Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
On July 6, the Associated Press obtained records from a 2005 civil suit filed against comedian/actor, Bill Cosby. In his deposition, Cosby testified that he had given Quaaludes to at least one woman with whom he hoped to have sex. The lawsuit was settled in 2006, but anyone who had stood by him since his sexual assault scandal went extremely public in November now had no choice but to cut ties.
The Centric Network, a spinoff cable channel of BET Network, immediately pulled reruns of “The Cosby Show” from its schedule, but it was only the latest in a long series of blows to Bill Cosby, whose net worth was once estimated to be $400 million. Here’s a look at the unravelling of the Cosby fortune, legacy and prospects.
October 16, 2014
During a stand-up performance at Philadelphia’s Trocadero, comedian Hannibal Buress calls Cosby a “rapist.” The extremely not-safe-for-work video footage of his routine goes viral the second it hits YouTube, and soon women begin to emerge, one by one, to accuse Cosby of sexually assaulting them.
November 16, 2014
“Over the last several weeks, decade-old, discredited allegations against Mr. Cosby have resurfaced,” Bill Cosby’s attorney John P. Schmitt says in a statement meant to address — and hopefully neutralize — the escalating situation. “The fact that they are being repeated does not make them true.”
November 19, 2014
After more women come forward to accuse Cosby of sexual assault, TV Land pulls its “Cosby Show” reruns. This is not the fate many would have predicted for a show that was once so popular it commanded $4 million per episode when sold into syndication, and whose reruns have generated over $1.5 billion in the last 20 years, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Two of Bill Cosby’s new projects are also torpedoed. Netflix postpones a new comedy special called “Bill Cosby 77” just days before its air date, and NBC pulls the plug on a family sitcom in the development stages that harkened back to the days of “The Cosby Show.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, Cosby’s deal with NBC for the proposed show included a penalty fee awarding him more than $1 million should nothing materialize. Nothing did, so presumably he got his money, but his relationship with NBC is over.
January 16, 2015
NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt, at an executive session at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, California, explains NBC’s decision to cancel the series it was developing with Cosby. He concedes that although he and others within the NBC organization had heard vague rumors about Cosby over the years, he didn’t initially believe there would be a problem.
“While over the years we’d heard some of those accusations and we heard there were a couple of settlements, it didn’t seem to be the kind of thing that was critical mass,” he said. “He hasn’t been proven guilty of anything. I don’t want to be the one who says guilty until proven innocent, [but] when that many people come out and have similar complaints and it became such a tainted situation, there was no way we could move forward.”
Greenblatt says that the network will never pursue another deal with Cosby ever again.
February 21, 2015
CNN reports that four February shows in Cosby’s stand-up comedy tour have been cancelled. Known as the “Far From Finished” tour, a name that now seems rife with irony, dates had already begun to disappear from the itinerary in late November, including engagements in Las Vegas and Yakima, Washington. All of Cosby’s April 2015 dates are cancelled as well.
Pollstar Editor-in-Chief Gary Bongiovanni said that for most of calendar year 2014, Cosby’s tour performed up to expectations. Cosby sold $10.8 million worth of tickets to over 100 shows, or approximately 2,200 tickets per venue, at an approximate cost of $57 each.
“His shows were selling OK,” he told CNN. “He’s making great money at that sale level.” However, after further cancellations in February, in such cities as Boston, Pittsburgh and Charlotte, North Carolina, Bongiovanni’s assessment became much less rosy.
“It seems like they’re falling like dominoes, one at a time,” he said. “The whole thing has gotten a lot shorter than it was.”
Far from finished?
The “Far From Finished” tour ended on May 2 in Atlanta, and Bill Cosby’s career prospects look grim. The number of women who have come forward to accuse him currently stands at 47, and on July 13, two women alleging that Cosby drugged and raped them joined a legal effort to have his 2005 deposition released in its entirety, so it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that his career has reached the end of the road. Last week Disney removed Cosby’s statue from Walt Disney World in Orlando. Actor Joseph C. Phillips, who appeared on “The Cosby Show” for three years, took to his own website on July 13 to beg Cosby to go away quietly in an essay called “Of Course Bill Cosby Is Guilty!” Even Whoopi Goldberg, steadfast Cosby defender who insisted he was “innocent until proven guilty,” reversed her stance. On July 14, “The View” co-host called him a “serial rapist.”
Still, it would be naïve to suggest that there isn’t someone, somewhere still wondering if Cosby can become a viable product spokesman again if the whole drugging-and-raping thing blows over. During his “Cosby Show” heyday, his cuddly, avuncular Cliff Huxtable persona allowed him to pitch Jell-O Pudding Pops so effectively that the commercials drove sales of the product to almost $100 million in its first year. He has never faced criminal charges, and the majority of the allegations against him stem from incidents that are decades old, well outside of the statute of limitations. In fact, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce indicated yesterday that it would refuse calls to have Bill Cosby’s star removed from the “Walk of Fame.” And the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art indicated it would go ahead with its exhibit of art owned by Bill Cosby and his wife, Camilla.
After much criticism, though, the museum told NPR that it would post a sign next to the exhibit, reminding people that it is “fundamentally about the artworks and the artists who created them, not Mr. Cosby.”
Update: July 15, 2015, 2:45pm: President Barack Obama responded to calls from members of Congress to revoke the Presidential Medal of Freedom that Bill Cosby was awarded in 2002. He said that revoking the honor is impossible, as there is no procedure in place for doing so. He then took the opportunity to speak about rape.
“I’ll say this. If you give a woman — or a man, for that matter — without his or her knowledge a drug, and then have sex with that person without consent, that’s rape. And I think this country, any civilized country, should have no tolerance for rape.”
Daniel Bukszpan is a New York-based freelance writer.