A Philadelphia jazz club called LaRose was the backdrop for a rare Bill Cosby appearance/performance. The 80-year-old comedian took to the stage just two months before jury selection begins in his sexual assault retrial.
According to NBC Philadelphia, Cosby scatted and played drums as a jazz band performed. He also told old stories about his childhood. Cosby, who has complained of failing health in recent years, donned a sweatshirt that said “Hello Friend” and sat on a stool during his LaRose appearance.
His hour-long performance ended with him handing over his drumsticks to the son of one of the band members. He asked the boy if he knew who he was, adding, “I used to be a comedian.”
We can think of many other ways he could have answered that question.
There was no mention of Cosby’s looming sexual assault re-trial. This “fireside chat with grandpa” –type performance is one that Cosby has been doing for years, but it was an odd choice for a decorated comedian in the thick of a major sexual assault controversy involving dozens of women.
What is the upside of putting on a feel-good public performance amidst personal turmoil, especially when having that smiling face flash across a screen could be trigging to his string of alleged victims?
Lawyers of the caliber Cosby needs come with a hefty price tag, but surely the veteran comic did not agree to this performance just for the money. There is something he enjoys about being in the spotlight and he will continue to attempt to bask in it. No credible lawyer would give the green-light to such an appearance with jury selection in the not-so-distant future.
WHYY news reporter Bobby Allyn attended the show and posted several pictures and videos of Cosby on stage in the intimate venue. The crowd was friendly and responsive. There didn’t appear to be any heckling from the audience.
Bill Cosby, sitting on a stool in a hoodie at a Philly jazz club, telling stories and working the crowd. No mention yet of his looming trial on sexual assault charges. pic.twitter.com/D7qldKi79B
— Bobby Allyn (@BobbyAllyn) January 23, 2018
Sexual Assault Retrial
Just last Friday a judge announced that jury selection would begin on March 29th for a sexual assault re-trial in which Cosby is the defendant. He is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in a 2004 incident. Cosby contends that his interaction with Constand was consensual.
A judge declared a mistrial last June on three felony charges of second-degree sexual assault. Cosby was facing up to 10 years in prison. For the new trial, prosecutors are asking the judge to allow 19 women to testify to show a pattern of predatory behavior.
When NBC News asked about Cosby’s jazz club appearance, Constand’s lawyer Dolores Troiani said “Right now the only thing I can say is the arrogance of this man leaves every decent person speechless.”
A Steady Flood of Allegations
Dozens of women have come forward accusing the comedian of rape and other types of sexual assault, many claiming he drugged them without their consent. Cosby has denied all allegations and has even sued some of his accusers for defamation. Constand is the only case so far that is in criminal court.
Sexual assault allegations have been quietly roiling against Cosby for years, but a slew of accusers came forward starting in 2014 after comedian Hannibal Buress made a joke during a stand-up routine about Cosby’s rumored predatory behavior.
How #MeToo Could Impact Cosby
The controversy surrounding Cosby was swirling well before the #MeToo movement was revived in 2017, bringing an ongoing reckoning of major Hollywood and media figures. Several high-profile men have lost jobs and marriages in the deluge of sexual assault allegations.
Cosby bizarrely said to a reporter “Don’t put me on #MeToo,” but perhaps unbeknownst to The Cosby Show creator, there is no master list of all the predatory men. It’s behavior that puts one in opposition to the #MeToo movement.
At the end of the night at the recent jazz club appearance in Philadelphia, reporter Bobby Allyn asked Cosby how he thought the #MeToo movement might impact jurors for his retrial, Cosby shrugged, said “I don’t know” and gave the below face.
— Bobby Allyn (@BobbyAllyn) January 23, 2018
Cosby’s lawyers have surely given more thought to that question. While they hammer out a strategy, Cosby should do himself and his alleged victims a favor and stay off the stage.