the years after the alleged assault of Bowman, Cosby rose to heights that were almost unimaginable. In 1987, The Cosby Show went into syndication, and within five years it had pulled in $1 billion in syndication fees, with hundreds of millions reportedly going to Cosby.
Andrea Constand was stressed. She held down a big job at Temple University as operations director of the women’s basketball team. But she wanted career advice, according to court documents filed in a 2005 civil suit that Constand filed against Cosby. She decided to confide in a man who had not only become her close friend but was also Temple royalty.
Cosby had attended Temple before dropping out in the early 1960s to pursue his comedy career, but he had remained in close contact with his hometown university, serving on the board of trustees since the early 1980s.
Constand became friends with Cosby a year after her arrival on the Philadelphia campus in 2001. They sometimes dined alone together, according to court records.
In January 2004, the records state, Cosby invited her to his home in suburban Philadelphia. Constand alleges that Cosby offered her three blue pills. He said they were an herbal medication and would relax her, according to her court filing; she hesitated but finally took his advice.
Within a short period of time, her “knees began to shake, her limbs felt immobile, she felt dizzy and weak, and she began to feel only barely conscious,” Constand’s attorneys wrote.
Constand accused Cosby of leading her to a sofa, then touching “her breasts and vaginal area.” She said he “rubbed his penis against her hand, and digitally penetrated her,” the court records state.
All the while, she “remained in a semi-conscious state,” her attorneys wrote.
Constand said she lost consciousness afterward until 4 a.m., when she awoke “feeling raw in and around her vaginal area,” the court records state. Also, “her clothes and undergarments were in disarray,” according to the records.
When she awoke, there was Cosby, she said. He was in his bathrobe, the court records state. She said she left.
According to court records, Cosby said he and Constand spent time together, but his attorneys denied the claims that he drugged and assaulted her. He said he had merely given her 1 ½ tablets of Benadryl, an over-the-counter antihistamine.
In Cosby’s account of his evening with Constand during the court case, he denied appearing in only his bathrobe and he said he gave her a “homemade blueberry muffin and a cup of hot tea,” according to court records.
Constand, now 41, went on to leave her job at Temple, moving back to her native Canada. One year later, in January 2005, she filed a complaint against Cosby with a police department in Ontario.
That complaint was followed by a criminal inquiry in Montgomery County, Pa. Law enforcement officials interviewed Constand and Cosby.
“I thought, in my gut, that she was telling the truth,” Bruce Castor Jr., the Montgomery County district attorney at the time, said in a recent interview with The Washington Post. “I was absolutely certain that she believed that Cosby had taken advantage of her, but there were not enough details.”
Castor lacked physical evidence, and he thought any possible case would be hampered by the long delay in filing a complaint. In February 2005, he announced that he would not be prosecuting Cosby.
After the 2005 criminal case was resolved, Cosby resumed a tough-love tour he had put on hold when news of Constand’s allegations broke. The national tour consisted of free speeches where large audiences gathered to hear Cosby speak about the failures of black parents and black youths. He had been ridiculing African American politicians, accusing them of too often blaming “systematic racism” for his community’s problems.
But the next month, Cosby’s own actions were again scrutinized. And this time, it would not be just one woman pointing a finger at him. Constand’s civil lawsuit, filed in March 2005, would eventually include 13 Jane Does who agreed to testify against Cosby. The women came from points across the country: Ventura, Calif.; Monument, Colo.; Spring Hill, Fla.
Green, the one-time model who had said Cosby had drugged her in the early 1970s, had offered to testify without maintaining anonymity. All told, Green said she has spoken with 20 accusers; all of them, she said, asserted that they had been drugged by the comedian.
Constand’s attorneys were spotting patterns, too. In their court filings, they asserted that a common theme among the Jane Does was that “they were victimized after being conned by the Cosby image.”
In court documents, Cosby’s attorneys said their client “vigorously denies” her allegations that he “drugged her and sexually assaulted her” and “adamantly denies engaging in sexual misconduct.”
In November 2006, Constand and Cosby reached an undisclosed settlement. Constand and her attorney declined to be interviewed for this article.
Constand’s settlement largely made the Cosby story go away. There would be isolated reports, but the image of Cosby as an accused sex offender seemed destined to be relegated to a historical footnote until the jokes by Buress — a popular but hardly A-list 31-year-old comedian — went viral this month.
Since then, the names of nine more accusers have surfaced, including the model Janice Dickinson, who told Entertainment Tonight that Cosby drugged and raped her in Lake Tahoe, Calif. in 1982. To back up her accusation, she produced Polaroids of Cosby in a checkered robe.
Cosby’s attorneys rushed to keep pace with the allegations, repeatedly saying they had no merit. “Janice Dickinson’s story accusing Bill Cosby of rape is a complete lie,” Singer said in a statement.
Three of the women who spoke to The Washington Post — Traitz, Tarshis and Valentino — also made their first widely distributed public statements about the allegations this month.
At the two university campuses most associated with Cosby, there was a pinched terseness from administrators. Temple would say only that Cosby remained on its board. Two weeks after Buress’ comedy routine reignited the sex-allegations controversy, a Temple student, Grace Holleran, published an editorial in the school newspaper calling on university officials to stop supporting Cosby. The university “seems to be banking on Cosby’s star power, remembering him for his colourful sweaters and Pudding Pops as it fails to acknowledge his muddy backstory,” Holleran wrote.
At Spelman College — where Cosby made history in 1988 with a $20 million donation, the largest by an African American to a historically black college — the president’s office would not say whether the endowed professorship named for Cosby and his wife would continue.
The educator who holds that endowed chair at Spelman predicted in an interview that the sexual-assault allegations ultimately would not define Cosby.
“I’m not worried about being the Cosby chair,” said Aku Kadogo, Spelman’s Cosby Endowed Professor in the Arts. “It’s not a worry to me. It’s a difficult time for him. But it ain’t the end of the world. If Hillary can run for president — she went through all that rigmarole. People forget easily.”
But, in the universe of Bill Cosby, it has become clear that not everyone forgets.