celebrities, nostalgia, TV

Wandering into a Solid Gold time capsule…

When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, music shows were all the rage. I watched a lot of them, mainly because my sisters did, but the show that I liked best was Solid Gold. This musical variety show had a bona-fide star as its host– Dionne Warwick, Marilyn McCoo, Andy Gibb, Grant Goodeve, or Rex Smith– and a weekly countdown. There would be an array of musical guests, many of whom would lip sync to their hits, and a duet starring the host and a musical guest, which was performed live. They had “man on the street” segments, which would show off the singing or lip syncing talents, or lack thereof, of everyday people on the street. And, at least in the early years, there would be comedy. All of it was accompanied by hyper-sexual dancing by the Solid Gold Dancers, led by the highly exotic and erotic Darcel Leonard Wynne.

How do I remember all of this? Well, I was a fairly regular viewer back in the day. But I also remember it because I binge watched a bunch of episodes yesterday. Someone uploaded several of the earliest episodes of Solid Gold, and in a few cases, even left the ads in circa 1980 and 1981. I found myself falling down the nostalgia time shaft as I watched these videos, remember when I was still a child in the early 80s. I never stopped listening to a lot of the music from that era, so that was less of a shock than the ads were.

I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with the past. Maybe it’s because I wish I could do it over. There are other choices I would have made if I had known what would lie ahead for me. But I think I also like looking at the past because I genuinely enjoyed the music of that time period… and the fact that you could have a variety show that featured acts as diverse as Pure Prairie League (featuring Vince Gill), Glen Campbell, and The Rolling Stones! In fact, radio wasn’t unlike that back in the day. You could tune in to your favorite pop station and hear something by a band like Exile, which had sort of a country flair, and then hear Earth, Wind, & Fire or Led Zeppelin.

Since I have wildly diverse musical tastes, that kind of random characteristic of early media appealed to me very much. I miss it now, especially since independent TV and radio stations are now pretty rare. The person who uploaded the Solid Gold episodes lived in the Rochester, New York area, so the ads and PSAs were relevant to that area. But they also ran some pretty awesome early ads for jeans and person hygiene products. I felt both really old watching them, and young, as I remember how young I was in 1980 and 1981. There were poignant moments, too. Like, for instance, this song performed by the late Harry Chapin in a March 1981 episode…

As Harry Chapin introduces this song, he tells everyone that as a 38 year old, he’d already lived a quarter of his life. As it turned out, he was actually nearing the end of his life. He died on July 16, 1981. He speaks about others who died, too. I wonder what Harry would think of the world today.
And this was Harry’s last ever television appearance, which was on Solid Gold. It was taped just two weeks before his death.

I remember watching Stevie Nicks, as she performed live on Solid Gold. She was one of the few guests who performed live, rather than lip syncing and dancing to a recorded version. I seem to recall that she appeared to be a bit coked up for that performance, but who knows?

I always loved this song.

I am so glad someone uploaded those early Solid Gold shows. I had never seen them before yesterday, and they were truly entertaining in a campy kind of way. I forgot how different the early 80s were. We were a lot more innocent and fun back then. Not everything was about political correctness. And you really had no idea what you might see. The episode below had everyone from Rocky Burnette to Bill Cosby, as well as a truly hilarious performance by Cornell Gunter and The Coasters, and a strange dress worn by Stephanie Mills. The 80s were bizarre.

Bill Cosby before he was a jailbird is on this episode.

I think the reason I started watching yesterday, though, was because of the dancers. They popped into my head, even though I can’t dance at all. It was quite a shock to see that three of the former dancers were on a show called Live to Dance back in 2011. They were still pretty hot, despite their somewhat advanced ages.

Dayum! I am especially impressed by Darcel! She was about 60 when she did this.
Speaking of the Solid Gold Dancers… Pam Rossi now has her own dance studio.

It really doesn’t seem like the 80s were that long ago, especially looking at the outfits the dancers wore. To put it in perspective, though, most of what I watched yesterday was from 1981– forty years ago. In 1981, forty years ago would have meant 1941. That was when World War II was in full swing. And come to think of it, I’m sure people in those days thought the world was going to end, too. Somehow, we got through the war and everything that came after it. So I guess we’ll get through these weird times, too. Or, a lot of us will, anyway. I remember when AIDS the scariest thing. Now, it’s COVID-19, and global warming.

Anyway… it was a lot of fun to take a trip on the 1980s time warp. I feel old as hell now. Sometimes, I would like to go back to that era. Then I realize that there were many things back then that I don’t miss. I can always listen to music from the past without revisiting the many traumas of growing up. And watching Solid Gold is definitely a super fun and funny way to revisit the past. It also gives me a convenient topic to write about, other than the other “crap” in the world. God knows, I don’t feel like attracting more hate mail.

On another note, how lovely was Harry Chapin’s last performance! I wish I could have gone to one of his shows. What a wonderful, generous, and heartfelt song… and it was delivered by a man who truly loved and was loved by others. I’m so glad I got to watch it, even as it saddens me that he’s been gone for forty years. If you want to pick any of the videos in this post to watch, that’s the one I think you should watch. Harry Chapin was one in a million, and that last performance really warmed my heart.

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complaints, politics, rants, stupid people, tragedies, work

You should worry about yourself…

Apologies in advance for this disjointed rant. I have a lot on my mind, and it’s coming out in heaves today. I hate to say it, but I’m beginning to think that a lot of people who identify with conservative values are actual morons without consciences or souls. It’s probably because, as usual, I’ve spent too much time looking at the news.

A few days ago, I noticed that my former college professor answered a question on Facebook about whether or not she would accept a ticket to see Bill Cosby perform. She answered “no”. Just as I was about to click off the page, I noticed that my cousin responded. This cousin shares a Facebook account with his wife, so I’m not sure which person actually wrote the comment. Friends, I was a bit sickened by it. He or she wrote that Bill Cosby is “past his prime”, but was good in concert back in the day. And Cosby had engaged in some “negativity” some time back, but is otherwise a good entertainer.

I was pretty flabbergasted. So I commented, “You’re referring to dozens of cases of drugging and raping women as ‘negativity’?” I didn’t add this, but I should have also written, “And Cosby ADMITTED to doing this, too. He’s out of prison on a ‘technicality’.”

I can hardly believe I’m related to this guy. Well… actually, I guess I can believe it. I remember overhearing him tell a nasty story to another cousin when I was six years old. He and the other cousin, also male, were several years older than I was. Still, they made it seem like a funny story, so I repeated it to two younger cousins and got in trouble with my aunt, who gave me a tongue lashing I haven’t forgotten. Later, she apologized to me, explaining that her kids were very young and “didn’t know what to do with that”. Um… neither did I! I was six years old! And I had overheard a story being told by my cousin, who apparently thinks Bill Cosby’s habit of drugging and raping women is plain “negativity”! And he’s also a proud Trump supporter, who blithely ignores Trump’s disgusting record of treating other people like shit and, like Cosby, abusing women for his own vile gratification.

This morning, I read an article in The Atlantic from March 2021 about how a lot of relationships haven’t survived the Trump era. I’m sad to say, it’s true in my case, too. There are family members I used to love seeing with whom I no longer have contact. It’s not necessarily my doing, either. A lot of them have cut off contact with me because I think Donald Trump is a poisonous man. Somehow, they fail to see that Trump is a liar, thief, and a cheat, while they bitch and moan about people “abusing” unemployment insurance and welfare benefits. I’ve got news for them. Trump doesn’t pay his fair share. He hires cronies to screw over honest businesspeople while he harasses and molests women. Read Micheal Cohen’s book, Disloyal. Cohen, Trump’s former attorney who spent time in prison due to his business with the former POTUS, writes about how he would strong arm and screw over businesspeople on Trump’s behalf.

Meanwhile, your garden variety Republican is under the delusion that people who are getting unemployment insurance and welfare benefits just stay on those programs forever. Newsflash– they DON’T. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF– also known as “welfare”) is just that– TEMPORARY. And that has been the law since 1997! Granted, state leaders are allowed latitude in how they run TANF, but the program was designed to strongly encourage recipients to look for work or engage in training to prepare them for work. Recipients have to show proof that they are job hunting or getting training in order to receive temporary benefits. And that money is generally not enough to live on for long.

I ran across the above post this morning because another friend had answered the question. My friend answered “no”, he doesn’t know anyone who hasn’t taken a job due to unemployment insurance. He lives in Virginia, where payments are notoriously low. Just under his response was a rant from some guy who said he “knows people” who aren’t working because it will interfere with their housing allowance or “food stamps” (SNAP) eligibility. And then he wrote that there should be “time limits” on aid. I had to respond. As I pointed out, “welfare” does have time limits imposed– it was five years or 60 months (federal guidelines) or less (depending on the state), last time I checked. But so does unemployment insurance. When Bill retired from the Army in 2014, he got unemployment for a month. The money he got was based on what he’d paid into the system, and he had to show that he was applying for jobs. When he got a job offer, he had to return a payment he received, which wasn’t really much money.

I’ve read a lot of comments from conservatives who have bought into the “welfare queen” myth, thanks to a 1970s era story perpetuated by former President Ronald Reagan and like minded folks. They spread a tale about people who took advantage of social safety nets, which caused some people to believe in a stereotype about poor people being lazy and bilking the system. It seems to me that the whole “welfare queen” story was news because it’s not that common. Are there people who game the system? Yes, of course. I ran into a couple of them during my brief time as a social worker. But I doubt most people enjoy using benefits like SNAP cards, especially when busybodies are judging them for what’s in their grocery store buggy and watching how they pay for such items. Also, SNAP cards can’t be used for just anything at the store. Seems to me, most people would rather have the cash to buy things they want and need. Yes, some people are truly lazy, but I don’t think it’s as common as some people claim. Moreover, it’s actually expensive to be poor.

I get wanting to see people working and paying their own way. I understand that it’s distressing to be going to work every day when someone appears to be living off of the system. But what I want to ask these folks is, why is it any of your business? Do you know these so-called welfare cheats and unemployment abusers personally? Are you aware of their story? Do you have knowledge of their characters, or have any idea about their family situations? My guess is that you don’t– because why would you be “friends” with someone you think is a lazy cheat? If you were friends with them, maybe you’d understand more about why it appears that they’re “getting over”. Maybe you’d realize that, in fact, most of them aren’t getting over. Anyone who has ever worked has paid into “the system”, which exists so that people have somewhere to turn when they fall on hard times. The assistance we offer in the United States isn’t really that much, either.

Let me ask you this. If you had a family and were receiving benefits, would you really want to take a job at McDonald’s just so you could be earning your own money? Stop and think about it for a minute. Yes, you’re making your own money, which might be paid to you in debit cards that you have to pay a fee to access. But let’s say the money you make is less than what you’d get from welfare. How long can you afford to work for minimum wage? And why the fuck would you? In that situation, doesn’t it make more sense to get trained for work that pays better, or to search for a job with a higher hourly rate? What if you have children? What do you do with the children when you’re working at McDonald’s, which many people think should strictly be a minimum wage job? Do you pay a babysitter to watch the kids while you work at McDonald’s? How can a person get ahead that way?

I’ve often heard people complaining about folks who drive “nice” cars or have “expensive” cell phones, but turn up at food banks. The people want to know why the nice car driver or cell phone user doesn’t sell their “luxury items” so he or she can buy food. What if the car or the phone was paid for during better times? Why would someone sell their means of transportation or communication, if it’s been paid for? Isn’t it easier to find work if one has transportation or access to WiFi? Especially if the car also serves as shelter? Now, I get that owning a car or a cell phone requires money, and if someone is between jobs for a really long time, selling the car or the phone might make sense. But you probably don’t know that person’s story. Their need for food at a food bank may be very temporary. Why does it matter to you, anyway? You don’t know that person’s story, or the obstacles he or she is facing. You should know your own story, though, and you should worry about yourself.

And finally… yesterday, I read a couple of disturbing news stories about how Republicans are turning COVID “vaccine hesitancy” into outright hostility. Of all of the bullshit I’ve read about conservative “thinking”, I think this has got to be the most ridiculous, tragic, and demented. Why in the holy fuck are COVID vaccines being politicized? My God– this virus has killed millions of people WORLDWIDE! It’s not a fucking political issue! It’s a public health issue! And in areas where people are being vaccinated, the rates of COVID infections are decreasing. The fact that so many Republicans are spewing this bullshit about how vaccines are part of a socialist agenda is just unconscionable. It just isn’t true! But, according to The Washington Post, some Republicans are spewing lots of grade A tough guy bullshit. From the article I linked:

The notion that the vaccine drive is pointless or harmful — or perhaps even a government plot — is increasingly an article of faith among supporters of former president Donald Trump, on a par with assertions that the last election was stolen and the assault on the U.S. Capitol was overblown.

Appearing at CPAC, lawmakers like Reps. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) took aim at Biden’s push for “door-to-door” vaccine outreach, framing efforts to boost inoculations as a creeping menace from big government.

“We’re here to tell government, we don’t want your benefits, we don’t want your welfare, don’t come knocking on my door with your Fauci ouchie,” Boebert said, referring to Biden’s top medical adviser, Anthony S. Fauci, her voice rising as she paced the stage and shook her finger. “You leave us the hell alone!”

However, I do take comfort in seeing that Mitt Romney, a man I dreaded seeing run for president, has said that we need to stop politicizing the COVID vaccines. It’s nice to know that not all Republicans are like Marjorie Taylor Green and Lauren Boebart. From The New York Times:

“We don’t control conservative media figures so far as I know — at least I don’t,” Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, said in an interview on Wednesday. “That being said, I think it’s an enormous error for anyone to suggest that we shouldn’t be taking vaccines. Look, the politicization of vaccination is an outrage and frankly moronic.

Yes, it’s moronic! I completely agree, Mitt. Things will not get back to any semblance of “normal” until we get COVID-19 better under control. This is why so many people were out of work in the first fucking place! This is why we’re having a problem with inflation, as supply and demand for certain products was interrupted because people couldn’t work. Why? Because of the deadly virus! However, during our unique COVID-19 crisis, people had the time to stop and think about how completely insane the American system is. Now, some of them are demanding some changes. I say, good on them! We should be demanding work that pays enough for people support themselves. We should be demanding access to benefits that makes living healthier and happier for everyone. People should NOT be going into onerous debt because they went to college or had the misfortune of getting sick or hurt. We shouldn’t have multi-billionaires paying workers minimum wage for demeaning work while they make plans to blast off into space as tourists. It’s sheer lunacy, and yes, it’s MORONIC!

I love Amazon… but you gotta admit, the working conditions are insane and, frankly, cruel. Why do we accept this?

Through it all, many Republicans decry abortion. They say that people who have abortions have no regard for the “sanctity of life”. But they don’t want to do anything to help people who have unintended pregnancies. They don’t want employers to have to provide birth control access in health insurance policies. Their answer is to tell people not to have sex, which we all know is a policy that doesn’t work for most (it DID work for me, but my situation isn’t the norm). Tell me… why would you want to bring an innocent baby into a world where he or she can look forward to low pay, high cost of living, onerous debts, shitty employers who treat their workers like robots, deadly viruses that people don’t want to work together to arrest, and old white men in charge who literally don’t give a damn about anything but money and “pussy”? I tell you what. I don’t think the world looks so great right now. We’ve got natural disasters out the wazoo, worldwide– here in Germany, over 50 people have lost their lives because of flooding attributed to global warming, something else conservatives don’t want to talk about or fix.

So yes… I think you should worry about yourselves. Conservatives have made it plain that in today’s world, it’s every person for themselves. They don’t care about you and yours. They sure don’t seem to want to lend a hand toward making the world better for everyone. And, as much as I always wanted to have children of my own, I’m grateful that my particular line of ancestry is going to die with me. It seems to me that many conservatives are interested in money and power, and they haven’t realized that we’re all connected. What good does money do you if there’s nothing to buy because people aren’t working? What good does money do if you can’t find someone to help you clean up after a flood because so many people have died of COVID-19 and the workers who exist are already engaged?

We need to worry about ourselves and have more forbearance toward others– but we also need to realize that we’re all in this together and we could all stand a bit more humanity. So instead of judging the person you think is “getting over”, why not pay attention to your own situation and do your part to make things better? And whatever you do, don’t make excuses for creepy predators and cheats like Bill Cosby and Donald Trump. It makes you look like an asshole.

August is wise beyond her years.

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celebrities, musings, narcissists, social media

Phylicia Rashad’s head on a platter…

Phylicia Rashad is in the news for supporting Bill Cosby on Twitter. When he was suddenly released from prison a few days ago, she tweeted “FINALLY!!!! A terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!”

That tweet led to a lot of backlash. Rashad, who was appointed the dean of Howard University’s College of Fine Arts in May 2021, is now being pressured to resign from her job. Her response, so far, was to delete the offending tweet, then issue this apology “This week, I tweeted a statement that caused so much hurt in so many people — both broadly and inside the Howard community… I offer my most sincere apology.” As far as I know, she’s still got a job at Howard University. Regarding Rashad’s comments, Howard University has stated that “Personal positions of University leadership do not reflect Howard University’s policies.”

We’ll see what comes of this.

Many people, obviously upset that Phylicia Rashad would dare to publicly support her old friend, Bill Cosby, feel like her support of Cosby should equate to losing her job. It’s as if all of the great things Phylicia Rashad has done over her long career as an entertainer should be erased, simply because of a tweet supporting the man who was her co-star on a groundbreaking 80s era sitcom, as well as a 90s era show. This is obviously a complicated issue for Rashad, although I am surprised that she didn’t realize people would be up in arms over any public support for Bill Cosby.

Phylicia Rashad six years ago. She supported him then, too. Are we really surprised that she still supports him today?

Phylicia Rashad shared the experience of making The Cosby Show and, later, Cosby, with Bill Cosby. They’re obviously still dear friends. I don’t like the idea of punishing people who exercise their right to speak freely. Phylicia Rashad, to my knowledge, hasn’t sexually assaulted anyone. Moreover, she’s known Bill Cosby for many years. They have a long history together and she’s always supported him, no matter what. I don’t know what’s in Ms. Rashad’s head… and I think her first tweet was very ill advised and considered. I don’t know how a person can be a celebrity in this day and age and not realize that publicly supporting a sex offender is going to lead to being canceled by the public. Still, while I would have expected her to be savvier about voicing unpopular public opinions and backlash, I think her comments about Cosby are disappointing, but not particularly surprising.

On the other hand, Phylicia Rashad is human, and sometimes humans get carried away and do things that are ill-considered. In terms of her career, Rashad shouldn’t have tweeted. But as a friend to Cosby, obviously she felt moved to do so. Whether or not she should be friends with a convicted sex offender should be up to her. As much as some people think Bill Cosby should lose everything, the reality is, he won’t. There will always be people who will support him– family members and friends– and they aren’t going to be swayed by what the Internet thinks. There are few people in the world who are truly alone, especially people like Bill Cosby.

Phylicia’s sister, Debbie Allen, talks about Bill Cosby’s attitude toward pregnant Lisa Bonet.

I kind of get the confusion, though. At one time, Bill Cosby could do no wrong. People my age grew up on his brand of family friendly television. I watched Bill Cosby on TV every week when I was growing up, having been introduced to him on 70s era shows like Fat Albert and his classic comedy film, Bill Cosby: Himself. But it wasn’t just his work on television sitcoms that made him so powerful and influential. Cosby had books, films, albums, and commercials. He had dozens of honorary doctorates and other awards. He made speeches and championed causes. He sermonized about being an involved father. He was called “America’s Dad”, and that persona transcended race. People of all colors and creeds looked up to him as “America’s Dad”. That’s probably why it took so long for him to fall out of favor with the public. Maybe if he hadn’t been “America’s Dad”, he would have been prosecuted when he was much younger and would have done a lot less harm. We probably shouldn’t be so quick to make the charismatic among us into heroes because almost all of us have clay feet.

In those heady days of the 1980s, Cosby seemed charming, intelligent, and funny. I noticed that he incorporated a lot of the routines from his film into plots on The Cosby Show; but they were still humorous, especially when performed by talented actors. The Cosby Show was very well written, family oriented, and high quality entertainment. Phylicia Rashad was a huge part of the reason why that show was so relevant in my youth– from the time I was 12 until I was 20. The Cosby Show opened doors and broke down barriers. It’s heartbreaking to realize that the character, Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, is not the same man as Bill Cosby is, even though Cosby’s real life comedy routines inspired the show. So many of us who grew up with him on TV have had a hard time separating Cosby from his kind and wise alter ego, Heathcliff Huxtable. Of course, now that we know more about Cosby as a man, it makes sense that Cliff Huxtable was an OB/GYN.

Eddie Murphy got chastised by Bill Cosby for being too foul mouthed…

I never saw a single episode of Cosby’s next show with Rashad, entitled Cosby, as it aired at a time in my life when I was too busy for network TV. From 1996-2000, I was in the Peace Corps, working nights, or in graduate school. But Cosby lasted four years, and The Cosby Show was on for eight years, so that means Rashad worked with Cosby for twelve years. Incidentally, Bill Cosby also had another 90s era show called The Cosby Mysteries, and a 60s and 70s era show called The Bill Cosby Show… I think the fact that he’s had four series named after him is pretty telling about the massive size of his ego. And while he put a lot of Black actors on the map by giving them jobs, he also destroyed a lot of people– particularly the scores of women who were his victims. Meanwhile, he was hypocritically berating and chastising people like Eddie Murphy for using the f word, or Black people as a whole.

Bill Cosby talking about people crying when their sons are in orange suits… Wow.

I do believe the many women who have accused Bill Cosby of drugging and raping them. Yes, Cosby got out of prison, but that does not make him innocent of the crimes that put him there. He got out of prison on a technicality. He’s even admitted to drugging women he was pursuing for sex. That is criminal behavior, and it was right for him to be punished. I agree that Cosby didn’t spend enough time behind bars, even though I doubt he will re-offend, given his age and fall from grace. I wish that he had been prosecuted years ago, much like I wish Donald Trump could be held accountable for his disgusting sexual attacks on women. I don’t know what it is about men who are destined to be powerful. So many of them turn out to be incredibly predatory when it comes to sex, money, and political power. And that hunger for sex, money, and power is often married to a charismatic exterior that fools many people. For years, I thought Cosby was one of the good guys. I can see that a lot of people still believe Trump is a good guy, despite so much evidence and actual proof to the contrary.

The first account I read about Cosby’s sexual dalliances was Janice Dickinson’s. I read her book and was surprised when she wrote that Cosby had raped her. I mentioned it on Facebook, and several of my friends discounted her comments, mainly because of her “bitchy” persona. Several years later, all of these other women came forward with their claims. I gained new respect for Janice when I read her book.

That being said, personally, I don’t like the “cancel” aspect of our culture, which has come about thanks to social media. In fact, I think it’s chilling that a person can make a statement on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube that leads to Internet mobbing and financial ruin, particularly when the vast majority of people don’t have a personal stake in whatever has them in a tizzy. Phylicia Rashad actually knows Bill Cosby as a person, not as someone she’s seen on TV. Most of the people who are maligning Rashad’s character don’t know her or Cosby, nor are they even among his victims. Unless, of course, they feel victimized because they fell for Cosby’s charm in the 1970s and 80s. I wonder how many people have sent Phylicia Rashad death threats over her tweet. I would not be surprised if she’s gotten a few threats… and perhaps her family members have gotten them as well. For some reason, many people think it’s okay to get so angry over what someone dares to communicate that they literally call for the offender’s head on a platter. I think that’s taking things a bit too far.

Today is July 4th. It’s a day when Americans celebrate liberty from British rule. I grew up very close to where the Revolutionary War was won, so all my life, I’ve heard about how special and wonderful the United States is, particularly because we have so much freedom. But clearly we don’t have that much freedom. While a person can say whatever they want to say and, generally speaking, don’t have to worry about the government jailing them, there’s a very good chance that if it’s not what people want to hear, and they are “big” enough, they will experience cancel culture. And so many people get riled up over these things. They think a person should suffer for the rest of their lives over their thoughts, deeds, and comments. No matter what, there’s always going to be someone who thinks that lives should be ruined, or even ended, over a tweet. Then, after the next news story breaks, they forget all about that person they felt should have their head on a platter. Meanwhile, that person is still living with the aftereffects of being canceled.

I honestly don’t know if Phylicia Rashad is qualified to be a dean at Howard University. It seems to me that she might have been hired because of her fame, accomplishments, connections, and ability to influence donors. She doesn’t appear to have the usual educational background that university deans typically have. It may turn out that by publicly supporting a sex offender, she’s permanently disgraced herself and Howard University. It could be that because of the tweet, she won’t be able to do her job. If that’s the situation, then yes, maybe she should be fired or resign. But I don’t think she should be fired simply for an ill advised tweet. She has personal feelings about Bill Cosby based on actual in person experiences with him that the vast majority of other people don’t have. Her personal feelings about Cosby are not so cut and dried.

Look at Governor Ralph Northam. In the 1980s, he posed in blackface for a medical school yearbook photo. When that photo was unearthed a couple of years ago, many people called for his resignation. He resisted, and has gone on to do marvelous things in Virginia. Or, at least I think he’s done marvelous things to make Virginia more liberal, which suits me fine. I know a lot of my Republican friends can’t stand him. The point is, I’m glad he didn’t resign over social media backlash and cancel culture. And I don’t think Phylicia Rashad should be forced to resign, unless it becomes clear that she can’t do her job. Ultimately, that will be for Howard University to decide, not the general public. It should be up to the students Rashad serves and her co-workers and bosses, not random people on Facebook. No matter what, people should not be sending her hate mail or death threats. People who send hate mail and death threats must think that would be alright for others to do to them, if at some point, they do something that society deems unacceptable.

Anyway… experience has taught me that these things can and do blow over eventually. Five years ago, Josh Duggar was outed for being a sex pest. One would think the Duggars would have been finished in 2015 over that revelation. But no, it’s taken six years and accusations that Josh Duggar was viewing child pornography to finally get the Duggar family canceled. Like it or not, some people will still like Bill Cosby. They’ll ignore what he’s done. I figure, Phylicia Rashad has as much right as anyone to support her friend, Bill Cosby, even though it may turn out that her public support of Cosby will make it impossible for her to do her job as a university dean. But not being able to do her job should be why she gets fired… not what she tweets on social media. At this point, it’s not yet clear if she’s now incapable of doing her job. I, for one, think Rashad should have the chance to redeem herself.

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celebrities, law, true crime

Bill Cosby has been sprung from the joint…

Last night, I was startled by a headline about the man who was once called “America’s Dad”. Bill Cosby, who has spent the best part of the last three years in a Pennsylvania prison for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004, was released from the joint on a technicality. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned Cosby’s 2018 conviction for sexual assault, for which Cosby was sentenced to 3 to 10 years in a maximum security prison. As of September, Cosby would have served the minimum time of three years.

He’s out of the jug.

Cosby was released because of a “non-prosecution agreement” he had with a previous prosecutor who had decided not to prosecute Cosby for sexual assault. The agreement meant that Cosby should not have been charged. Although more than sixty women have come forward to allege that Cosby had also victimized them, the statute of limitations has passed, making any future prosecution unlikely. According to The New York Times:

In their 79-page opinion, the judges wrote that a previous prosecutor’s statement that Mr. Cosby would not face charges, which paved the way for Mr. Cosby to testify in a civil trial, meant that he should not have been charged in the case. It was a 6-to-1 ruling, with two of the judges in the majority dissenting on the remedy, which barred a retrial.

In 2005, Cosby was investigated following allegations from Andrea Constand that he had given her drugs and sexually assaulted her. Former Montgomery County district attorney, Bruce L. Castor, had stated in a press release, at the time, that he had found “insufficient evidence” to criminally prosecute Cosby. Ms. Constand then brought a civil suit against Cosby, which they settled in 2006. Cosby eventually paid Constand $3.38 million. In the course of that civil suit, Cosby made incriminating statements against himself, based on assurances by Castor that he would not be held criminally liable.

In December 2015, Bruce L. Castor’s successors reopened the criminal case against Cosby, just days before the 12 year statute of limitations would have expired. Over 60 women had come forward to accuse Cosby of sexually assaulting them– the case was gathering steam just as the #MeToo movement was heating up, which no doubt increased pressure for Cosby to be convicted.

Cosby had admitted during the 2006 civil suit that he had given “quaaludes to women he was pursuing for sex”. That evidence was used in the criminal case against him in 2015, but because he’d had that agreement with Castor, he never should have been charged. Consequently, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that “…in light of these circumstances, the subsequent decision by successor D. A.s to prosecute Cosby violated Cosby’s due process rights.” 

Although I know a lot of people are disappointed that Cosby was released, personally, I don’t have much of a problem with it. Cosby is almost 84 years old, essentially blind, and extremely unlikely to repeat his crime. I doubt any women will be visiting him in an attempt to bolster their careers. I also doubt any women with sense would accept drinks or pills from Mr. Cosby. Any women that would do that should have their heads examined.

Cosby definitely should have been prosecuted years ago, but he wasn’t. And it does sound like his rights to due process were violated. Since I would hope for fairness and due process if I, or someone I love, was ever accused of a crime, I expect proper due process for other people. That includes people who are clearly guilty, which I believe wholeheartedly that Cosby is.

We should all remember that the fact that Cosby was released from prison on a technicality doesn’t make him any less culpable in his crimes against women. His reputation and career are now pretty much ruined. Hopefully, he’ll go home and live out his remaining years quietly with his faithful wife, Camille. Unfortunately, I don’t think Cosby will keep quiet. He’s always fancied himself someone with something to say, and I suspect being released from prison will embolden him. In fact, after being released, Cosby “called in to local Philadelphia radio station WDAS-FM, where he said the audience needed ‘clarity, they need guidance.'”

“Because this is not just a Black thing,” Cosby said. “This is for all the people who have been imprisoned wrongfully regardless of race, color, or creed. Because I met them in there. People who talked about what happened and what they did. And I know there are many liars out there.”

Camille Cosby, made some shameful comparisons of Cosby’s case to that of Emmett Till’s. Emmett Till was a black fourteen year old boy who was lynched in 1955 after being accused of “leering” at a white woman. Mrs. Cosby also blamed the media for “demonizing” Bill Cosby– although Cosby had no issues using the media to promote his long and successful career. It just doesn’t wash… but at least now that Cosby’s been released, some of the accusations of racism regarding his case might be put to rest.

As for Bruce L. Castor, he’s gone on to bigger things. This year, he served as a lawyer for Trump during his second impeachment trial. Castor says that he feels “exonerated” by the ruling allowing Cosby his freedom. According to The New York Times, Castor said:

“I was right back in 2005 and I’m right in 2021… I’m proud of our Supreme Court for having the courage to make an unpopular decision.”

Except Cosby actually admitted to drugging women he was pursuing for sex. Castor didn’t find sufficient evidence in 2005 to prosecute “America’s Dad”, but clearly Cosby was guilty. I don’t quite understand why Castor would congratulate himself for not finding evidence against Cosby in 2005, when it’s quite clear that Cosby had a long standing habit of sexually assaulting women and getting away with it.

I do think it’s good that Cosby went to prison. I’m sure that experience was very humiliating and educational for him, although upon his release from the joint, Cosby is claiming that a lot of people who have been imprisoned are innocent and have been victimized by “liars”. That may be true. There may be people in prison who don’t belong there. However, I don’t believe Cosby is among the innocent people who were falsely imprisoned. He openly admitted to drugging women he was pursuing for sex. Cosby’s release is strictly because court officials screwed up– not because someone “lied”.

I think Andrea Constand should be commended for bravely coming forward and doing her part to stop Cosby from hurting other women. If Cosby were younger and still posed a serious threat to women, I might be much more outraged that he’s been released from prison. But I honestly don’t think he will continue his habit of drugging and raping women. As a general rule, I think prison should be for people who are violent and pose a threat to others. That’s just my personal opinion.

I know a lot of people think Cosby should continue to rot in prison to serve as an “example” to others. But in my experience, people who are narcissistic criminals aren’t influenced by what happens to others. They think they’re above it, and they don’t ever expect to get caught. Cosby got away with his crimes for years. Why shouldn’t he have believed that he’d continue to get away with what he was doing? He didn’t learn from watching O.J. Simpson go to prison, did he? I notice we *finally* don’t hear much from O.J. anymore.

And look at Trump. Trump openly admitted to assaulting women and countless women have accused him of assaulting them, including a teenaged girl. Yet he was the president, and many people still want him to lead the country, despite his dismal record and obviously terrible leadership. Unfortunately, Americans are often hesitant to punish powerful, charismatic men. The proof of that is in the Jello Pudding Pop…

Anyway… while I empathize with everyone who is disappointed that Cosby is out of prison now, I don’t see how being outraged about this will make things better. What’s done is done. Cosby can’t be prosecuted again for this crime. That’s a feature of our legal system. So my being outraged about Cosby’s release will do nothing more than raise my blood pressure. Given the state of the world today, and the rising numbers of people getting sick with new variants of COVID-19, I figure I have bigger fish to fry. So since I can’t do anything about this, I wish Mr. Cosby luck, and I hope he stays out of trouble. He would do well to STFU and be grateful, too… maybe show some humility. I don’t think he will, though. His kind never does.

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book reviews

A review of Lenny Kravitz’s Let Love Rule…

The official video for Lenny Kravitz’s hit song and the title of his book.

As a child of the 70s and 80s, I was a big fan of The Cosby Show, before we all found out what a molesting creep Bill Cosby is. Lenny’s first wife, Lisa Bonet, starred as Denise Huxtable on that show, as well as A Different World. But I didn’t know until much later that Lenny’s mom was also someone I admired, Roxie Roker, who played Helen Willis on The Jeffersons, another show from my childhood that I loved. With all of these relics from my youth in his life, it was only natural that I’d want to read Kravtiz’s recent book, Let Love Rule, which he co-wrote with David Ritz. Let Love Rule was just published last month and, unlike I was when his music first came out, I was an early partaker. I bought it just two days after it was released. Sadly, I no longer read as fast as I used to, and I just now finished reading it this morning.

I love a good memoir, especially when it’s about a musician I really admire. Although I wasn’t one of Lenny Kravitz’s earliest fans when he burst into the limelight about thirty years ago, once I did discover his music, I became a devoted fan. He’s someone who takes familiar sounds of other artists– people like Prince, Jimi Hendrix, or John Lennon, or bands like Led Zeppelin or Earth, Wind, & Fire, and turns them into something uniquely his. I think the first song I ever heard by Lenny was “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over”, which reminded me so much of Earth, Wind, & Fire’s “That’s the Way of the World”, yet with a unique and original twist.

The song that introduced me to Lenny Kravitz.

Let Love Rule is a breakdown of Lenny’s first 25 years of life. Even if he hadn’t been an incredibly talented rock star, I’d say his first 25 years were book worthy. Born in New York City on May 26, 1964, he is the only child of the aforementioned elegant, Christian, Black actress, Roxie Roker, and White, Russian Jewish, NBC television news producer, Sy Kravitz. He spent his earliest years in New York, dividing his time between his mother’s Bahamian parents’ house in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Manhattan. Lenny Kravitz is a second cousin of television weather man Al Roker’s. Their grandfathers were brothers. He was named after his father’s brother, Private First Class Leonard Kravtiz, who was killed in action during the Korean War.

By the time he was five years old, Lenny– who in those days spelled his name Lennie– knew he wanted to be a musician. He started with banging pots and pans in the kitchen and graduated to guitar and singing. His mother, in particular, encouraged Lenny’s artistic and musical pursuits and took him to a lot of shows, including The Jackson Five at Madison Square Garden. His father, who was also a jazz promoter, introduced him to great jazz musicians like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, and Sarah Vaughan. Then, in 1974, Roxie Roker won the role of Helen Willis on The Jeffersons, and Lenny moved from New York City to California– ironically so his mom could star on a show set in New York City!

Lenny Kravitz had a tough time adjusting to California. Other kids made fun of his New York accent, and he missed the dense neighborhoods and proximity to his grandparents. His father was also not a fan of California and, though he stayed married to Roxie Roker, declined to make the move to California at first. Fortunately, Lenny was able to take advantage of the many artistic avenues available in California. At his mother’s urging, he even joined the highly esteemed California Boys Choir, where he was exposed to classical repertoires. His mother pulled strings to get him into Beverly Hills High School, which was not in his neighborhood, solely so he could take advantage of the music department there.

Although he was clearly a gifted musician, Lenny Kravitz was not a good student, and he ended up having to drop out of Beverly Hills High School in favor of an alternative school. However, the teachers there still let Lenny jam with his former classmates, which included people like Slash from Guns N’ Roses and actor Nicholas Cage. Kravitz enjoyed a privileged upbringing in a nice house in Los Angeles, mixing with talented people and smoking a lot of weed, developing his craft. He also had a religious experience, even though he was not raised by particularly religious parents. When he was thirteen, he became a Christian.

Lenny and his father didn’t get along very well. They would butt heads over grades and discipline, and the elder Kravitz would say disparaging things to his son, who disappointed him by not being a good student. Things got bad enough that one day, when Lenny was still a teenager, he and his father almost came to physical blows. And although the house they lived in was paid for by Roxie Roker, thanks to salary from The Jeffersons, the senior Kravitz then gave Lenny that age-old ultimatum– “If you walk out that door, don’t bother coming back.” Sure enough, Lenny left, and never lived with his parents again.

Lenny’s mother, being a traditional Bahamian woman, didn’t want to divorce Lenny’s father. She eventually did when it became painfully clear that he was unfaithful to her and was busted by Lenny himself. That was when he really got on track to becoming the rock star he is today. He eventually met Lisa Bonet, fell in love, and together they became parents to Zoë Kravitz, now a musician and actress in her own right. Lenny clearly loved, and perhaps even still loves, Lisa Bonet very much. He writes lovingly about their relationship, and how they had so much in common. Lisa is also biracial, having been born to a White Jewish mother and a Black father. And clearly, her holistic, creative, nurturing proclivities had a big effect on Lenny and helped him launch his career. The book ends as Lenny’s career is taking off and he’s a new father to baby Zoë, whose creation was behind Lisa Bonet’s temporary departure from The Cosby Show and her permanent departure from A Different World. Lenny does spill the tea on how it went down when Lisa Bonet and Debbie Allen (who directed A Different World) told Bill Cosby about her pregnancy.

My thoughts

I really enjoyed Let Love Rule. David Ritz did a great job making this book seem like it came straight from Lenny himself. I felt as if Lenny Kravitz was sitting in a room telling me about his early life and development into a big star. I also loved some of the personal anecdotes shared in this book, especially about Roxie Roker. I always thought she was such a beautiful, classy lady, but she was also clearly a warm, caring, supportive mother, who was not afraid to discipline her son, OR even his friends when they needed it.

I could relate to Lenny’s comments about his difficulties with his father, too. My dad and I also had a difficult relationship. Lenny’s father had been in the military, as mine also was, and would alternate strict discipline with frank neglect or abuse. Of course, my situation wasn’t nearly as extreme as Lenny’s was, but I could still relate to him because there were some similarities. And there were also similarities in that sometimes, Lenny’s dad, like my own, would believe in him and come through for him.

And finally, while I may never be a rock star like Lenny is, I can relate to being a musician and wanting to make music. I understand the thrill of creating something good or even just hearing something really fantastic. I enjoyed feeling like I have something in common with Lenny Kravitz, besides being a fellow Gemini. And I love how he pulls together all of his many musical influences and makes music that thrills on another level. The first time I ever heard “Are You Gonna Go My Way”, it was being performed as a cover by my cousin, Justin, who is a professional musician in Nashville. I loved my cousin’s version so much, I had to go listen to the original, which blew my socks off.

This song still kills me, even decades after it was first released.

I guess the only thing I didn’t like about Let Love Rule is that it ends rather abruptly, just as Lenny is about to take off into the stratosphere. I know this book was only intended to be about his first twenty-five years, and he does mention that his story will continue, but the ending still felt like it came at the wrong time. It was like riding the crest of an orgasm and then never quite getting that burst of anticipated pleasure built up by excitement and tension. And I worry that when the next volume does come out, I may not be riding the crest anymore, if you know what I mean.

Still… I really enjoyed this book and would certainly recommend it, not just to people like Lenny Kravitz’s music, but also anyone who was a fan of his mother’s work, or even those who just like a good story. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I think Lenny would have had a book-worthy story even if he never became famous. And I am very touched by how much he loves his family, as well as his honesty about his devotion to God.

I look forward to the next book about Lenny Kravitz’s remarkable life. I hope it’s as hard for me to put down as this one was.

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