He wanted to dine in his dressing room with young fashion models. But not just any girls. He had a specific type in mind.
They should be from out-of-town and “financially not doing well,” Bill Cosby told Sue Charney, a New York modeling agency owner. Not making it big yet, but full of potential.
“It’s a very, very good meal, probably better than anything they’ve had the time that they’re in New York,” Cosby boasts during a lengthy decade-old deposition in a lawsuit filed against him by a woman who had accused him of drugging and sexually assaulting her.
Getting to eat with Bill Cosby at the New York studio where “The Cosby Show” was being filmed would be like “a present” for the models, he says, a treat that would help Charney keep them as clients.
One of the women who attended those dinners in the late 1980s, an aspiring teenage actress named Jennifer Thompson, would later accuse Cosby of pressuring her to have sex with him at his New York home, even after he’d assured her parents that he’d help her adjust to life in the city. Cosby, under questioning during the deposition, admitted to having sexual contact but said it was consensual.
The dressing-room dinners where Cosby entertained Thompson are one setting in a kind of parallel world of pursuit, seduction and clandestine sex that the comedian constructed as he was also crafting a public image as the ultimate family man and a rumpled, comic father figure. In more than 900 pages of deposition transcripts, a profile comes into focus of a man who for decades used his celebrity status to pursue women looking for mentors and eager for help in their careers.
Prior to the deposition’s release, Cosby had rarely publicly addressed the claims of his accusers. Now his own words have provided a detailed excursion into the hidden life of a world-famous public figure.
Cosby sketches the outlines of a loosely connected network of people he taps to directly or indirectly support his extramarital “rendezvous” and keep sexual-assault accusations secret. Among those were lawyers who could quash unfavorable news stories or pressure media organizations and modeling agency directors who introduced him to women. There’s also a doctor who prescribes Quaaludes that Cosby admits to giving to one woman who later accused him of sexual assault, as well as to other women.
Cosby’s deposition took place over four days in September 2005 and March 2006 at the Rittenhouse Hotel, an elegant spot on one of Philadelphia’s toniest squares. He was answering questions in a lawsuit alleging sexual assault filed by Andrea Constand, a former basketball operations manager at Temple University, where Cosby was a longtime member of the board of trustees and one of the university’s most public faces. The case was eventually settled, and the deposition did not become public until reports this month by the Associated Press and the New York Times. The Washington Post purchased a copy of the full deposition transcript from the court reporter.
Cosby has been publicly accused of sexual assault by more than 40 women, with allegations that date as far back as the 1960s. Many of those women say he drugged them. He has never admitted to sexual assault or been charged criminally.
In the deposition, Cosby talks about using promises of payments to appease women with whom he had sex or to dissuade them from talking. He sometimes sets up elaborate monetary reward systems, including offering to pay one of his future sexual-assault accusers — Therese Serignese — $500 for every “A” grade she got at nursing school. Many years after making that promise, he says he sent her a check for $5,000. He also funneled another $5,000 to her through his William Morris talent agent, Tom Illius, who is now deceased.
With Constand, he offered to pay for graduate school and campus housing, but there was a catch: “We will pick up the tab,” he said, “but she must maintain a 3.0 GPA.” And he would need to hide the payments from his wife, Camille Cosby. Constand didn’t take him up on the offer, though.
Cosby conjures his own vernacular to describe his sexual encounters, and when recalling a night with Constand, he calls himself “one of the greatest storytellers in the world.” At one point, he seems to map a woman’s body, as if he were a sexual cartographer, speaking of the “question zone” (her stomach, just above the top of her pants) and a place “somewhere between permission and rejection” (between her legs).
He presents himself as an instructor with some women, recounting how he would walk them through relaxation exercises in which they would imagine themselves “floating.”
Cosby’s personal code of conduct dictates that he not kiss and tell, he says. He learned as a boy that girls always say, “Please, don’t tell anybody.” But as an adult, he says, he’s learned that women are “the first people to go and tell somebody after something has happened.”
His strictures delve into matters as delicate as whether to have intercourse with one of his accusers — he doesn’t, he says, because intercourse makes women form emotional attachments.
“The act of the penile entrance is something that I feel the woman will succumb to more of a romance and more of a feeling, not love, but it’s deeper than a playful situation.”
Cosby portrays his relationships with most of the women as mere sexual encounters rather than love affairs. In one instance, he says, “I didn’t ask her to stay all night and she didn’t ask if she could stay all night. . . . I don’t think there was any spirit in what had happened of wanting to stay all night.”
In describing his wild 1970s days, Cosby recounts how he got prescriptions for Quaaludes seven times but not for his own use. He wants to give them to women with whom he wants to have sex. He keeps them on hand to offer “the same as a person would say have a drink.”
In his telling, Cosby is a master seducer, a knower of women’s thoughts. “I’m a pretty decent reader of people and their emotions in these romantic sexual things, whatever you want to call them,” he testified.
The questioning in the Constand case put Cosby in the same room with his accuser. He watched as Constand cried while testifying. Asked by Constand’s lawyer, Dolores Troiani, what he was thinking at that moment, he says: “I think Andrea is a liar and I know she’s a liar because I was there.” He suggests she times her tears to coincide with her testimony about “the touching.”
Far from being reluctant, Cosby often speaks expansively about his sexual encounters, including his contact with Constand when he was in his mid-60s and she was in her late 20s and early 30s. While describing his attempt to seduce Constand, he balks when her attorney interrupts.
“Don’t rush it,” he says before continuing to describe a scene in which he eventually pulls back Constand’s hair and bids her to press her body against his.
Cosby’s wit made him one of the world’s best known entertainers, but the transcript shows that his occasional attempts at humor during the deposition fall flat from the beginning. During the opening moments of his first day of questioning, Constand’s attorney tries to instruct him to answer orally — not with gestures.
Troiani: Will you try to remember that, please.
Cosby: (Witness gestures.)
Troiani: Everyone does the exact same thing.
“This is not a new joke?” Cosby responds.
“No, it’s not a new joke,” Troiani shoots back. “In fact, most times it’s not a joke at all.”
Later, Troiani chides him, saying, “I think you’re making light of a very serious situation.”
“That very well may be,” Cosby tells her.
Yet, at other times, Cosby sounds stilted and cautious.
“It was the night of the alleged inappropriate touching,” he says in reference to one sexual encounter with Constand.
In another lengthy exchange, Cosby argues over the definition of “masturbation.”
He denies knowing a “Jane Doe” accuser — one of 13 supporting Constand’s case — who said she tried to leave a party at Cosby’s home after he allegedly tried to fondle her. But an assistant of the comedian’s warns he will be “angry and never help her career.”
He also disputes the claims of another Jane Doe, who says Cosby insisted that she take Quaaludes before she could come into the Atlantic City penthouse where he was staying. The same woman says he paid her gym membership after suggesting she lose weight.
Cosby says he got prescription Quaaludes in the 1970s from Leroy Amar, a Los Angeles doctor who is now dead, ostensibly to treat a bad back. When asked, the comedian acknowledges that he got the powerful drug to give to women he “wanted to have sex with.” But Cosby says he gave Quaaludes to only one of the Jane Does: Therese Picking, a young woman he met backstage at a club in Las Vegas in 1976 and says he had sex with her that same night.
“She became in those days what we called high,” he says.
Asked whether she was “unsteady,” Cosby says, “Yes.”
Picking, whose last name is now Serignese, has an ongoing defamation lawsuit against Cosby. She has said that she was not able to consent to intercourse because of the effects of the drug. Cosby says he doesn’t know whether she was in a position to consent.
This week, after the release of the deposition, Cosby’s attorneys said in a court filing that media accounts make it seem as if Cosby “has admitted to rape.”
“And yet defendant admitted to nothing more than being one of the many people who introduced quaaludes into their consensual sex life in the 1970’s,” wrote Patrick O’Connor and George Gowen, noting that the drug was once called “disco biscuits.”
Cosby’s comedy career took him to clubs throughout the country, and he says during the deposition that he was in Denver when he met Jo Farrell, a modeling agency owner. Like Charney, the New York agency head, Farrell also introduced Cosby to young women. (Cosby says Charney, who is now dead, introduced him to 20 or 30 aspiring models. “I don’t think she knew what was going on,” Charney’s sister, Alice Opell, said Wednesday. “She did it as a courtesy he requested, that the models attend the taping.”)
Two of Farrell’s clients would later accuse him of drugging and sexually assaulting them: Beth Ferrier and Barbara Bowman.
Cosby acknowledges that he had a sexual relationship with Ferrier, but says he “wasn’t there” in the mid-1980s when she accuses him of drugging her and she says she awoke in a parked car with her top untucked, her bra undone and her clothes a mess.
In the months leading up to the Constand lawsuit, Cosby’s attorney, Marty Singer, negotiated a deal with the National Enquirer not to print Ferrier’s allegations in return for the comedian granting the tabloid an exclusive interview. Ferrier eventually told her story to People magazine in 2006.
Her former modeling agency boss, Farrell, is now in her 80s and suffers from dementia, according to her daughter, Kathleen, who said in a recent interview with The Post that her mother knew nothing about the claims of sexual abuse until the People article.
In the deposition, Cosby describes trying to woo Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home by setting “a romantic atmosphere. . . . Fireplace, food, conversation, dim lights.” He makes sure to have cognac on hand, a drink she told him she likes. He has his private chef prepare meals.
One night, he says, he sought to test her reaction to his advances, “looking for acceptance or rejection.”
“I take my hand, put it to her face. . . . I take her hair and I pull it back. . . . And I said to her, come in, meaning her body.”
“When I said, move closer, move in, she did,” Cosby says.
At another point, he describes how he feels “that Andrea has a glow about our sexual moment.”
Yet, they never have intercourse, he testifies, because “Andrea I don’t want to fall in love with me.”
Constand’s drugging accusations center on an evening she says she spent at Cosby’s home in January 2004. In a court filing, her lawyers said that Cosby gave her what he said was an “herbal medication,” and her “knees began to shake, her limbs felt immobile, she felt dizzy and weak, and she began to feel only barely conscious.”
In the deposition, Cosby describes the night as a passionate encounter. He says he gave her 1½ Benadryl tablets, after breaking one of the tablets in half, leaving three half tablets.
“I have three friends for you to make you relax,” he testifies that he told her.
Later, Cosby has a lengthy phone conversation with her mother.
“I’m apologizing because I’m thinking this is a dirty old man with a young girl,” he says during the deposition. “I apologized. I said to the mother it was digital penetration.”
On the call, Cosby says Constand’s mother told him three times that she was living through a “mother’s nightmare.”
Cosby is sorting through emotions himself. He felt threatened, he testifies, and he had someone at the William Morris agency call to try to arrange a face-to-face meeting with Constand and her mother in Miami, with the comedian covering travel costs. The meeting never happened.
What Cosby wants from Constand is to feel “trusted,” he testifies. He wants that from all the women who had come forward to accuse him, he says.
“Do you feel that you are a good person?” Constand’s lawyer asks.
His answer: “Yes.”