The hundreds of fans with tickets to see Bill Cosby perform his stand-up show at the Buell Theatre in Denver, Colorado, on Saturday evening outnumbered the approximately 50 protesters at the venue. Among the demonstrators were several women who claimed to have been victims of rape themselves. Chants of “Rape is not a joke,” among others, rose up from the crowd, which voiced opposition to the appearance of Cosby, who has been accused of putting drugs in drinks which he then gave to women for purposes of sexually assaulting them.
Among the protesters was Gloria Allred, the famous women’s rights attorney. She joined the assembled demonstrators as they chanted, marched, heckled and waved signs, starting about one hour prior to the show. The group was asked to relocate to the sidewalk by Eugene Wade, security operations manager of the Buell Theatre. He explained that if the theater had to be evacuated, the group would constitute a possible security and public safety hazard. Moving to the sidewalk, said Wade, would allow them to continue exercising their right to protest, to which Allred replied loudly, “You say we are a safety and security risk? What about Bill Cosby?”
Before being allowed to enter the theater, ticket holders were subject to security checks. An announcement was made before the start of the show to warn audience members that protests were possible during the event. The Buell Theatre has close to 2,900 seats and appeared to be one-thirds empty. The crowd rose to their feet as Cosby, wearing his usual sweatshirt reading “Hello Friend,” emerged from backstage to begin the show. A woman toward the front of the audience held a sign which read, “We support you Bill.”
Cosby, 77, is a stand-up comedian who gained television fame with Fat Albert and The Cosby Show. The latter role, in which Cosby played the loving patriarch of a wholesome family, cemented his legendary status as an entertainer as well as his public persona of warmth and kindness. The public’s view of Cosby was shattered in recent years by no less than 15 women who have come forward and accused him of sexually assaulting them. More than one protester referred to Cosby’s reputation as a father figure who reached across generational and racial lines, saying that the accusations against him were made even more unsettling because of it.
One supporter of Cosby inside of the theater said that due to the length of time between when some women claim to have been assaulted and when they came forward, it was hard to believe their stories. Despite the continued support of many of his fans, the actor’s legacy has been tarnished by the allegations against him. The promoters of his two appearances scheduled in Denver on Saturday are offering to give refunds to ticket holders who request their money back.
Earlier on Saturday, Allred held a press conference at the Crawford Hotel in which a Denver woman accused Cosby of drugging her after she tried to end their relationship of two years. Beth Ferrier said that after she won a modeling contest in 1984, she received an invitation to have brunch with the comedian at his apartment. Although both were married, they began a sexual relationship, meeting each other in different locations while she traveled for modeling and he was on tour.
Upon trying to break things off with Cosby, she alleges that he made her a drink. It was only moments after drinking the beverage that she began to feel numb. Her next recollection is waking up inside of her car, which had been parked outside, at 3 a.m. She kept her silence out of fear until 2005, when she joined a lawsuit against him as Jane Doe No. 5. Although the suit was eventually dropped, Ferrier is speaking out today in hopes of helping other victims.
For his part, Cosby is not backing down. He released a statement thanking his “loyal, patient and courageous fans” who planned to come to his Colorado shows, which he referred to as “family, fun entertainment.”
By Jennifer Pfalz
Photo by Shawn – License