The secret life that drove America’s ‘favourite dad’ to jail

Comedian Bill Cosby. In 2018, Cosby was sentenced to 10 years in prison for drugging and raping women.

Photo credit: Photo I Pool

What you need to know:

  • Bill Cosby’s show debuted on September 20, 1984, and became an immediate television hit in the US.
  • Cosby was a somnophiliac, someone with an anomaly of being sexually aroused by an unconscious person.

The Cosby Show, which debuted on September 20, 1984, was an immediate hit, and was the number one television show in the US for five consecutive seasons, turning Cosby’s character, Dr Cliff Huxtable, into America's favourite dad.

Unknown to many, Cosby was a somnophiliac, someone with an anomaly of being sexually aroused by an unconscious person. He mixed an array of prescription drugs with alcohol and handed them to unsuspecting women to sedate them, without their consent. Xanax and Valium were two types of drugs he used. He would crush the pills and dissolve them in drinks.

Another drug he exploited was the infamous date-rape drug Rohypnol (Rufies), which can be added to drinks without changing the colour, flavour or odour. Quaaludes were, however, Cosby’s favourite sedation drugs. Quaaludes, known scientifically as methaqualone, were the party drugs of the 1970s and the early 1980s and were widely known as 'disco biscuits'. They were popular for causing partial paralysis and had previously been prescribed to pregnant women suffering from insomnia.

Cosby acquired the prescription for his Quaaludes from Dr Leroy Amar, a gynaecologist in Los Angeles. He then kept large portions through the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, even though they were banned in the US in 1984. Quaaludes are excessively potent when combined with alcohol and have amnesia effects, similar to being under mild anaesthesia.

Before the world met Cosby’s character Dr Huxtable, he had developed a deviant conniving relationship with modelling agencies across the US. He would approach them with the pretentious generosity of mentoring models. He staged a pretext of tutoring them into becoming actresses, and modelling agencies sent women his way.

In September 1984, just before The Cosby Show commenced, 24-year-old supermodel Beth Ferrier of JF images modelling agency agreed to meet Cosby in his backstage dressing room. She drove to Denver, Colorado, where he was performing and he handed her a cup of coffee.

Unbeknownst to Beth, the drink had been spiked with Quaaludes. Beth woke up in the back of her car the following day in disorientation, her bra was undone and her top was untucked, she had been drugged and raped by Cosby.

In February 2005, Beth telephoned Nicole Weisensee Egan, the biographer of Chasing Cosby: The Downfall of America’s Dad, to divulge information on how Cosby had drugged and raped her. Nicole was working for the Philadelphia Daily News and, later, People magazine, and was the first journalist to initiate an independent investigative report on Cosby’s first public accuser, Andrea Constand.

The cover of biography Chasing Cosby: The Downfall of America’s Dad.

Photo credit: Photo I Pool

In 2000, Toronto Canada native and former University of Arizona basketball star Andrea Constand met Cosby on campus. She was a massage therapy student in Temple University, Philadelphia, where Cosby had previously studied.
Cosby, then 67, invited Andrea to his Philadelphia mansion, to purportedly give her career advice.

Once inside, Cosby offered her three blue pills, which he lied were herbal medication that would help her relax. Shortly after, Andrea’s knees began to shake, and she began to feel dizzy and weak, Cosby had secretly given her Xanax. He feigned concern, led her to a sofa and laid her semiconscious body down, before undressing and raping her.

After that night, Andrea struggled emotionally and began having nightmares and flashbacks. During the day, she had problems with her attention span and enrolled in a therapy programme to help her cope with the distress. When her mental condition worsened, she became the first Cosby victim to file criminal proceedings against him.

Andrea's criminal charges were dismissed by Philadelphia's District Attorney Bruce Castor. Castor unethically terminated the charges because his father had judicially represented a philanthropist who had sold his Philadelphia mansion to Cosby – the same mansion in which Cosby had raped Andrea.

Andrea then filed a civil lawsuit. Cosby was summoned for a deposition and he openly confessed that he had drugged and raped his victims. Fifteen victims testified, including Joan Tarshis, a comedy writer Cosby drugged and raped on two occasions on the set of The Cosby Show.

Former Playboy bunny-mother PJ Masten also disclosed that Cosby drugged and raped her in his suite at his Los Angeles bungalow. Tamara Green, a 57-year-old semi-retired trial lawyer, stated how she was drugged by Cosby in 1970, shortly after he won his third consecutive Emmy award for his role in the series, I Spy.

In 2015, Becky Cooper, a massage therapist who was raped by Cosby in 1982 in Room 3000 of his Las Vegas Hilton suite, teamed up with Beth Ferrier and women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred to file a motion to publicise the contents of the entire deposition conducted during Andrea Constand's 2005 civil lawsuit.

This gave over 60 unrelated women, with variations of the same story, the fortitude to publicly divulge how Cosby had raped them, including Jewel Allison, who had previously appeared on The Cosby Show.

In 2018, Cosby was sentenced to 10 years in prison for drugging and raping women. He was, however, wrongly exonerated in May 2021, after his lawyers exploited a loophole in the legal system that resulted from Philadelphia District Attorney Bruce Castor's initial dismissal of Cosby’s first rape case.

The reviewer is a novelist, a Big Brother Africa 2 Kenyan representative and founder of Jeff's Fitness Centre (@jeffbigbrother)