On one episode of “The Cosby Show” last fall, the new boyfriend of Bill Cosby’s TV daughter shows up for their first date . . . wearing an earring.
“It’s a conversation piece with you older people,” the boyfriend tells Cosby, prompting cheers, laughter and a nationwide groan of recognition from millions of fathers across the country.
In New York, one incipient father responded instead as if struck by a bolt of lightning. “I’d been wanting to do a book on fatherhood for some time,” Doubleday senior editor Paul Bresnick said, “but I hadn’t yet matched it with Cosby.”
By the time Bresnick’s first daughter was born seven months later, the ink was drying on a contract for a book to be called “Fatherhood.” Bill Cosby’s first book will be published as a Dolphin hard-cover by Doubleday next spring, with Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a script consultant for Cosby’s runaway hit NBC-TV series, offering commentary.
Cosby himself was out of the country on vacation and unavailable for comment, but in Los Angeles, Norman Brokaw, executive vice president of the William Morris Agency and Cosby’s agent and adviser of 20 years, explained that the project had appealed to the entertainer because “it just sounded like the right book at the right time, and therefore we went ahead and concluded the deal.” Cosby’s contract was negotiated jointly by Brokaw and Owen Laster of the Morris agency in New York. Brokaw would not discuss Cosby’s advance, “but obviously,” he said, “it had to be a satisfactory arrangement.”
Over the years, Brokaw said, “numerous books have been suggested by various publishers for Bill Cosby.” At Doubleday, Bresnick said that he too was aware that Cosby had declined all previous offers to write about his life. The key was in linking Cosby the father with Cosby the author.
Said Brokaw: “Well, his act is based so often on his role as father and husband, and the series is about a father with five kids. It just seems that Bill Cosby is identified with fatherhood. When you see Cosby’s show and you have kids of your own, you definitely identify.”
“I wanted somebody who would be funny on the subject,” Bresnick said, “and who would have universal appeal, somewhat a la Erma Bombeck.”