To throw away or not throw away my used Bill Cosby ticket, that is the question.
As of this moment, it’s sitting in a leather valet where I throw my wallet and other sundry items that have ended up in my pocket after a long day. The ticket indeed falls into that category. I used it last Sunday to cover the show by the beleaguered comic at Turlock Community Theatre and then tossed it there after I had finished work much later that evening.
And now, well, I’m not sure what to do with the darn thing. Let me explain my predicament a little more. I tend to be a bit of a memory hoarder. I keep movie stubs and concert tickets to shows I’ve enjoyed. I save mementos from my job because I get to meet some famous people.
My full intention is one day when I’m old and retired to regale some young and uninterested people with all the exploits of my youth. I’ll make them take off their face computer and page through a dusty scrapbook of things I’ve done and folks I’ve met. I’m pretty sure they’ll hate it, and I am very excited about that prospect.
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What, and even if, I tell them about the Bill Cosby appearance has not been fully written yet. His final legacy, such that it is now, will be determined by time, public opinion and possibly the legal system.
If you had asked me what I would have done with my ticket six months ago, it would have been a different story. It would be in the scrapbook, possibly even next to my ticket from covering Desmond Tutu. Hey, I grew up watching and loving “The Cosby Show,” just like everybody else.
But that was before. While whispers of allegations of past sexual assault have swirled around him for more than a decade, the accusations reached critical mass last fall. To date, some 24 women have come forward with stories of being drugged and having unwanted sexual encounters with the man formerly known as “America’s dad.”
Still, I pause at throwing out the ticket, not for lack of import of all those allegations, but because of a journalist’s role as a witness to history. Much like some of the less-than-entertaining stories I’ve had some small part in covering over the years – from the Scott Peterson case to the Chandra Levy disappearance – they are a part of what I’ve done.
What I would say about the performance itself, taken completely outside the context of current events, would be another thing. At 77, Cosby seems like what he is – a grandfather filled with stories of the past and complaints about domestic life. His stories were generally amusing if altogether rambling. Many anecdotes center around how his wife, Camille – they celebrate their 51st anniversary this weekend – often views him with disinterest and/or disdain. Other tales began with his frequent refrain, “When I was a kid …”
When taken back into the context of current events, the show was surreal. The only nod to the controversy all evening was a taped announcement beforehand, telling patrons to remain calm if a disruption occurred. The theater clearly beefed up security, with four guards and two Turlock police cruisers out front. Press, and any possible protesters, were kept well away from the doors and sequestered on the sidewalk.
A grand total of one protester showed up, making me a big loser in the office pool to guess the number of picketers who would be at the event. I said three to six. But I didn’t do as badly as others, who said there would be more than a dozen. As protesters go, the one woman in Turlock was exceedingly polite and offered nothing more than a handmade sign saying simply, “I Believe The Women.”
Just the day before, around 100 protesters showed up to chant and picket before his shows in Denver. In other events, a stray heckler or two had even made it into the theater. None of that happened here.
Turlock Community Theatre Managing Director Kit Casey seemed relieved things went so smoothly. Before the show, he said, “We’re certainly happy that people seem to be happy coming in.”
Cosby’s act stayed firmly in family-friendly, though he did make a point to clarify that a drink he was pouring for himself that was meant to represent an alcoholic beverage was, in fact, just tea. One had to think the abundance of caution there was intentional.
Throughout the show, Cosby bantered, often playfully, with audience members. Toward the end of the show, a man in the back screamed out, “God bless you, Bill!” He thanked him, and the entire audience, saying, “Please, God bless you all, from my family to you.”
The sold-out show was dotted with conspicuously absent seats in pairs or small clumps. But for those in the 1,000-seat theater who did come, most ended the evening having laughed a lot. They thanked him when he finished with a standing ovation and then walked out into a darkness of an otherwise uneventful evening. Then it was over.
And now I have this ticket that I have no idea what to do with.