#MeToo

Photo from New York magazine.

By Terrance Turner

June 30, 2021

The artist formerly known as Cliff Huxtable was released from prison today. He had been serving three years of a three- to 10-year sentence at a maximum-security prison outside Philadelphia when the court ruled that a “non-prosecution agreement” with a previous prosecutor meant he should not have been charged in the case. He had been convicted on three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand in April 2018. The drugging and sexual assault had occurred in 2004, according to the New York Times.

It is important to note that the conviction has been overturned on a technicality. It is not reflective of innocence or guilt. Individual 1 still faces dozens of accusations from over 50 women. 35 of them were interviewed for a landmark 2015 story by Noreen Malone for New York magazine. Some of the women’s stories are reprinted below.

A 17-year-old aspiring singer named Sunni Welles met Individual 1 on the set of I Spy in the mid-1960s. “He invited her to a jazz club [and] ordered drinks soon after they arrived. Everything became a blur. She woke up in a strange apartment, naked and alone. The comedian told Welles she had drunk too much champagne — though she says she remembered only drinking her Coke — and he brought her to the apartment so she could sleep it off. Welles took him at his word and accepted another invitation to a magic show. Again, her memories of the night disappeared, and she woke up naked.”

19-year-old Joan Tarshis was starting a career as a comedy writer when she met Individual 1 through mutual friends in Los Angeles in 1969. The comedian asked Tarshis if she’d be interested in working on some material with him. She joined him at home; he served her a Bloody Mary topped with beer. She drank some. The next thing she remembered was him undressing her on his couch. She told him she had a yeast infection, hoping to fend him off. But he grabbed her head and forced her to perform oral sex on him.

Marcella Tate met Individual 1 at a Chicago nightclub, through a friend, in 1975. One day, he called Tate and asked her to pick him up at the airport. She did. When he got in the car, he asked if she’d take him to the Playboy Mansion, where he said he was staying. Then he invited her inside for a glass of wine. Tate agreed. Once inside, he handed her a drink. “The next thing Tate remembers is waking up next to a naked [Individual 1] in bed. She doesn’t remember how she got home.”  

In 1984, Heidi Thomas was 24 when she got a call from her agent, who told her that a big shot in the entertainment industry — “Mr. C.” — wanted to mentor her. Thomas flew out to Reno, Nevada to meet him. From the airport, his driver brought her to a ranch where the comedian was staying. There, “Mr. C” asked Thomas to read a script for him and assigned her the role of a drunken person. He gave her a drink as a prop and encouraged her to take a sip. She woke up to find him naked and trying to force her into oral sex. She came forward in February 2015. 

“I had the understanding I was going to be receiving private acting coaching from him,” says Thomas. “He said, ‘Let’s try a cold read,’ so he pulls out a script. The scene was set in a bar; the character was someone who was inebriated. He poured a glass of white wine. And he said, use this as a prop — now, that means you’re going to have to sip on it, of course. I really don’t remember much, except waking up in his bedroom. He was naked, and he was forcing himself into my mouth.”

In 1985, a 17-year-old model and aspiring actress named Barbara Bowman met Individual 1 in Denver. He offered to mentor her. He flew her to events and performances, then moved her to New York City and then to Long Island. “I was invited down to Atlantic City to see his show. It was a very confusing night where I was completely drugged and my luggage was missing. When I called the concierge to find out where my luggage was, [he] went ballistic. He said, ‘What the hell are you doing, letting the whole hotel know I have a 19-year-old girl in my hotel suite?’

The next morning, I woke up undressed. I didn’t know what had happened. He called me on the phone and summoned me down to his room. He yelled at me that I had embarrassed him by being at the hotel, and that I needed to have discretion. Then he pounced on me. He threw me down on the bed and he put his forearm under my throat and started choking me. He straddled me, and he took his belt buckle off. The clanking of the belt buckle, I’ll never forget. It was jammed, and he was trying to unzip his pants. I was able to wiggle out.”

Beverly Johnson auditioned for a small part on the perpetrator’s television show in the mid-1980s. They met on set. He invited her to his house to read for the part. The first time, Johnson brought her daughter with her. “My ex-husband had primary custody of my daughter at the time, and I usually spent my weekends with her. [Individual 1] suggested I bring her along, which really reeled me in. He was the Jell-O Pudding man; like most kids, my daughter loved him,” Johnson told Allison Samuels in a piece for Vanity Fair. She recalled that “his staff served us a delicious brunch. Then he gave us a tour of the exceptional multi-level home.”

The meeting — which Johnson suspects was a way to make her feel comfortable — worked like a charm. Johnson returned to the house a second time to read for the part. That second time, she was alone.

He led her upstairs under the pretense that they would rehearse. He had a huge brass espresso machine installed in the room, on the counter. He insisted Johnson have a cup. She didn’t want to drink coffee late in the afternoon, but he insisted. She didn’t want to argue, and took two sips. After the second, she knew she had been drugged.

“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,” Johnson told Allison Samuels. “I knew by the second sip of the drink [he] had given me that I’d been drugged— and drugged good. My head became woozy, my speech became slurred, and the room began to spin nonstop.” 

Individual 1 approached her and put his hand on her waist. Johnson cursed him out and called him out for drugging her. He grabbed her arm and practically dragged her down the stairs, out of the house, and into a cab. She does not know how she got home or how she made it to bed.

The perpetrator frequently used his show to access his victims. In the early 1990s, Individual 1 started mentoring Lili Bernard before she guest-starred on his show. “I looked upon him as a father figure,” she said. “He often said to me, ‘You’re one of my kids, Bernard.’” Later, he drugged her drink, and raped her. 

These are just some of the stories included in Noreen Malone’s article. Many of the women interviewed did not come forward for decades after their assaults. Today’s development underscores why. Many observers have argued that cases like today’s are the reason women don’t report:

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