“No, I was not sexually bothered by Bill Cosby. We met because he was curious about me.
My song “Society’s Child” was climbing the charts and creating a great deal of controversy. The Smothers Brothers took a huge gamble and had me on their hit television show. I was just sixteen years old when we taped it. I’d been on the road for months, doing press and one-nighters. My chaperone/tour manager, a family friend six or seven years older than me, was doing everything in her power to make sure I was protected and getting as much rest as possible.
“Remember. I was sixteen. Still in high school. Fairly naive, including about my own sexuality. For months on the road, my chaperone was the only consistent face I saw. Everyone else was a complete stranger – radio personalities, newspaper reporters, magazine photographers, audiences, promoters, disc jockeys, all strangers. So I clung to my chaperone.
“We’d never been to a big-time TV taping. We had no idea we’d have to be inside from early early morning until whenever they called for me. There were only a couple of chairs for us on the set – I was pretty low on the totem pole, way lower than Jimmy Durante or Pat Paulsen or Mason Williams (all of whom were wonderful to us). And I was exhausted. I’d been having nightmares for weeks, the result of the controversy surrounding “Society’s Child” and the death threats I was receiving daily. I needed to sleep. So I fell asleep in my chaperone’s lap. She was earth motherly, I was scared. It was good to rest.
“We taped the show. I had a ball. (You can see it on Youtube, in fact. That’s me, looking scared, in the green dress. My friend Buffy from East Orange, where I’d started high school, made it for me. I treasured it.) Then we went back to New York, and I went back to school.
“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…Banned from TV. Unbelievable.”
— Lesbian singer/songwriter Janis Ian, retelling her experience with Bill Cosby in a recent Facebook update.