Famous Like Me > Actor > C > Bill Cosby
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Profile of Bill Cosby
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|Also Know As:
|Date of Birth:
||12th July 1937
|Place of Birth:
||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Dr. William Henry "Bill" Cosby, Jr. (born July 12, 1937) is an American actor, comedian, educator, television producer and philanthropist.
He was the first black man to star in his own television series (I Spy with Robert Culp, in the mid-1960s), and also broke racial boundaries with his stand-up comedy career in the 1960s and 1970s. After I Spy he starred in other series, but none were very successful (with the exception of the long-running cartoon Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids) until his sitcom, The Cosby Show in the mid-1980s. The Cosby Show was a runaway hit (rescuing NBC from possible bankruptcy), and notable for being one of the first to star a well-to-do middle-class Black family. During the 1980s, Cosby was among the highest-paid entertainers in the United States.
His popularity has diminished slightly in recent years, and his reputation has been tarnished somewhat due to allegations of sexual harassment, but overall Cosby still remains an icon of popular culture.
Cosby was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at Northwest Philadelphia's Germantown Hospital at 3:00 A.M to William Henry Cosby and Anna Pearl Hite. He joined the Navy in tenth grade and completed high school through correspondence courses (GED). Later, he won an athletic scholarship to Temple University. After working as a bartender for several years, he began his career as a stand-up comic, winning fame for his performances and a series of best-selling record albums beginning in 1963. As a comedian, Cosby told stories rather than jokes. His breakout routine was an imagined conversation between God and a skeptical Noah, but Cosby found his richest vein of humor in his Philadelphia childhood, particularly in tales about his little brother Russell and friends Old Weird Harold and Fat Albert.
TV producer Sheldon Leonard landed Cosby a break-out television role in I Spy (1965), the first time an African-American actor starred in a weekly dramatic television series. Cosby won two Emmy Awards for his portrayal of an undercover CIA agent.
Cosby then appeared in a series of shows named after himself: The Bill Cosby Show, The New Bill Cosby Show, the animated Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Cos, The Cosby Show, The Cosby Mysteries, and Cosby (based upon the British series One Foot In The Grave). He has producer, writer, director and even composer credits on many of his projects.
Cosby was a regular on the Captain Kangaroo show in the 1980s, presenting the "Picture Pages" segment which was later syndicated on its own.
He won several Grammy awards for his comedy albums, had a top forty song ("Little Old Man") in 1969, and sang on a number of albums. He won more Grammies for comedy than any other artist, winning every year from 1965 to 1970 and again in 1987. As of 2005, he had 3 gold- and 6 platinum-certified comedy albums. He has also written several humorous books about different aspects of life, based on his stand-up comedy such as Fatherhood and Love and Marriage. In fact, Fatherhood and Time Flies were the best selling non-fiction hardback books of 1986 and 1987, respectively.
Cosby has also made occasional forays into film acting, but the critical and popular success which came so abundantly to his stage and television work has not blessed his movie performances: His natural charisma has often been undermined by mediocre scripts in films like The Devil and Max Devlin (1981) and Ghost Dad (1990), and the notorious flop Leonard Part 6 (1987), although his work in ensemble casts in Uptown Saturday Night and Let's Do it Again, a pair of productions headed up by Sidney Poitier in the mid-1970s, received favorable reviews, as did his supporting role in Francis Ford Coppola's Jack (1996).
One of Cosby's more colorful performances was his portrayal as a bigot in Bill Cosby on Prejudice (1971).
His many commercial endorsements, made at the height of his popularity in the 1970s and '80s for products such as Jell-O, Eastman Kodak, and Coca-Cola, have been widely parodied.
Cosby earned a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts in 1977: his thesis concerned the use of the Fat Albert series as a teaching aid. He has attempted to integrate education with television in some projects, such as Picture Pages, where Cosby taught children how to draw in a series of shorts aired by PBS. Notably, he structured the 80's Cosby family to represent children at all ages, and the addition of daughter Sondra (Sabrina LaBeouf) as a Princeton-educated lawyer is meant to send the message that good parenting and education of children leads to success. The Cosby Show also addressed social issues, such as drugs, illiteracy, teen pregnancy, and gang violence.
Cosby is now a leading educational philanthropist.
He hosted the television program Kids Say the Darndest Things, which aired from 1996 through 2002.
He is married to Camille Hanks and they have four daughters. Their only son Ennis Cosby, aged 27, was murdered on January 16, 1997, while changing a flat tire in Los Angeles, California. On March 12, 1997, his assailant, Mikail Markhasev, was arrested in Los Angeles and charged with attempted robbery and murder. He was convicted on July 7, 1998 and is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Cosby, as of 2005 maintains a home in Shelburne, Massachusetts.
Cosby received Kennedy Center Honors in 1998 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.
In a British 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, he was voted amongst the top 50 comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.
Bill Cosby's sociopolitical views, especially about the African-American community, are quite complex and have often been reduced to a simplistic representation. He has a long history of philanthropic endeavors to encourage equality and advancement while other statements he made were taken by the U.S. public as being indictful of the Black Community.
During the 1970's, Cosby was on the "enemies list" of President Richard Nixon.
He was the first bigtime entertainer to cancel an appearance in Cincinnati after a boycott was called in response to the 2001 Cincinnati Riots. His support of the Black community's struggle encouraged other stars to follow & was pivotal to demonstrate it was a nationally recognized incident.
Cosby has been critical of Black communities regarding those who hold low standards and allowing fatherless single parent households, high crime rates, and high illiteracy rates. He encouraged ownership of those problems and a more proactive effort from within Black community to fix those problems. He expanded upon his remarks in San Jose, CA during an event to promote the Read-2-Lead Classic. The way his speeches were portrayed by popular media provoked a great deal of anger from black communities. U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) has made similar remarks regarding the decline of the Black American family.
The Ghettosburg Address In May 2004 as his address during the 50th Anniversary commemoration of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, Cosby made public remarks critical of those low-income Blacks whom he believed to be deprioritizing education in favor of sports and fashion. When his address was reported by the national media the headlines were very suggestive that Cosby placed the blame of socioeconomic disparity solely on the Black community.
- "Bill Cosby has more harsh words for black community" San Francisco Chronicle July 1, 2004
- "Bill Cosby Remarks Divide Black Community" Black America Web, May 31, 2004 (Associated Press)
There were other lead-in paragraphs that suggest a huge division:
- CHICAGO — Bill Cosby went off on another tirade against the black community Thursday, telling a room full of activists that black children are running around not knowing how to read or write and "going nowhere." Fox News, Friday, July 02, 2004 (Associated Press)
Cosby again came under sharp criticism, and again he was largely unapologetic for his stance. Cosby made similar remarks during a speech on July 1 at a Rainbow Coalition meeting commemorating the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. During that speech, he admonished struggling young men to "stop beating up your wife because you can't find a job" and stated that Blacks had forgotten the sacrifices of those in the Civil Rights Movement. The talk was interrupted several times by applause and received praise from leaders such as Jesse Jackson.
In the same speech he had scathing remarks for Christians and the police, as well as praise for the efforts of the Black Muslim and regular Muslims organization and its effectiveness, however, these statements were not reported in the articles in the mainstream media. Cosby later appeared on WBUR to talk about his Ghettosburg address and to commentate on his sayings and on the Black community as well (with the help of people who have experienced the 'ghetto life' and everyday critics).
Cosby and Jazz
Since his youth in 1950s Philadelphia Cosby has been a fan and supporter of jazz music. He hosted at his home the 1983 wedding of jazz innovator Miles Davis and actress Cicely Tyson, and on The Cosby Show he wrote the father of both Cliff Huxtable and his wife to be aged jazz musicians.
In 1997, Cosby was the target of allegations from Autumn Jackson, a young woman who claimed she was his daughter. In court, Cosby testified that he had sex once with Jackson's mother, when he was already married to his wife. Cosby further admitted he gave financial support to Jackson's mother. Cosby said he told Jackson he would be a father figure to her, but that he was not her father. Autumn Jackson was later convicted on extortion charges.
In January 2005 a woman alleged she was drugged and fondled by Cosby in May 2004. In a statement from Cosby's publicist, Cosby's attorney said, "the charges are categorically false and we have no further comment."
In February 2005 a second woman, California lawyer Tamara Green (maiden name Lucier), came forward alleging that in the 1970s she was drugged and groped by Cosby. Cosby's attorney has denied any merit to the allegations, stating "Mr. Cosby does not have any knowledge of a woman named Tamara Green or Tamara Lucia."
While prosecutors have declined to press charges against Cosby, the first accuser has filed a federal civil suit against the performer. Attorneys for the woman suing Bill Cosby for sexual assault claim that at least ten other women are prepared to testify about "prior similar sexual assaults and/or drugging incidents" perpetrated by the comedian.
- "Human beings are the only creatures that allow their children to come back home and be happy."
- "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."
- "Our children are angry. The profanity is out in the street. It's on the buses and in the subway. Our children are trying to tell us something, and we are not listening."
- "The very first law in advertising is to avoid the concrete promise and cultivate the delightfully vague."
- Bill Cosby is a Very Funny Fellow--Right! 1963
- I Started Out as a Child 1964
- Why is there air? 1965
- Wonderfulness 1966
- Revenge 1967
- Silver Throat: Bill Cosby Sings 1967
- To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With 1968
- 200 mph ~1968
- Bill Cosby Sings: Hooray for the Salvation Army Band 1968
- 8:15 12:15 1968
- The Best of Bill Cosby 1969
- It's True! It's True 1969
- Live Madison Square Garden Center 1970
- Sports 1970
- More of the Best of Bill Cosby 1970
- For Adults Only 1971
- Talk to Kids About Drugs 1971
- When I Was a Kid 1971
- Inside the Mind of Bill Cosby 1972
- Fat Albert 1973
- Bill 1973
- At Last Bill Cosby Really Sings 1974
- Bill Cosby is Not Himself These Days 1976
- Disco Bill 1977
- My Father Confused Me... What Must I Do? What Must I Do? 1977
- Bill's Best Friend 1978
- Himself (live performance) 1982
- Hard Headed Boys (EP) 1985
- Those of You With or Without Children, You'll Understand 1986
- Oh Baby 1991
- 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Bill Cosby 2001
- The Bill Cosby Collection 2004
Cosby is an avid cigar smoker, which he attributes to his comedy idol Groucho Marx.
Cosby also is an Omega Psi Phi brother.
Cosby was born premature, weighing only 4.5 lbs. The doctors who delivered him declared he had a "low chance of survival".
Like Bob Newhart, Cosby has the ability to be funny without having to resort to profanity.
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