10 Things We Learned From ‘Cosby: The Women Speak’ Special
It’s been two months since New York Magazine published its feature story on 35 of Bill Cosby’s accusers, complete with striking cover image of the women seated side-by-side, next to an empty chair for those who chose not to come forward publicly. (To date, more than 50 women have accused Cosby of sexual assault.)
Thursday night, A&E aired Cosby: The Women Speak, a one-hour documentary featuring 13 of those women, seated and stoic, telling their stories – which are all the more chilling onscreen.
Here are 10 things we learned from watching the special.
1. Cosby is said to have had a particular ploy for taking advantage of young women trying to break into show business.
Several women who were at the time models hoping to become actors said on the show that Cosby invited them to privately audition for him. For instance, Heidi Thomas and Lise-Lott Lubin said Cosby asked them to act as though they were intoxicated, then expressed disapproval with their performance before offering them a drink to help them “get into character.” The women said that after the drinks, their memories became fuzzy.
2. Cosby undermined the promising careers of women comedians.
In 1969, comedy was an even more challenging field for women to break into than it is today. So it was notable when comedic actress Louisa Moritz was booked to appear on The Tonight Show. But a pre-show encounter with Cosby, who was an unscheduled guest the same night, would ruin Moritz’s recollection of the experience forever: Cosby allegedly burst into her dressing room and forced her to perform oral sex, while offering to be her manager. When it was over, she went onstage. “I must say it was the hardest job I’ve ever done,” she said. Joan Tarshis, who was an aspiring comedy writer around the same time, also said Cosby took advantage of her ambition, offering to help her break into the field, but ultimately drugging and assaulting her instead.
3. With younger women, Cosby allegedly involved and reassured their parental figures.
Heidi Thomas, who was 24 when she met Cosby, said he called her parents after inviting her to Reno, Nevada, for “mentoring.”
“I thought it was nice that he called,” said Thomas’ mother, Greta Lea Johnson. “He seemed to be intent on making sure we weren’t worried about this trip. I wondered why he was making such a point of saying, ‘Everything’s going to be fine.'”
Chelan Lasha was 17 when she met Cosby in the Eighties. He invited her to his hotel, after her aunt showed him her photo. She told A&E that he offered to introduce her to someone at the Ford modeling agency.
In both cases, when Cosby got the young women alone, he allegedly drugged and raped them.
4. Cosby allegedly committed assaults with his family close by.
Sarita Butterfield, who was working as a Playboy bunny in the Eighties, told A&E that Cosby called her, saying he’d seen her picture in Playboy and heard she was an aspiring actress. She said he then invited her to Christmas Eve dinner with his family in Massachusetts, after which he attempted to assault her in the family’s guesthouse. “His intentions were to prey on me and to assault me in his home on Christmas Eve,” she said. “That’s unbelievable.”
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