NEW YORK (Reuters) - Media icon Bill Cosby at 74 still looms larger than life over the American psyche.
Emerging from a Philadelphia housing project, ultimately success followed success as a comedian, actor, producer, author, educator, musician and activist.
Breaking U.S. television’s racial barrier with “I Spy” as the first African American to costar on a television series in the 1960s, he won three consecutive Emmys. Later he enjoyed even more success as Cliff Huxtable on one of the defining TV sitcoms of the 1980s, “The Cosby Show”.
In his book, “I DIDN’T ASK TO BE BORN (But I’m Glad I Was),” Cosby reveals more of the anecdotes and musings on the human condition that have made him a global name.
What is it to be normal, a husband, a father, a grandfather or just a man in today’s America?
“The mind still clicks on things I think and see as interesting and funny and I write it,” said Cosby.
Describing the voice mail hell known to everyone globally with a phone, Cosby writes the self evident truth. “You see, that’s the problem with technology. You can have a conversation with a person who isn’t a person. And be interviewed by a friend of yours who isn’t there.”
Commenting on the state of television advertising he recounts his wife’s wisdom on erectile dysfunction commercials.
“It’s not nice to talk about the living dead.”
And if Native Americans had known then what they know now, Cosby is certain they would have used slot machines and casinos to bankrupt the early European settlers rather than fight a losing war.
Moving from topic to topic, he reveals the answer to a child’s defiant declaration: “I didn’t ask to be born.”
Along the way, the reader gets a glimpse of Cosby the man and perhaps some of the defining events of his life.
Cosby writes about his upbringing, his success. He mentions, in passing, his alcoholic father.
“I don’t want people to think he was anything other than what he was at the time,” said Cosby of his father. “It’s the truth. I want to say it because it’s the truth.”
Cosby retains a jovial love of people and the personal standards that set him apart from many of his peers in comedy. He long ago disavowed profanity, sexual innuendo or citing race for audience amusement.
“I still enjoy going out and having something to connect with and doing it without the profanity,” he explained. “I stayed with what I felt to be a great philosophy.”
Cosby is also relevant to today’s generation, including QR, or Quick Response codes, the series of squares, lines and dots scanned by smart phones, at the end of each chapter.
“I have to acknowledge my eight-, nine- and six-year-old grandchildren,” said Cosby. “These are the things to get to these people.”
Married for 48 years Cosby lives in Shelburne, Massachusetts, a far cry from the neighborhood where he grew up and a place he describes in some detail early in the book. A place where he and his friends played softball on a tar and gravel lot, mixed with broken glass, and skate boards were cobbled together from a piece of wood and street skates.
But even in moving from that place to another, Cosby makes clear in his writing that he still finds inspiration in one of life’s simple pleasures, “the joy of being with human beings you call your friends.”