I vividly remember watching Bill Cosby’s one-man show in the garish nightclub at a Las Vegas hotel in the mid eighties. My boss and I were in LV for a trade show, and he invited me to go with him to see the famous comedian. Cosby was spectacularly funny that night. (I needed a good laugh, considering my date!) Even if we didn’t know how he acted off stage, didn’t we all assume he was like the adorable and affable Dr. Huxtable he portrayed on TV?
We’ve since met the real Bill Cosby, thanks to the scores of women who stepped forward to accuse him of drugging and raping them. And, today we saw him being led out of the courtroom, handcuffed, after being sentenced to three to 10 years in prison for his crimes. No matter how much relief some of his accusers felt after the judge handed down Cosby’s sentence, no one was laughing.
We’ve all heard countless times how a powerful and famous person can become divorced from “reality.” Yessed from dawn to dusk by hangers-on. Adored by fans. Sought after by friends–even foes. But how does the comprehension of right and wrong fly out the window? How is it that famous people don’t learn from the tragedies that often befell famous people who came before them? Why don’t they take even a couple of minutes a day to reflect how they could lose everything in a flash?
When powerful wrongdoers get away with bad behavior for years on end, they probably start believing that they’re “immune” from getting caught. Bernie Madoff. Bonnie and Clyde. A criminal attorney I know often told me that big-time drug dealers never think they’ll be apprehended, but “they usually are,” he added. Cosby sexually abused women for decades. Did he even once look at himself in the mirror the morning after any of these episodes and see anything but a rich, famous and adored man? Did he ever have a moment of remorse? Did he ever seek help from a therapist?
After miscreants are collared, why do so many of them deny wrongdoing? They don’t just demurely deny the error of their ways. They deeply dig in their heels. They point their fingers at their accusers. They smirk. They scoff. They trot out their supporters, including the very wives they’ve betrayed. Surely, Camille Cosby at least suspected her husband of decades was up to “something” at some point. Or did she turn the proverbial blind eye to his ways with women because he gave her a life of luxury–and laughs?
I imagine 81-year-old Bill Cosby living in jail, legally blind (perhaps a blessing, considering his environment), and destined to spend what could be the rest of his life denied the freedom he enjoyed most of his life. But “freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being,” Eleanor Roosevelt said. “With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.”
Bill Cosby carried his own weight, but not quite in the way the esteemed Mrs. Roosevelt meant.