I have zero evidence that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted or made unwanted sexual advances on anyone. But I do believe the growing number of women coming forward to say they were raped by Cosby or that he made unwanted sexual advances toward them. Here’s why…
Bill Cosby never hit on me and was never seductive in any way. But I remember how intimidating and menacing he was all the same. I met him when I was assigned to write a feature story on him for the Associated Press in February 1992.
He was at the peak of his powers when I was ushered into his dressing room at the Kaufman Astoria studios in Queens. The groundbreaking Cosby Show, one of the most successful TV series of all time, was in its eighth and final season. The year before, this 54-year-old son of an alcoholic father who grew up in a North Philadelphia housing project had made $113 million.
He didn’t say hello. He had his game face on, or maybe that’s his only face off-camera. His first three words were: “I don’t pose” — meaning for photographs. There was no other kind of welcome.
I’ve interviewed hundreds of celebrities and other notables over the years, including such notoriously difficult people as Dennis Rodman and Mickey Rourke. The majority of interview subjects are remarkably professional and pleasant. I spent close to four hours in Jack Nicholson’s home on Mulholland Drive when I was profiling him for The New York Times.
Despite his longtime rep as a hopeless womanizer, which Anjelica Huston has just reminded us of again in her new book, Nicholson was a total gentleman. He rarely gives print interviews and admitted he felt that he had more control on television. Cosby told me the same thing. But whatever Nicholson’s issues were with the media, he gave me no attitude nor made any advances during our time together.
However, as I wrote in my ensuing article about Bill Cosby, “the tension in the air was remarkably thick” as Cosby immediately took control of our interview by treating me to a fairly hostile 14-minute discourse on why he distrusted the press. (You can find the article online.) Cosby’s attitude was especially bewildering because he usually got good press. He was for years one of the most beloved performers in show business.
“Tell me what you want to ask and we’ll see how it goes,” he told me, speaking slowly and measuring his words. “If it doesn’t go well, I’ll give you a piece of fruit. I’ll give you an apple or pear and you can be on your way.”
My questions apparently passed muster, although as I wrote, Cosby “controls the interview by stretching each answer into a lengthy soliloquy.”
The interview was so unusual and uncomfortable that it seeped into the article I wrote. It’s hard to know how else I could have written it. The substance of what he said took a back seat to the atmosphere Cosby created between us. He was a very scary guy.
Less than a week after the story was published, I received a package at AP’s world headquarters, which was then at 50 Rockefeller Plaza. This was years before 9-11 so of course I opened it without trepidation.
Inside was a sheet of paper with three typed words: “Here’s your apple.” The signature in black ink read “Bill Cosby.” And wrapped in a paper towel was indeed an apple, dried and withered.
I marveled at the time that a man in his position would go to the trouble of locating a dead apple, placing it in a paper towel, finding out the address of the Associated Press and mailing it to me.
Bill Cosby may not be responding to the allegations against him but I wish he’d tell me, among other things, where he even found an old, withered apple.
Did he keep a store of dying fruit with him at all times to send to errant reporters? Did he assign a flunky to get the apple, type out the letter and bring it to him to sign or did he do it himself?
I wonder if I’ll get anything in the mail this time.
Dana Kennedy is an American journalist based in Paris, Nice, and New York City. She has anchored and reported for CNN, ABC News, MSNBC, CNBC and Fox News. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times, Time magazine, People, the Daily Beast, Huffington Post, the Hollywood Reporter, Huffington Post France, Departures magazine and more. Her first reporting job was at the Palm Springs Desert Sun. The best job she ever had was at the New York City bureau of the Associated Press. She divides her time between France and the U.S.