TORONTO/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Bill Cosby, the subject of more than a dozen sex-abuse allegations over the past three months, opened three Canadian shows this week as more women leveled accusations against the comedian.
Protesters geared up to heckle Cosby and some fans tried to offload their tickets for the three performances in Ontario beginning on Wednesday in the city of Kitchener. He also is slated to perform in London and Hamilton, where demonstrations are also planned.
Cosby, best-known as Dr. Cliff Huxtable on "The Cosby Show," has had two television projects shelved and several standup performances canceled since the allegations started last year.
CBC News, which had journalists attending the show in Kitchener, reported that Cosby was not heckled. It said a small group of protesters gathered in below-freezing temperatures outside.
"I would like to personally thank you for giving me the opportunity to bring laughter back into your lives tonight," Cosby said in a statement after the performance.
Cosby, 77, has never been charged over any of the allegations, which date back as far as the 1960s. He settled a 2005 civil suit that alleged sexual misconduct.
"We knew him as the warm Dr. Huxtable, but the allegations paint a different picture and we can't really support that," said Wendy Carmichael, 62, who lost C$300 re-selling her four tickets to Wednesday's show.
Event promoter Innovation Arts & Entertainment said the venues are contractually obliged to hold the shows, but acknowledged it was an "unpopular" decision and urged protesters not to direct their vitriol at the venues or staff.
In Los Angeles, celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, known for her support of women who claim to be victims of abuse or harassment, held a news conference with three women who allege Cosby drugged them and was sexually aggressive toward them.
"I was in shock as I had no idea that he would do this to me," said Lynn Neal, one of the women, who alleges Cosby raped her in his dressing room at a Las Vegas hotel where he was performing. "I looked at him as a big brother or fatherly figure that I admired."
Cosby's publicist and attorney did not respond to requests for comment.
"Cosby Show" co-star Phylicia Rashad defended Cosby on Tuesday, telling website Showbiz 411 to "forget these women."
"What you're seeing is the destruction of a legacy. And I think it's orchestrated," she said.
With additional reporting by Jeffrey Hodgson in Toronto and Reuters TV in Los Angeles; Editing by Larry King