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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Brief Tour of Bill Cosby's Bay Area Haunts

Posted By on Tue, Jul 21, 2015 at 11:54 AM

click to enlarge KATE HASKELL/FLICKR
  • Kate Haskell/Flickr

The San Francisco Bay Area must hold a special place in the heart of confessed philanderer and Quaalude connoisseur Bill Cosby. After all, one of the most famous stand-up routines from his 1960's heyday is “Driving in San Francisco.”

“They built a street up there called Lombard Street that goes straight down,” Cosby observes on his hit record The Best of Bill Cosby (1969). “And they’re not satisfied with you killing yourself that way, so they put grooves and curves and everything, and they put flowers there where they have buried the people they have killed.”


The live audience laughs, and I used to laugh, too, before a staggering number of rape accusations now force me to separate the sweater-clad de Sade from his punchlines.

Cosby recorded his 1972 live record Inside the Mind of Bill Cosby (Ack!) at the Circle Star Theatre in San Carlos, a funky old concert hall where the stage rotated to give everyone in the room the same view of the performance in 10 minute intervals.

click to enlarge Circle Star Theatre, San Carlos - COURTESY OF CIRCLE STAR THEATRE FACEBOOK
  • Courtesy of Circle Star Theatre Facebook
  • Circle Star Theatre, San Carlos
Around the time Cosby recorded routines called “Bill’s Marriage” and the unfortunately named “Froofie the Dog,” Bay Area waitress Donna Motsinger got in a limo with Cosby to see him perform at the Circle Star. During the drive, Cosby gave her a drink.

"I didn't feel right. I felt bad,” Motsinger told KGO in November 2014.

“Next thing I know, I wake up in the limo with his hands on me,” she recalled. “I wake up in my own bed the next morning, all my clothes off, except for my underwear, and I know I have been sexually assaulted.”

Motsinger was one of 12 women willing to testify in the 2005 lawsuit that Cosby settled out of court without admitting guilt. Excerpts from Cosby’s deposition in this case where he admits to procuring Quaaludes to help him have sex with women were published by The New York Times on July 18.

The Circle Star Theatre closed in 1993 and met the wrecking ball in 1997. Two glass-fronted office buildings housing Sprint and SoftBank are in its place now as you cruise down 101. Its oversized digital marquee is the only thing that remains of the building, except now it serves as a billboard for Ant-Man and something called the “Rolex Reunion” instead of announcing future concerts by Sinatra and Tony Bennett.

And now, I can’t help but wonder how many other women were drugged by the Cos on the way to the Circle Star, or the Paramount in Oakland, or Harvey’s in Tahoe, where he always seemed to be performing if my memory of the back page of the Chronicle’s pink section is at all accurate.

Cosby even filmed his now deep-sixed Netflix special at the San Francisco Jazz Center on July 12, 2014, his 77th birthday. Cosby chose the venue to honor Enrico Banducci, founder of the hungry i, the North Beach nightspot that launched Cosby’s standup career (and his later reign of terror).

“I had a fun time in North Beach,” Cosby says in a statement on his website.

Unfortunately, he may have.


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Bob Calhoun

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