Monday, April 30, 2018

"Peripheral 'Witness'"

I’d have never have written about this if it weren’t for the phone calls.

The first one, a year or so back, came from Access Hollywood, asking me, after the startling story broke, if had any suspicions about Bill Cosby while I was working on his TV show.  

Before I go there – and believe me, there are no “blockbuster revelations” – let me preamblingly say this.

It is my studied opinion that, when Sixty Minutes demonstrated that the networks’ news divisions, formerly delivering “loss leader” broadcasts as a public service, could be profitable, from then on, they hadto be.

After that, reporters raced around frantically like a dog chasing a bone on a string, where, most recently – and how brilliant he isat it – the “Master Manipulator” in the White House tantalizingly jiggles the stick.

When the reporter from Access Hollywoodcalled, I kept the conversation relatively brief.  Although, deep down, in the shameful cellar of my soul, I felt flutteringly flattered at being included.  Not that it involved much reportorial “legwork.”  (Cosby Showepisode) “‘Goodbye, Mister Fish’, written by Earl Pomerantz – Let’s call Earl Pomerantz” hardly rises to the Woodward and Bernstein level of “uncovering a source.”

I told the Access Hollywoodemployee assigned to calling people on a list that I was clueless about activities connected with the Cosby “Sexual Assault” allegations, later imagining a sarcastic explanation for being entirely in the dark.  

“It wasn’t like Bill Cosby said, ‘Hey, Earl.  I’m going to drug a woman and have non-consensual sex with her.  You wanna watch?’”

Secret stuff is conducted in secret.  I offered my unilluminating “No cents worth” to the Access Hollywoodproceedings, and that would be that.

The second call came after the recently announced “Guilty” verdict at the Cosby retrial.  (The original trial ending in a “hung jury.”)

This time, it was a reporter from Newsday (with – I just looked it up – a circulation of 377,500, the eleventh highest in the country.)   

The reporter who called me was a veteran of thirty years covering the entertainment industry and probably using the same Access Hollywood“Call List” – where, if my name was not dead last it was because the list of names had been alphabetized.  He was interested in hearing my reaction to the surprise outcome of the Cosby retrial.

You have to be scrupulously careful about these things.  Journalists don’t care about their sources.  They just want a good story.  Anything you reveal will therefore be skillfully “adjusted” towards that intended objective.

Another thing to be careful about… how do I put this? 

In an imagined “zero sum” calculation, any wisp of acknowledgement in the direction of the perpetrator will be adjudged by many as imperfect support for the victim.

That second phone call took longer and was more casually conversational.  It’s a way of loosening people up.  Answering the question, “What was it like working with Bill Cosby?” I pulled out my truthful – and practiced – reaction:

“It was like being asked to ‘sit in’ with a magnificent jazz band.”

I explained my demonstrable value during my brief tenure on the show – you will not be surprised to hear – with a story.   

“Once a writer from TV Guidesat in on a post-“Table Reading” notessession, at which Cosby held forth opaquely and circuitously on the deficiencies of the script for more than two-and-a-half hours.  Later that day, the writer called to ask,

“Did you understand anything he said?”

To which I candidly replied,

“I am working on this show because I understood halfof what he said.”

I told the Newsdayreporter that I wished to remain in “deep background” on this story, which to me meant, “Say you heard it, but not where.”  I was hoping interviewed celebrities would “bump” me extraneously from the copy, and that my reaction would remain where it naturally belonged:


In the end, he returned to his original question.  How did I feel about the verdict?  To which I spontaneously replied, 


I should probably have said nothing.

But how often do you get called by the paper with the eleventh highest circulation in the country?


Mike T. said...

Here's the Newsday article in which you are quoted, Earl.
It looks to me like you were quoted accurately and in context. I see nothing to regret in what you said.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

There are really just so few good options when you're called like that. I think you did fine.

btw, it's "loss leader", not "lost leader", but you probably knew that.


YEKIMI said...

@ Wendy: The "lost leader" is what's currently occupying the White House.

Stubblejumpers Cafe said...

"He was interested in hearing my reaction to the surprise outcome of the Cosby retrial."

Why was the outcome of the trial a surprise?
You didn't think they had enough evidence to convict? Or you thought he might've had enough cash and connections to wangle his way out of a conviction? Or ... ?

Stubblejumpers Cafe said...

By the way, although I understand your heartbreak, I really think I do, I would've been heartbroken had he not been convicted. The prick.

Wendy M. Grossman said...


@Stubblejumpers Cafe: The surprise was that he didn't get away with it after decades of managing to do so.