The Independent’s journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission.

After Bill Cosby's conviction for sexual assault, why is his star still on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?

To suggest that his legacy, and not the people he hurt through it, deserves special protection beggars belief

Bill Cosby leave court in handcuffs

After decades of exhaustive campaigning and public bashing, the victims of disgraced actor and comedian Bill Cosby have finally been heard.

In the first tangible step towards giving his accusers some form of justice, Cosby was handed down a sentence of up to 10 years in prison on Tuesday for three counts of aggravated indecent assault, for the sexual assault and drugging Andrea Constand in 2004. Much to the relief of those who time and again have been forced to accept the permeance of his reputation, Cosby has finally being held accountable for at least some of his actions.

As much relief as this verdict likely brought – including Judge Steven O’Neill’s decision to label Cosby a “sexually violent predator”, which means he’ll be forced to undergo monthly counselling sessions, register as a sex offender and have his neighbours notified of his crimes and home address under Pennsylvania law – there are lingering aspects of the waning star’s legacy that still warrant tackling. His Hollywood Walk of Fame star, for example.

Despite deeming the fallen entertainment mogul’s fate “regrettable”, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce (HCC) refused to remove Cosby’s star because on principle, it “does not remove stars from the Walk of Fame”.

A statement from the body read: “Once installed, the stars become part of the historic fabric of the Walk of Fame, a ‘designated historic cultural landmark’, and are intended to be permanent … It is regrettable when the personal lives of inductees do not measure up to public standards and expectation.”

Bill Cosby: A timeline of sexual abuse allegations

However, the argument against removing monuments in honour of morally questionable figures who have remorselessly targeted vulnerable people, or made them physically vulnerable in order to hurt them further, as a means of honouring history and staying true to the facts, doesn’t quite wash here. Because that was never the intent behind setting the Walk of Fame up in the first place.

In fact, EM Stuart, the 1953 volunteer president of the HCC who is said to have come up with the idea of the Walk of Fame, did so as a means of maintaining “the glory of a community whose name means glamour and excitement in the four corners of the world”.

Just how keeping Cosby’s star on that walk would add to the maintenance of the “glory” of Hollywood isn’t quite clear. What does keeping his star there say about Hollywood, other than “if you’re unlucky enough to be legally reprimanded for abusing your power for indisputable evil, don’t worry, we’ve still got you”? Or, “No matter how much wrong you do in your life, your legacy will save you”?

Sexual predators have and continue to escape repercussions for their actions all the time, especially those with financial or reputational power – in Cosby’s case, both. So, to suggest that his legacy, and not the people he hurt through it, deserves special protection beggars belief.

If removing homages to sexually violent predators amounts to failing to respect history, then why not slap an addendum on that star? It’s been vandalised with relatively accurate descriptions of his crimes in recent years. How about we let them stay, for the sake of accuracy? Or perhaps the HCC should add a sixth category to the list of approved disciplines recognised under the Walk of Fame criteria: motion pictures, television, radio, recording and live performance/theatre and sexual offences. Now that would be a testament to Cosby’s stardom.

As for the question of whether Cosby’s crimes can be tied to his professional life when, according to the HCC, they should be deemed as “personal” issues, of the 60 or so women who came forward with allegations against him, a recurring factor in their testimonies was Cosby’s ability to exploit his public persona in order to get what he wanted. As Lisa Bloom, the lawyer of model Janice Dickinson, one of many women who came forward with allegations against Cosby, put it in an interview with Time ahead of the sentencing, “until that guilty verdict, many of us found it hard to believe that someone as wealthy and powerful as Bill Cosby could really be held accountable for what he had done”.

Consider the HCC’s stance in the face of Constand’s five-page victim impact statement, which detailed the harrowing ways in which Cosby took her “beautiful, healthy young spirit and crushed it”, and robbed her of her “health and vitality” and trust in both herself “and others”.

The road towards justice for victims like Constand has been long and arduous and, in many cases, unsuccessful. Suggesting that keeping Cosby’s star on the Walk of Fame isn’t an affront to that is, to put it mildly, insulting.

Yes, there are aspects of Cosby’s legacy that, to some, are still worth celebrating. I grew up watching reruns of the Cosby Show spin-off, A Different World, and it remains one of my favourite television shows of all time (largely because of producer/director Debbie Allen’s influence on the show and also because there are very few appearances from Cosby himself, which means it is mostly watchable). But that’s me, enjoying a show in my own private time. Forcing the world to endure a permanent celebration of his life is a completely different story.

The victims of sexual assault and rape everywhere, in this case especially in Hollywood, deserve to know that the body inextricably tied to the industry, that has repeatedly turned a blind eye to behaviour like Cosby’s, is behind them. Until that star is removed, that can’t be the case.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in