I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…
When I was growing up, one of my favorite TV shows was “I Spy.” Robert Culp was Kelly, whose cover was international tennis star; Bill Cosby, his trainer Scotty. A white kid, I wanted to be Scotty.
Scotty was a man of great dignity who didn’t smoke or drink, a Rhodes Scholar. Not like the black stereotypes I knew then: Stepin Fetchit, Amos ’n’ Andy, Eddie Anderson (“Rochester” on “The Jack Benny Program,” or even Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. He was kind and self-sacrificing. He had indomitable courage.
Or maybe I wanted to be Bill. It was hard to tell them apart, just as many people still have trouble telling apart Cosby from Dr. Cliff Huxtable, the wonderful husband and father he played on “The Cosby Show” two decades later.
Scotty and Bill had much in common. Both started out as a child, in North Philadelphia. Both of their mothers were maids. Both had absentee fathers who served in the Navy. Both followed their fathers into the Navy. Both were scholars and athletes at Temple University.
Only one has been accused of serial rape.
I can’t say I was disappointed in Bill Cosby. Not when the reports started to dribble in like a faucet leak over the past decade, then like a flood in the past month or so.
I already knew he was a monster. He had raped my friend, many years before. Drugged her, like he was supposed to have drugged the other women who have come forward, told their stories, been called liars and worse. For complicated reasons, I made her a promise not to tell anyone, not to go after him, in print or in anger.
A half-dozen years ago, I warned the woman who cleans our house about Bill Cosby. She was so proud that her daughter was going to Temple University, and told me how excited her beautiful child was that she was going to meet this great man. Great men have great secrets, I told her, sometimes the kind you don’t want your daughter discovering in a room alone with them.
My own father had secrets, or thought he did. The man who married my final stepmother was not the man who fathered his children. Not to her, he could not be that to her. The man who married Camille Cosby — who sees her husband as the victim of these stories — is not the man who raped my friend.
We think we know those closest to us, and sometimes we do. (It’s a little irritating how much my wife knows me: makes it hard to win arguments, brazen out moments of assholiness. She’s told me she wishes I wouldn’t always say what I’m actually thinking. At least not to the kids, friends, total strangers.)
But sometimes — maybe most times — we don’t know them.
I still want to be Scotty. I just don’t want to be Bill.