Memories

‘I Saved My Friend From Bill Cosby’

Bill Cosby is facing allegations of assault and sexual misconduct by many women. Here, a man recalls rescuing a female friend from the comedian’s New York brownstone in 1984.

12.03.14 10:55 AM ET

Tony Hogue banged furiously on the front door of Bill Cosby’s Upper East Side brownstone. Every so often he shouted out and kicked the door, calling the name of his friend, a 23-year-old woman who he believed was groggy, terrified, and possibly trapped inside, too dazed and confused to extricate herself.

“I just started kicking it and pounding it. I made quite a racket. I wanted to get in,” Hogue recalled, describing an incident that he says occurred around midnight in September 1984. Relying on his best recollection of events from thirty years ago, he says it happened about 20 minutes after the woman—designated in 2005 as a witness “Jane Doe 8” in a sexual-assault lawsuit against the cultural icon—phoned Hogue and pleaded with him to come and save her. (The women didn’t testify—the case was settled before trial.)

“She was crying. She was hysterical. She was whispering,” Hogue recalled in an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast. “She said, ‘Tony, you’ve got to come get me.’ And I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ And she said, ‘Tony, I’ve been in this room, I think on the second floor, and I’ve been here for a long time. I don’t think I’m even in my own clothes. I’m almost numb. I can’t stand up. I can’t see straight. My clothes are all disheveled.’

“And I said, ‘Where’s Cosby?’ And she said, ‘He keeps coming back in here from another room with his cigar breath, trying to kiss me. He’s trying to be on me, trying to do all these things.’ And I said, ‘Why don’t you see if his driver can take you?’ And she said, ‘I don’t even know where he is. I’m afraid to leave this room.’

“And I said, ‘OK, I’m gonna come get you. But the problem is, I’m a white boy from Colorado, and I’m gonna come and kick down Bill Cosby’s door? The most famous black actor on TV right now? I’m going to jail!’”

So now Hogue, against his better judgment, was noisily disrupting the quiet night on posh East 61st Street, potentially leaving himself vulnerable, he thought, to a disorderly conduct arrest.

Instead, after about a minute of banging and shouting, Hogue says, Cosby himself opened the door. He was casually dressed, apparently calm, and—Hogue recalls—surprisingly tolerant of his intruder’s boisterous behavior.

“What’s the problem?” Cosby asked.

***

Thirty years have passed since Hogue, now 58 and the owner of a graphic-design business in New Jersey, had his disturbing encounter with the rich and famous comedian.

Cosby was then 47 and about to become the biggest star on network television as well as a transformative figure and positive role model in America’s troubled racial history, portraying Dr. Cliff Huxtable, the patriarch of an upper-middle-class African-American family on NBC’s top-rated The Cosby Show.

Hogue, the son of a prosperous cable-television executive, was earning a living as a Denver-based fashion model, represented by JF Images.

The talent and modeling agency—whose owner, Jo Farrell, had struck up a friendship with Cosby during one of his Colorado comedy tours and introduced him to JF Images models ostensibly for casting purposes—kept a Manhattan apartment on 40th Street and Second Avenue, 21 blocks from Cosby’s brownstone at 243 E. 61st St.

Hogue had been staying at the apartment during Fashion Week along with the young woman who’d just phoned him there, a booker at the Denver agency, and Beth Ferrier, another visiting JF Images model who years later would be known as “Jane Doe 5” in the 2005 lawsuit.

Three decades later, Cosby’s legacy has been seemingly destroyed. In late October, a YouTube video of standup comic Hannibal Buress berating Cosby for “rap[ing] women” went viral and opened the floodgates of accusations against the moralizing former Jell-O pitchman; 20 women have come forward to describe how he allegedly drugged and sexually molested them.

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It has taken a mere six weeks for Cosby’s sterling reputation to implode. A Netflix special and a new NBC sitcom featuring Cosby were scrapped, TV Land pulled its Cosby Show reruns, he was forced to resign Monday from his decades-old seat on his alma mater Temple University’s board of trustees, and other Cosby appearances were abruptly canceled (although he continues to tour as a comedy performer).

While he denied similar allegations arising from the March 2005 lawsuit filed by Andrea Constand, a former director of women’s basketball at Temple—a lawsuit he settled with an undisclosed payment to Constand—he has refused to address the most recent round of charges.

Cosby’s personal publicist, David Brokaw, and his attorney, Martin Singer—neither of whom responded to detailed emails from The Daily Beast—have dismissed the accusations of the women who have come forward in recent weeks as false.

“The new, never-before-heard claims from women who have come forward in the past two weeks with unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40 or even 50 years ago have escalated past the point of absurdity,” Singer declared in a statement last week.

“These brand new claims about alleged decades-old events are becoming increasingly ridiculous, and it is completely illogical that so many people would have said nothing, done nothing, and made no reports to law enforcement or asserted civil claims if they thought they had been assaulted over a span of so many years.”

It’s an argument similar to the one that Cosby biographer Mark Whitaker made in deciding to omit any mention of the Constand lawsuit’s widely publicized allegations from Cosby: His Life and Times, which was released in September to mostly respectful reviews.

Whitaker, who edited Newsweek prior to the magazine’s brief merger with The Daily Beast, said in an interview last month that he was unable to independently verify the claims, which he considered “he said, she said” and unfair to Cosby, who cooperated extensively with Whitaker’s biography.

“When you’re writing a book, you want to make sure it’s really accurate, that you can stand behind it, because once it’s out it’s not like a piece in a newspaper or even a news magazine that you can correct quickly,” Whitaker explained. “That was just the standard I used.”

Amid the uproar of the past several weeks—during which Whitaker has faced severe criticism for ignoring the allegations—he reversed himself and has decided to include reporting on the alleged episodes in future editions of his Cosby biography.

In the meantime, Tony Hogue’s narrative offers the possibility of the sort of corroboration that Whitaker says he was unable to obtain. Hogue’s recollections are largely echoed by his female friend who asked him to rescue her that night in 1984; today she is a successful business owner in Colorado who asked that her name be withheld.

The two provided their accounts to The Daily Beast separately—the now-53-year-old woman, the widowed mother of a teenage daughter, only reluctantly—and they say they haven’t been in contact for decades.

“I find this difficult to talk about,” the woman emailed The Daily Beast. “Still, I do want to ‘process’ this, and so I will write down what I remember.”

Their stories are also supported by Beth Ferrier, the former model who in 2006 went public in the Philadelphia Daily News with an account of being present at a 1984 dinner with Cosby, a male model, and a female booking agent after which Ferrier said that she and the comedian began a consensual affair. He later drugged and molested her, she said. (In recent days, Ferrier couldn’t be reached for comment.)

The accusations of Ferrier and other women, including former JF Images model Barbara Bowman (who, along with Ferrier, recounted her alleged Cosby experience to People magazine in 2006, and last month wrote about it in The Washington Post), are admittedly difficult to square with Cosby’s good-guy image.

“I am just floored by this,” Jo Farrell, now 83, told The Denver Post eight years ago when the allegations first surfaced. “I don’t know the truth of it. Bill has been a good friend over the years, and I have never seen him be anything but a gentleman… It’s mind-boggling.”

Even Tony Hogue and his friend, who was a JF Images booking agent, had trouble wrapping their brains around it. “I was very young and quite naïve and just couldn’t believe what was happening,” she emailed The Daily Beast, adding that Hogue “did ‘rescue’ me from a situation that frightened me—although at the time I sensed that Tony might have thought that I was imagining things.”

Hogue, too, said that back in 1984, he found it unthinkable that an entertainer he had long admired and enjoyed—Hogue’s parents used to play Cosby’s comedy album featuring the popular “Noah” routine—would be forcing himself on a young woman.

“I couldn’t put that in my mind. I really didn’t think he was doing something. When she said something was going on, I thought maybe she didn’t understand,” Hogue recalled. “I was really sort of star-struck, I suppose… Even at the time, I didn’t suspect anything really foul. Maybe she had drunk too much or ate something wrong.”

***

The story begins on the day they arrived in New York from Denver, when the booker informed a very surprised Hogue that they—including Ferrier—would be dining with Cosby that evening at Mr. Chow, a fashionable restaurant on East 57th Street; they were to meet up at Cosby’s brownstone four blocks from the restaurant.

“I said, ‘OK, but why are we doing this?’” recalled Hogue, who had spent time in Hollywood and figured he knew how the business worked. “And she said, ‘he really wants to meet her [Ferrier] and take her under his wing.’ And I thought, that ain’t gonna happen. It didn’t feel right.

“Why would Bill Cosby care less about these young girls coming from these modeling agencies? That was how he was casting extras on his show? That right there seemed ridiculous. I’d been to LA, and no actors I knew were doing that kind of stuff.”

Still, Hogue was excited at the prospect of spending time with one of his favorite showbiz celebrities, even if the circumstances seemed a little strange. For his booking-agent friend, however, the situation was standard operating procedure.

“In the mid-’80s, the company that I worked for, JF Images, had an apartment at 40th and 2nd in New York,” she emailed. “I used this apartment several times a year as a home-base when I went to NY to market the talent agency and to attend the Fashion Week runway shows. In 1984, I accompanied Beth Ferrier and Tony Hogue to NY, seeking national representation for both of them as they were two of the top talent at JF Images.”

That Cosby would be their host, she wrote, “was not unusual—for several years, Mr. Cosby offered his car and driver to me whenever I came to town and often provided show tickets and dinner invitations.”

When they arrived at Cosby’s brownstone around 8 p.m.—Hogue vaguely remembers that Cosby had sent his chauffeured limo to pick them up at the apartment—the comedian was gracious and friendly, offering drinks all around but not indulging himself. “He can be a very charming guy, of course,” Hogue said.

At Mr. Chow, Hogue recalled, they were joined for dinner by Cosby’s two private pilots, a man and a woman in their late twenties or early thirties wearing pilots’ uniforms, and Cosby arranged the seating—placing Hogue beside the female pilot, Hogue’s friend beside the male pilot, and himself next to Ferrier.

The dinner was very jolly. “We all got to know each other and we had fun,” Hogue recalled. “Since Bill was famous, a lot of people in the restaurant were coming up to him. But most of his attention was focused on this girl [Ferrier] for whatever reason.”

The dinner ended around 11:30 p.m. and Cosby suggested that Hogue, his friend, and the two pilots check out a favorite nightclub while he spent some private time with Ferrier. “Here’s what we’re doing,” Hogue recalls Cosby saying. “I’m going back to my place to talk with her about her career and go over some acting things, and you go there and have a great time.” Hogue added: “And then he got into his limo with her and they drove off.”

Instead of following Cosby’s recommendations, they called it a night, Hogue recalled. “The female pilot said, ‘I really miss my husband and kids.’ It was just too awkward. They left and we went back to the apartment, and that was it.”

They saw no more of Ferrier that night. The next day, Hogue’s friend told him that Cosby had once again invited them to dinner—this time at his home. “I’m thinking, ‘Geez, this was very nice, but why would he do that?’ It didn’t make sense to me.”

Hogue says the chauffeur collected them in Cosby’s limo once again—Ferrier had reappeared—and when they arrived at East 61st Street, Cosby’s chef, an older black lady, was preparing dinner in the first-floor kitchen.

“Cosby was very generous with the drinks before dinner, but he didn’t have one himself—which I thought was odd,” Hogue recalled, adding that this time it was just the four of them in the second-floor entertainment space. “Nice food and nice wine,” he said.

Before long, however, he began to feel out of place and went back downstairs for a while to chat up the cook. “Cosby was focused on this girl [Ferrier],” Hogue said, adding “that in terms of the body language, he was like a dog protecting a favorite toy. If you come too close, the dog kind of gathers the toy in. And [his friend, the booker] felt like she had to hang close in and hear what Cosby and to say to the girl, because she was representing her, and she needed to report back to JF Images.”

Hogue says that when he returned to the table and tried to enter the conversation, Cosby was dismissive.

“Anytime I would crack a joke, he got very defensive and uneasy almost. He sort of belittled me, like he was trying to set up the positioning, if you will.”

It probably didn’t help that when Cosby asked how they’d enjoyed the club the night before, Hogue told him they didn’t go because everybody was tired—and, anyway, Hogue didn’t feel right being paired up with the married pilot.

Toward the end of the evening, Hogue says that Cosby lit up a cigar, but didn’t offer one to him—leaving little doubt, he thought, as to who was the Alpha male in the room. “You’re in his world over there, my friend,” Hogue recalled with a laugh. Hogue and his friend departed around 10:30 p.m., but he says Ferrier stayed behind.

“At the end of the evening, Beth told Tony and me that she wanted to stay over, and she later said that she stayed in a guest room,” Hogue’s friend recalled in an email to The Daily Beast. “Although I was concerned that she decided to stay there, I was not her guardian (as she was older than me) and she did not seem intoxicated prior to our departure.”

The next afternoon, Hogue recalled being shocked, and a little at a loss, when his friend told them that Cosby once again had invited them all to dinner that night at the brownstone.

“She said, ‘Bill wants us to come back over for dinner again,’” Hogue recalled. “And I think I said, ‘I’m not going to that guy’s house again. That’s ridiculous! There’s nothing in it for me here. There’s no way I’m gonna be on his show, and that’s not what I’m here for.’ I wished the girls would look at what’s going on—it just seemed really messed up.”

In due course, Hogue’s friend was on the phone to Cosby. “Tony’s not coming,” he recalled her telling the comedian, who asked her to put Hogue on the line. “What’s the matter? Is my house not nice enough for you? Is my food not good enough for you?” Hogue says Cosby demanded.

He said he politely thanked Cosby for the previous two evenings, but explained that he just didn’t feel comfortable imposing on his hospitality for a third time.

When Cosby’s chauffeur arrived to pick them up, only Hogue’s friend and Ferrier got into the limo. Hogue recalls getting a takeout meal and watching television at the apartment, enjoying a mellow evening alone until the phone rang before midnight.

Meanwhile, back on East 61st Street, “Perrier-Jouët was served like water,” Hogue’s friend recalled in an email. “We were all young—in our twenties—and felt honored to be having dinner with Cosby.” But on this particular night, things got weird.

“I called Tony to come get me from Cosby’s townhouse,” Hogue’s friend emailed. “This was after Cosby tried to kiss me. I was amazed, and quite disgusted (since he was close to my dad’s age and smelled like a cigar). Mr. Cosby had given me glass after glass of Ouzo, a drink that I had never had before. I don’t know if he put something in it, but I do recall that I felt out of control…”

***

Which brings the story back to Bill Cosby’s doorstep. “What’s the problem?” the comedian asked Hogue, who recalls that he told the taxi to wait.

“There’s a big problem here,” Hogue says he replied. He recalled being angry and trying to keep his composure as he strode past Cosby into the front hall. “Those girls are going with me right now!”

According to Hogue, Cosby calmly explained that Hogue’s friend “maybe had too much to drink and had a reaction, and she’s not feeling well.”

Hogue called out her name as he bounded up the stairs. He discovered his friend—the worse for wear and unsteady on her feet—in the second-floor living room. Apparently she had heard the commotion and made her way down from the third floor of the four-story townhouse. There was no sign of Ferrier, and Hogue gave up the idea of retrieving her as well.

Hogue’s friend “was in her clothes, but she was a mess,” Hogue recalled. “She looked drugged and in a fog, and she couldn’t snap out of it.” He helped her to the waiting taxi and back into the apartment.

“After Tony collected me,” she emailed, “I was virtually incoherent. At the time, I was in a long-term relationship, but remember (with shame) that I called out for Tony after returning to the company apartment. To this day, I am still embarrassed by my behavior.”

She continued: “I left NY the following day. Upon arriving home (I had moved back home with my parents to plan my wedding), the first words from my mom’s mouth were that Bill Cosby had called and that he wanted me to call him back. I did so, and he explained that he did not mean to be inappropriate and he was sorry if I was offended.

“I don’t recall my response, but I’m sure I placated him. I later told my boss about what had happened, but she told me that I probably misunderstood the situation. I believed this…. I really felt that I had made a wonderful, talented friend who saw that I was also particularly talented and special.”