Even as other entertainment outlets abandoned him and suspicion grew over a series of renewed allegations of sexual assault, Bill Cosby was welcomed to a central Florida theater Friday night to a rousing standing ovation.
Wearing his trademark "Hello Friend" sweater in tribute to his late son, the 77-year-old comedian acknowledged the audience by flashing a thumbs up. The opening moments of his performance made no mention of the controversy that has threatened his legacy as one of television's most beloved figures.
The beginning of his routine, which he delivered sitting down next to a small table, revolved on bits about a religious relay race, churchgoing and drink-swilling relatives. The audience laughed and clapped appreciatively.
Cosby also delved into two of his preferred topics -- childhood and race -- by telling a story about how as a young boy he misunderstood how babies were born a given color. He recalled asking his uncle why he was black if the stork was white.
"Coffee," his uncle told him.
The performance was being held as accusations mounted against the legendary entertainer. A Florida nurse named Therese Serignese became one of the latest to level allegations against Cosby, claiming that the entertainer had drugged and sexually assaulted her in Las Vegas in 1976. In an interview with the Huffington Post, she said Cosby was "lying" and exhorted him to apologize.
At least a half-dozen women, including Louis Ferrigno’s wife, Carla, and the model Janice Dickinson, have stepped forward in recent weeks accusing the star of sexual assault.
Cosby's legal representatives have vigorously denied the accusations.
The website for the King Center noted Friday morning that the event "will occur as scheduled" and extolled comedian's talents going back to "I Spy." The decision to proceed with the show created a stir through Central Florida, where an Orlando radio station offered a $200 Amazon gift card to anyone who would disrupt the performance.
On Friday, the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas also said it and Cosby had decided by “mutual agreement’ to scrap plans for a show Nov. 28 as a result of the accusations. On Thursday, however, Cosby appeared at a fundraiser in the Bahamas, where he made no mention of the allegations and carried on with his planned set to a reported standing ovation.
New video also surfaced of an AP interview on Nov 6 in which Cosby repeatedly called upon a reporter’s “integrity” not to ask about the allegations and then not to show the portion of the interview in which the question was asked; the news organization opted to release the footage anyway.
Hollywood continues to react strongly to the accusations. Netflix has postponed a planned special with the comedian, NBC has scuttled the development of a planned sitcom and TV Land has pulled all reruns of “The Cosby Show.”