Canadian Fans Embrace Bill Cosby Despite Rape Allegations
Despite mild protests, some empty seats and one heckler, the comedian received a warm welcome north of the border
Canadians like scandal-plagued Bill Cosby. They really do.
Rape allegations may have wiped 10 American cities off the schedule of Cosby's current North American tour, but the comedian received three standing ovations during consecutive dates last week in Kitchener, London and Hamilton, Ontario.
Cosby has had his Canadian critics after getting hit in November 2014 with multiple (and counting) molestation claims that lay buried for years. The 77-year-old TV star faced small protests by rape survivor advocates before and after his shows outside the venues for all three Canadian concerts.
But Cosby saw no disruption during his Kitchener stop, with fans laughing heartily throughout. He faced one heckler in London and, after about 30 women staged a mass protest in Hamilton by chanting "We Believe the Women," his third and final performance continued uninterrupted amid tight police and security guard surveillance.
Cosby issued a statement after each concert thanking his fans for their support.
It seems Canadians just don't want to judge Cosby too quickly, even as he faces a media storm back home after around two dozen accusers came forward with mounting rape and sexual assault allegations.
"I don't know how you can condemn a man until you know the whole story," Dan Emerson told The Hollywood Reporter, before passing through protesters holding signs that read "Rape Is No Joke" to enter the Center in the Square theater in Kitchener. "I hope it's not true and, until I know otherwise, I love him to death," he added.
Innocent until proven guilty was also heard in Hamilton, where Cosby fan Paul Maurice looked forward to seeing America's Dad in concert at Hamilton Place.
"He hasn't been convicted of anything. He wouldn't have got over the border if that was the case," he said.
If everyone who had bought tickets had showed up for the show, chances are the crowd would have been a bit more hostile — all three venues were sold out but nearly half-empty as disgruntled ticket holders decided against showing up after being denied refunds by promoters.
But those who did attend the shows lived up to the stereotype of Canadians as being unfailingly polite and forgiving. Tolerant Canadians have a history of standing by entertainers spurned by their American fans.
Recall The Dixie Chicks a decade ago replacing cancelled U.S. concerts with Canadian dates after lead singer Natalie Maines caused a political storm for speaking out against President George W. Bush in the lead-up to the Iraq war.
Remember Michael Moore's 2003 Oscar acceptance speech where he slammed Bush for going to war? Next to him on stage was Canadian producer Michael Donovan, who financed and produced Bowling for Columbine.
No wonder Moore is forever telling Americans to emulate Canadians.
More recently, Randy Quaid was allowed to stay in Canada as a permanent resident after the actor and his wife, Evi Quaid, fled an arrest warrant in Santa Barbara, Calif., because "Hollywood star whackers" were allegedly out to murder them.
In the end, Cosby's Canadian fans didn't exactly jump to his defense. Most expressed a simple desire to enjoy a comedy show.
Robin Duke said he watched Cosby as the kindly Dr. Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show, while daughter Kathy, who accompanied him, didn't, but likes comedy shows.
"We bought our tickets six months ago and just want to enjoy the show we paid for," Duke said calmly before entering the Hamilton show.