In a thoughtful, revealing essay for Vanity Fair, Vogue's first black cover girl Beverly Johnson writes that Bill Cosby drugged her at his home while she was auditioning for a small part on The Cosby Show in the mid-1980s. She says that she was hesitant to tell her story before, because "black men have enough enemies out there already, they certainly don't need someone like [me], an African American with a familiar face and a famous name, fanning the flames."
Johnson says her agent called her for a small role on The Cosby Show in the mid-80s when she was trying to break into acting and get out of a bad marriage. She met Cosby twice before he allegedly tried to attack her: once at a taping of the show, and once at his home with her young daughter. She explains, "Looking back, that first invite from Cosby to his home seems like part of a perfectly laid out plan, a way to make me feel secure with him at all times. It worked like a charm. Cosby suggested I come back to his house a few days later to read for the part. I agreed, and one late afternoon the following week I returned."
Here is how she describes that afternoon:
After the meal, we walked upstairs to a huge living area of his home that featured a massive bar. A huge brass espresso contraption took up half the counter. At the time, it seemed rare for someone to have such a machine in his home for personal use.
Cosby said he wanted to see how I handled various scenes, so he suggested that I pretend to be drunk. (When did a pregnant woman ever appear drunk on The Cosby Show? Probably never, but I went with it.)
As I readied myself to be the best drunk I could be, he offered me a cappuccino from the espresso machine. I told him I didn't drink coffee that late in the afternoon because it made getting to sleep at night more difficult. He wouldn't let it go. He insisted that his espresso machine was the best model on the market and promised I'd never tasted a cappuccino quite like this one.
It's nuts, I know, but it felt oddly inappropriate arguing with Bill Cosby so I took a few sips of the coffee just to appease him.
Now let me explain this: I was a top model during the 70s, a period when drugs flowed at parties and photo shoots like bottled water at a health spa. I'd had my fun and experimented with my fair share of mood enhancers. I knew by the second sip of the drink Cosby had given me that I'd been drugged—and drugged good.
Johnson managed to escape by calling Cosby a "motherfucker" multiple times, angering him:
As I felt my body go completely limp, my brain switched into automatic-survival mode. That meant making sure Cosby understood that I knew exactly what was happening at that very moment.
"You are a motherfucker aren't you?"
That's the exact question I yelled at him as he stood there holding me, expecting me to bend to his will. I rapidly called him several more "motherfuckers." By the fifth, I could tell that I was really pissing him off. At one point he dropped his hands from my waist and just stood there looking at me like I'd lost my mind.
What happened next is somewhat cloudy for me because the drug was in fuller play by that time. I recall his seething anger at my tirade and then him grabbing me by my left arm hard and yanking all 110 pounds of me down a bunch of stairs as my high heels clicked and clacked on every step. I feared my neck was going to break with the force he was using to pull me down those stairs.
It was still late afternoon and the sun hadn't completely gone down yet. When we reached the front door, he pulled me outside of the brownstone and then, with his hand still tightly clenched around my arm, stood in the middle of the street waving down taxis.
When one stopped, Cosby opened the door, shoved me into it and slammed the door behind me without ever saying a word. I somehow managed to tell the driver my address and before blacking out, I looked at the cabbie and asked, as if he knew: "Did I really just call Bill Cosby 'a motherfucker'?"
Cosby didn't respond to requests for comment from Vanity Fair.
Johnson says she was inspired to finally speak up by the other women who have told their Cosby stories, including her longtime friend and fellow model Janice Dickinson. "Many are still afraid to speak up," Johnson concludes. "I couldn't sit back and watch the other women be vilified and shamed for something I knew was true."