Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

Arts and Entertainment

Singer Says Bill Cosby Suspected She Was A Lesbian And Tried To Blacklist Her

janis_ian_smothers.jpg
Janis Ian performs on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967 (via Janis Ian)
LAist relies on your reader support, not paywalls.
Freely accessible local news is vital. Please power our reporters and help keep us independent with a donation today.


Inspired by the New York Magazine cover story on 35 of Bill Cosby's accusers, singer Janis Ian shared her own creepy experience with the comedian from when she was only 16 years old."I have a personal stake," wrote the "Society's Child" and "At Seventeen" singer on her Facebook page earlier this week. "No, I was not sexually bothered by Bill Cosby. We met because he was curious about me."

Ian goes on the write about an appearance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967, when she was 16 and breaking out with her hit song "Society's Child." In the midst of a publicity tour and a deluge of death threats ("Society's Child" is about an interracial relationship from a teenage girl's point-of-view) that left her "exhausted," she recalls innocently falling asleep on the lap of her older female chaperone after taping her performance.

Little did she know what would be the fallout from that catnap:

A while later, my manager called me into her office. "What happened at the Smothers Brothers show?!" I had no idea what she was talking about, and said so. "Well, no one else on TV is willing to have you on. Not out there, anyway." Why? I wondered. And was told that Cosby, seeing me asleep in the chaperone's lap, had made it his business to "warn" other shows that I wasn't "suitable family entertainment", was probably a lesbian, and shouldn't be on television.
Support for LAist comes from

Ironic, since Cosby's old TV shows are no longer considered "suitable family entertainment" anymore.

Luckily for Ian, Johnny Carson and his producer would later book her for The Tonight Show, ignoring Cosby's blacklist. "Or maybe they didn't give a damn," Ian says.

"Cosby was right in one thing," she writes after lengthily mulling over Cosby, the accusations, and their ramifications. "I am gay." In 1993, Ian came out as a lesbian.

Watch Janis Ian's performance of "Society's Child" on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.