November 24, 2005

Bill Cosby’s sordid legacy

The seventh track on Bill Cosby’s 1969 comedy album It’s True! It’s True! is “Spanish Fly” — the story of his pursuit of an aphrodisiac that a man puts in a woman’s drink.

“When I was 13, man,” Cosby begins. “Start talking about weird things. No, really. Standing on the corner: You know anything about Spanish fly. What? Spanish fly. … Guys stand around talking about Spanish fly. … You know anything about Spanish Fly? No, tell me about it. Well, there’s this girl — Crazy Mary — you put some in her drink, man … ahhhhhh … Oh, that’s really groovy, man. Spanish fly is groovy. Yeah boy. From then on, man, any time you see a girl: Wish you had some Spanish fly, boy. Go to a party, see five girls standing alone — boy, if I had a whole jug of Spanish fly, I’d light that corner up over there.” He goes on. …

The Washington Post on Saturday reported that 16 women have publicly said that Cosby sexually assaulted them. Twelve said he drugged them first. Another said he tried to drug her. But not with the mythical Spanish fly. He allegedly used pills — red, blue, gray, Benadryl — and wine and coffee laced with drugs.

According to a growing number of women, America’s favorite father is a serial rapist.

Cosby fans are lost somewhere in between, trying to separate art from artist, comedian from monster. It is an improbable exercise.

Cosby is on the short list of the greatest comedians of all time. He has made more 20 comedy albums and stand-up specials. Many are considered classics. He became the first African American to win an Emmy Award, winning three for playing Alexander Scott on I Spy (1965-68). He produced and starred in The Cosby Show (1984-92), the top-rated show on television for five seasons. He made important children’s programs like Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and Picture Pages. He made —

If this sounds like an appreciation or career retrospective, it shouldn’t. But those kind of stories can be written now, because Bill Cosby is done. He is done as a comedian, actor and talk show guest — NBC and Netflix have canceled his upcoming shows, Late Show with David Letterman canceled an upcoming appearance and TV Land has stopped broadcasting reruns of The Cosby Show. He is done as a father figure. He is done as a human being who can be respected. It is a sordid legacy. It is —

Fuck Bill Cosby and his legacy.

Andrea Constand, Tamara Green, Beth Ferrier, Barbara Bowman, Joan Tarshis, Victoria Valentino, Louisa Moritz, Kristina Ruehli, Janice Dickinson, Therese Serignese and Renita Chaney Hill and the other victims are strong, brave women. They have nothing to gain by recounting their awful memories. If just one of them is telling the truth, Cosby is a rapist. If two or more are telling the truth, Cosby is a calculating recidivist.

By the time The Cosby Show was a hit, Cosby had become a proselytizer. He knew what was best for parents, black people and fellow comedians.

Cosby called Eddie Murphy and told him not to use profanity in his stand-up comedy. In his concert film Eddie Murphy Raw (1987), Murphy hilariously recounted the story, which ended with Murphy calling Richard Pryor for advice. Pryor, according to Murphy, said: “Tell Bill to have a Coke and a smile, and shut the fuck up.” Cosby should have.

In his book Childhood, Cosby told another version of his Spanish fly story. While promoting the book on Larry King Live in 1991, Cosby said it was an example of a story in the book that he hasn’t told before.

COSBY: There’s a thing about Spanish fly. Do you know anything about Spanish fly?

KING: When we were kids we used to —

COSBY: There you go. There you go. That’s all. I just wanted the recognition.

KING: Yes.

COSBY: Spanish fly.

KING: We knew what it was.

COSBY: Spanish fly was the thing that all boys from age 11 on up to death — We will still be searching for Spanish fly.

KING: [laughs] That’s right.

COSBY: And what was the old — the old story was, if you took a little drop — It was on the head of a —

KING: Pin.

COSBY: Pin! And you put it in a drink —

KING: That’s right. Drop it in her Coca-Cola. It don’t matter.

COSBY: It doesn’t make any difference. And the girl would drink it and —

KING: And she’s yours.

COSBY: Hello, America! And there’s a story in there about Spanish fly. So I think that everybody — any guy picking it up will just have a ball reading about that.

Not anymore. Not ever.

September 13, 2005

Stephen Colbert

The closest thing to a big television moment during the first week of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert was his interview with Vice President Joe Biden. The latter is still thinking out loud about running for president, the former launching something just as life-altering — a late night talk show. Biden spoke openly about the recent death of his son. “My son was better than me,” the vice president said. “He was better than me in almost every way.” The conversation shifted toward Colbert, who lost his father and two of his brothers when he was 10 years old. The interview was full of substance, devoid of talk show banter but still funny enough to play well before a live audience.

Interviews with Biden, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush and technology CEOs Elon Musk and Travis Kalanick sent a clear message: Stephen Colbert will be the grown-up in late night television — a counter-programming antidote to Jimmy Fallon’s game show dance party featuring stupid celebrity tricks.

Colbert opened his first show with a filmed segment, singing the national anthem in various cities with diverse Americans. It felt like a non sequitur — as much as the beginning of anything can be a non sequitur. But the anthem, the promos with Mitt Romney, playing host to Jeb Bush on the first night and especially Toby Keith on Thursday was an extended hand to conservatives: You are welcome here. This show will be hosted by Stephen Colbert — progressive Sunday school teacher from South Carolina — not “Stephen Colbert” from The Colbert Report.

The following night, Colbert said production problems almost prevented the first show from airing. The two-hour taping had to be edited down to one. When The Late Show tried to send the finished product to CBS, the computers kept crashing. He said: “At 11:20 — and again, this actually happened — no one in the building could give me a guarantee for certain that the show was going to go on the air last night.”

There are less harrowing issues, edges to be rounded. The set seems too bright, too blue — lit up like CNN on election night. When Colbert runs out to open the show, he greets bandleader Jon Batiste with spin moves and high leg kicks, dancing a thin line between fun and lame, between Fallon and Ellen. The crowd chants “Stephen” a lot, a staple of The Colbert Report. The least palatable part of The Daily Show and Colbert was their pep rally atmospheres. But having a built-in following is a positive.

Colbert is playing to his strengths. He doesn’t perform a monologue, just a few cold opening remarks. After the credits, he is seated at his desk for a Daily Show-style take on the news. His favorite target: Donald Trump. Colbert, who was in the same Second City class as Chris Farley and a supporting player on the short-lived Dana Carvey Show (1996), is a veteran of sketch comedy. The latest example was the excellent “Yesterday’s Coffee” ad with Laura Linney on Friday.

Quentin Tarantino ripped television critics in an interview with Vulture last month: “Who the fuck reads TV reviews? … TV critics review the pilot. Pilots of shows suck.”

That goes double for late night shows. The first weeks are an experiment, the first years uneven. Colbert enters the genre at a disadvantage, because he has never hosted a variety show. When Fallon became host of The Tonight Show last February, it was after five years of refining his act on Late Night at 12:35 a.m. Late Night was a proving ground and a safe place to fail for David Letterman, Conan O’Brien and Fallon. Colbert doesn’t have that luxury. Fallon’s show is a lightning-quick, lip-synch machine. Colbert’s is still an unknown.

About a year ago, on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Craig Ferguson — then near the end of his 10-year run as host of The Late Late Show on CBS — said it took a couple years for his show to find itself.

CRAIG: Anyone who does a TV show over and over and over again — you’re going to go crazy. You’re going to go crazy. I know you think you’re not going to go crazy. You’re going to go fucking crazy, Seth.

SETH: Do you go so crazy that you don’t know the day you go crazy?

CRAIG: … and that’s when the show is yours.

June 24, 2005

NBA awards [2004-05]

The league made the Charlotte Bobcats its 30th franchise. Nine Pacers and Pistons players were suspended a total of 146 games for beating each other and the fans at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Ron Artest was suspended for 73 games — the longest suspension in history. The Spurs beat the Pistons in the first seven-game NBA Finals since 1994.

Jack Twyman Award (or Teammate of the Year) | Steve Nash [Suns] 15.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 11.5 assists, 52.6 2-point shooting, 88.7 free throw shooting, 43.1 3-point shooting. With the addition Nash, the Suns won a league-best 62 games, 33 more than last season.

Players of the Year | Amare Stoudemire [Suns] Kevin Garnett [Timberwolves] and Dirk Nowitzki [Mavericks]

Rookie of the Year | Dwight Howard [Magic] 12.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 52.1 2-point shooting, 67.1 free throw shooting. Age [19] 2. Emeka Okafor [Bobcats]

Coach of the Year | Mike D’Antoni [Suns] 62-20. 2. xxxxx xxxx [xxx] 3 xxx sdfdsf [xxx]

First team
Forward | Kevin Garnett [Timberwolves] xx.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 56.1 2-point shooting, 76.5 free throw shooting. Age [xx]

Forward | Dirk Nowitzki [Mavericks] 26.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 47.0 2-point shooting, 39.9 2-point shooting, 86.9 free throw shooting. Age [26]

Center | Amare Stoudemire [Suns] xx.x points, x.x rebounds, x.x assists, xx.x 2-point shooting, xx.x free throw shooting. Age [xx]

Guard | Dwyane Wade [Heat] xx.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 51.4 2-point shooting, 35.2 3-point shooting, 83.7 free throw shooting, 2.8 steals. Age [xx]

Point guard | Steve Nash [Suns] 15.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 11.5 assists, 52.6 2-point shooting, 88.7 free throw shooting, 43.1 3-point shooting. Age [30]

Second team
Forward | Tim Duncan [Spurs] xx.x points, x.x rebounds, x.x assists, xx.x 2-point shooting, xx.x free throw shooting. Age [xx]

Forward | LeBron James [Cavaliers] xx.x points, x.x rebounds, x.x assists, xx.x 2-point shooting, xx.x free throw shooting. Age [xx]

Center | Shaquille O’Neal [Heat] xx.x points, x.x rebounds, x.x assists, xx.x 2-point shooting, xx.x free throw shooting. Age [xx]

Point guard | Allen Iverson [76ers] xx.x points, x.x rebounds, x.x assists, xx.x 2-point shooting, xx.x free throw shooting. Age [xx]

Guard | Ray Allen [SuperSonics] xx.x points, x.x rebounds, x.x assists, xx.x 2-point shooting, xx.x free throw shooting. Age [xx]

Third team
Forward | Tracy McGrady [Rockets] xx.x points, x.x rebounds, x.x assists, xx.x 2-point shooting, xx.x free throw shooting. Age [xx]

Forward | Shawn Marion [Suns] xx.x points, x.x rebounds, x.x assists, xx.x 2-point shooting, xx.x free throw shooting. Age [xx]

Center | Yao Ming [Rockets] xx.x points, x.x rebounds, x.x assists, xx.x 2-point shooting, xx.x free throw shooting. Age [xx]

Guard | Kobe Bryant [Lakers] xx.x points, x.x rebounds, x.x assists, xx.x 2-point shooting, xx.x free throw shooting. Age [xx]

Point guard | Gilbert Arenas [Wizards] xx.x points, x.x rebounds, x.x assists, xx.x 2-point shooting, xx.x free throw shooting. Age [xx]

Honorable mention
Forward | Vince Carter [Raptors-Nets] 24.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 46.3 2-point shooting, 40.6 3-point shooting, 79.8 free throw shooting. Age [28] Carter didn’t try in Toronto, where he averaged 15.9 points in 20 games and was often benched in the fourth quarter. He demanded a trade and revived his career in New Jersey, averaging 27.5 points in 57 games.

Forward | Paul Pierce [Celtics] xx.x points, x.x rebounds, x.x assists, xx.x 2-point shooting, xx.x free throw shooting. Age [xx]

Forward | Elton Brand [Clippers] xx.x points, x.x rebounds, x.x assists, xx.x 2-point shooting, xx.x free throw shooting. Age [xx]

Point guard | Stephon Marbury [Knicks] xx.x points, x.x rebounds, x.x assists, xx.x 2-point shooting, xx.x free throw shooting. Age [xx]

— Kevin Brewer

April 25, 2005

Age [39] All-Star team

Forward | Karl Malone [Jazz] 20.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 46.4 2-point shooting, 76.3 free throw shooting. [2002-03]

Forward | Michael Jordan [Wizards] 20.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 45.0 2-point shooting, 82.1 free throw shooting. [2002-03]

Center | Kareem Abdul-Jabbar [Lakers] 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 56.5 2-point shooting, 71.4 free throw shooting. [1986-87]

Point guard | John Stockton [Jazz] 13.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, 8.2 assists, 53.9 2-point shooting, 85.7 free throw shooting. [2001-02]

Guard | Reggie Miller [Pacers] 14.8 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 51.8 2-point shooting, 32.2 3-point shooting, 93.3 free throw shooting. [2004-05]

[sixth man]

Center | Robert Parish [Celtics] 12.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 53.5 2-point shooting, 68.9 free throw shooting. [1992-93]

— Kevin Brewer

April 18, 2005

2015 All-NBA teams


Point guard | Stephen Curry, Warriors. 23.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 2.0 steals, 52.8 2-point shooting, 44.3 3-point shooting, 91.4 free throw shooting, 28.0 PER, 15.7 WS. Age [26]

Guard | James Harden, Rockets. 27.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 48.0 2-point shooting, 37.5 3-point shooting, 86.8 free throw shooting, 26.7 PER, 16.4 WS. Age [25] He made 715 free throws, which ranks 12th all-time. That’s craft, not acting.

Forward | Anthony Davis, Pelicans. 24.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.9 blocks, 54.0 2-point shooting, 80.5 free throw shooting, 30.8 PER, 14.0 WS. Age [21] His 30.8 PER ranks 11th all-time. The best seasons by a 21-year-old:

1. Anthony Davis, 2014-15
2. Shaquille O’Neal, 1993-94
3. LeBron James, 2005-06
4. Kevin Durant, 2009-10
5. Michael Jordan, 1984-85

6. Tracy McGrady, 2000-01
7. Tim Duncan, 1997-98
8. Chris Bosh, 2005-06
9. Adrian Dantley, 1977-78
10. Kobe Bryant, 1999-00

Forward | LeBron James, Cavaliers. 25.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 53.6 2-point shooting, 35.4 3-point shooting, 71.0 free throw shooting, 25.9 PER, 10.4 WS. Age [30] The Cavaliers were 18-12 in late December, when James left the team for two weeks to find himself. They finished 34-10 after his return.

Center | DeAndre Jordan, Clippers. 11.5 points, 15.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 2.2 blocks, 71.3 2-point shooting, 39.7 free throw shooting, 21.0 PER, 12.8 WS. Age [26] An extreme set of strengths and weaknesses. Jordan led the league in field goal percentage (second all-time) and was second-worst in free throw percentage. He also led the league with 252 dunks, which was 66 percent of his field goals. He is only the third player this century to average 15.0 rebounds a season.


Point guard | Chris Paul, Clippers. 19.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 10.2 assists, 52.3 2-point shooting, 39.8 3-point shooting, 90.0 free throw shooting, 26.0 PER, 16.1 WS. Age [29]

Point guard | Russell Westbrook, Thunder. 28.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 2.1 steals, 45.7 2-point shooting, 29.9 3-point shooting, 83.5 free throw shooting, 29.1 PER, 10.7 WS, 11 triple-doubles. Age [26]

Most similar season | Michael Jordan, 1988-89. 32.5 points, 8.0 points, 8.0 assists, 2.9 steals, 55.3 2-point shooting, 27.6 3-point shooting, 85.0 free throw shooting, 31.1 PER, 19.8 WS, 15 triple doubles.

Forward | LaMarcus Aldridge, Trail Blazers. 23.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 47.5 2-point shooting, 84.5 free throw shooting, 22.8 PER, 8.6 WS. Age [29] The best free agents this offseason:

1. Marc Gasol
2. LaMarcus Aldridge
3. DeAndre Jordan

Forward | Blake Griffin, Clippers. 21.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 50.4 2-point shooting, 72.8 free throw shooting, 22.8 PER, 9.0 WS. Age [25]

Center | Marc Gasol, Grizzlies. 17.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 50.0 2-point shooting, 79.5 free throw shooting, 21.7 PER, 10.2 WS. Age [30]


Point guard | Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers. 21.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 49.1 2-point shooting, 41.5 3-point shooting, 86.3 free throw shooting, 21.5 PER, 10.4 WS. Age [22]

Guard | Jimmy Butler, Bulls. 20.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 48.4 2-point shooting, 37.8 3-point shooting, 83.4 free throw shooting, 21.3 PER, 11.2 WS. Age [25]

Forward | Pau Gasol, Bulls. 18.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 49.5 2-point shooting, 80.3 free throw shooting, 22.7 PER, 10.4 WS. Age [34]

Forward | Kawhi Leonard, Spurs. 16.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.3 steals, 51.9 2-point shooting, 34.9 3-point shooting, 80.2 free throw shooting, 22.0 PER, 8.6 WS. Age [23] Leonard endured blurred vision and a torn ligament in his right hand early in the season. But he averaged 19.2 points, shot 56.9 percent from 2-point range and played the best defense in the league as the Spurs closed the season 20-5.

Center | Tim Duncan, Spurs. 13.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 51.4 2-point shooting, 74.0 free throw shooting, 22.6 PER, 9.6 WS. Age [38] The best seasons by a 38-year-old:

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1985-86
2. Karl Malone, 2001-02
3. John Stockton, 200-01
4. Tim Duncan, 2014-15
5. Michael Jordan, 2001-02

HONORABLE MENTION | Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers (21.0 points, 50.0 2-point percentage, 86.4 free throw percentage)

January 3, 2005

Craig Ferguson

Craig Ferguson guest hosted The Late Late Show for two nights in October 2004 — an on-air audition for the permanent job — and met producer Peter Lassally for the first time.

“This should be a lark,” Ferguson said.

“This is not a lark,” said Lassally, who had previously produced The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson and Late Show with David Letterman. “I want you to take this seriously. I have few discernible talents, but one of them is finding guys like you. I watched you as guest on Letterman and Kilborn and Conan, and if I’m right about you, you are lightning in a bottle.”

Forget lightning in a bottle. For the past decade, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson — which airs its last episode Friday night at 12:30 a.m. — has been the thunderbolt of late night, a strange and wonderful mix of serious monologues, sexual innuendo, puppets, a robot skeleton sidekick, a pantomime horse and Michael Caine impressions. The Scottish-born comedian has deftly managed the mash-up of grown-up conversation and child’s play.

“I think my show is probably closer to Pee-wee’s Playhouse than anything else I’ve seen, and that is an aspiration,” Ferguson said in 2009. Later that year, he celebrated his 1,000th episode with an entire show starring puppets. It was hosted by Wavy Rancheros, a crocodile with a Cajun accent, which was voiced by Ferguson.

A few months earlier, he spent an entire episode with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

TUTU: When you don’t forgive, frequently you feel it in your tum-tum.

FERGUSON: I was told that resentment was like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.

The Late Late Show won a Peabody Award for the show.

Monologues. An early turning point for Ferguson came about three weeks into the job, when Johnny Carson died on Jan. 23, 2005. Ferguson didn’t know Carson, but he talked about what he meant to him — his father laughing at The Tonight Show during their visit to America and his recent marathon of watching Carson’s work to prepare for his new show. Lassally thanked Ferguson for what he said about his old friend. Then he said: “This is it. Whatever you did just there, that’s how you do this show.”

Eventually, there were no jokes written for the monologue — just bullet points or Ferguson’s stream of consciousness thoughts. Then more somber monologues emerged. Ferguson was honest, eulogizing his father and mother, ranting against the FCC and sympathizing with those in Haiti, Aurora, Colo., and Boston.

Then there was Ferguson’s finest moment: his monologue about Britney Spears on Feb. 19, 2007, the day after the pop singer spent less than 24 hours in rehab, then shaved her head. Ferguson said he would do “no Britney Spears jokes,” that “comedy should have a certain amount of joy in it,” that it shouldn’t include “attacking the vulnerable.” Then the 12-minute commentary transitioned into his 15 years of sobriety and his addiction to alcohol that almost ended in suicide. “It’s embarrassing to admit you’re an alcoholic,” he said.

American On Purpose. Ferguson’s long love affair with America was requited in 2008, when he became a U.S. citizen. He shared footage of his citizenship test and the swearing in ceremony on the show. His first official act as an American was performing at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Later that year, he did a monologue about voting, expressing his excitement about his first presidential election and complaining about voter fatigue. “If you don’t vote, you’re a moron,” he said. The following year, Ferguson published his memoir American on Purpose.

It’s a talk show. Ferguson is the best conversationalist in late night, the best since Carson. Two things helped make the natural talker even better.

1. He ripped up those standard blue pre-interview cards as the guest sat down. He deconstructed the talk show, removed the phoniness.

2. Most late night shows split their interviews in half with commercials. Not Ferguson. His interviews were uninterrupted conversations.

There are two YouTube accounts — Flirting Masterclass and Craig Ferguson and the ladies — dedicated to Ferguson’s flirting prowess. There is just something about his Scottish. It is cheeky but non-threatening, allowing him to trade double entendres with Kate Beckinsale, Brooke Shields, Malin Ackerman, Amy Smart, Cobie Smulders, Alice Eve and on and on. Ferguson’s flirting game made hot actresses improve theirs. But it must be said: He was no match for Alison Brie or Kate Mara.

Maybe Ferguson couldn’t book A-list celebrities. Maybe he didn’t want them. He had his B-level favorites: Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Henry Winkler, Adam Goldberg, Joel McHale, Rashida Jones and Angela Kinsey. He was, of course, great with comedians like Robin Williams, Steve Wright and Dave Attell. Jay Leno will be his last guest.

Ferguson and Ricky Gervais got along especially well. In his first appearance, Gervais said: “This might be the best chat show ever.” In his second, he said: “That thing when people say — dance like nobody’s watching. This is like a chat show — you’re doing it like nobody’s watching.”

After Ferguson’s first night as guest host, he and Lassally talked again.

“I loved the way you actually had a conversation with the guests,” the producer said.

“I thought that was the job?” Ferguson said.

“It used to be.”