RIP, George Cole, and thanks for all the laughs back in the day. That said, I read of his passing this morning with bated breath, waiting for the inevitable “and in 2011 was convicted of eleventeen counts of indecency involving young girls...” But what, nothing? A male actor made it to the final curtain without being accused of anything sordid? Well, bugger me.
How many of us were entertained each week by a goofy obstetrician from Brooklyn? Sorry, Brooklyn Heights. Each week we shared a living room with an upper middle-class professional family living, then as now, the African-American dream. Actor Bill Cosby, with a net-worth approaching half a BILLION dollars, is now being publicly dismembered, dis-remembered and just simply dissed in the courts of public opinion. I can’t imagine how the US judicial system could have managed this worse. What hope that anybody (victims or accused) will get a fair trial now? Vale, Heathcliff Huxtable.
Now a confession. I know every word to “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport” — my parents own it on vinyl for God’s sake — so should I root it out and set it alight, melt it into an effigy of a frightened child to prove I am against paedophilia? What would they say if I actually played it? Don’t worry, I was never a big fan of the bloke, although he was a dab hand with a paintbrush and could definitely pen a catchy tune. If only he’d kept those hands too busy to do anything else. There are significant differences between the Harris and Cosby cases — the biggest being that one has been convicted — but for me the greatest similarity is how the news of it made me feel. Like we lost somebody we thought we knew, someone we liked.
Nine years gaol is not enough: Rolf Harris is no longer a Commander of the Order of the British Empire; he is no longer a Member of the Order of Australia; his name was removed from the list of Australian National Living Treasures, both of his honorary doctorates are gone; his ARIA Hall of Fame listing erased; and he is no longer a Fellow of BAFTA. They’ve even desecrated a plaque he laid in 1986 in a little town called Kunanurra on the banks of the Ord River, way up in the Kimberley. Destroy every trace of the man, if you like, but WE ALL REMEMBER the words to his songs, even if “Jake the Peg” now makes us shudder.
So what awaits Bill Cosby? Will his detractors accept a not guilty verdict? In fact, what advice to give to any young male actor out there on the cusp of making it big? Play it safe: don’t work with women or children! What? Accepting that the huge majority will have the decency NOT to molest anyone, they are still a soft target for vexatious complainants in a world where social media guarantees you are guilty even if you are ultimately proven innocent. Me? I’m just gonna keep playing this song, whatever he verdict may be.