Name: William Henry “Bill” Cosby
Born: July 12, 1937
Occupation: Actor, comedian, author
There aren’t many people who don’t at least recognize the name of Philadelphia born and raised Bill Cosby. Bill was one of four to Bill, Sr. and Anna. His mother was a maid and his father was a Navy cook who spent much of Bill’s early childhood away in the armed forces. While he excelled at sports, his teachers noted he was more interested in clowning around than in actually pursuing his education. Despite working hard to help support his family, Cosby failed the 10th grade and dropped out of high school instead of repeating. He spent 4 years in the Navy before earning his GED via correspondence. He then entered Temple University on a track and field scholarship.
As Cosby studied, he worked several odd jobs, including one as a bartender. It was during this time that he became more acutely aware of his ability to make others laugh and decided to start a career on the stage as a comedian. Cosby built a name for himself not by focusing on controversial subjects, as so many other comedians were doing, but by telling humorous stories about his childhood. This endeared him to the hearts of many.
His acting career took off in 1965 when he was cast in the adventure series I Spy, also making him the first African-American co-star in a TV drama (and making NBC the first network to cast an Africa-American co-star). He also signed on with Warner Bros. Records in 1967, recording his album Silver Throat: Bill Cosby Sings. He later left the label to record under his own.
Cosby’s career really took off in the 70’s. He was regularly invited to appear as a guest on The Tonight Show. In 1969, The Bill Cosby Show aired, but with only modest success. The New Bill Cosby Show aired in 1972 and was met with incredibly poor ratings. Fortunately, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids did much better, entertaining children from 1972 through 1979 and then reappearing later in 1979 as The New Fat Albert Show. He used these and the subsequent The Adventures of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids as part of his fulfillment for his doctorate in education in 1976.
Bill Cosby starred alongside several other prominent African-American actors throughout the 70’s, creating incredible comedies like Uptown Saturday Night, Let’s Do It Again, A Piece of the Action, and California Suite.
His most notable television success came in the 80’s, however, with the debut of The Cosby Show in 1984. The series was known as a situation comedy that he created in order to counter some of the violence being shown on television. He has always believed in family-friendly humor and paralleled the story-line to his own life. The show ran from 1984 through 1992 and was known as one of the highest ranking sitcoms ever.
Cosby went on to work on a number of additional movies and shows and continued touring as a stand-up comedian. His career began to falter in 1997, when the first accusations of sexual assault surfaced.
Cosby married Camille Hanks in January of 1964 and the couple had five children. His current net worth is estimated at $400 million.
How much is $400 million?
It’s enough to produce some family-oriented television programming – something our world is in dire need of. But I somehow doubt at this point that many people would consider Cosby a credible “family man.”
Things seemed quiet after the 1997 sexual assault allegations, but in 2014, a new allegation surfaced, followed by allegations from 28 individual women (as of December 2014). Cosby was supposed to have a new television show, but NBC scrapped in in November of 2014, right after the allegations surfaced. TV Land also stopped airing reruns of The Cosby Show and several comedy appearances have been cancelled. Cosby also resigned from the Temple University board of trustees after the allegations surfaced.
Only time will tell how these new allegations and potential lawsuits will pan out. It seems, however, that his reputation will be forever marred, no matter how much good he originally did for the world of drama and comedy.