I love women, absolutely love them. However, for most of my life, I found myself just too shy to speak to them. Oh, I looked and on occasion I would smile. I always fantasized, but approaching a woman out of the blue was extremely difficult for me. My mind becomes paralyzed. I begin to sweat. I scowl. It was a cruel trick to bless me with such an appreciation, but then to curse me with tortured shyness. I discovered, however, that a shy nature is easy to hide when people are eager to talk to you, or even if you think people are eager to talk to you. Playing Martin on the Cosby Show allowed me to open up and begin to play the part of ladies man, to indulge my deep appreciation of the fairer sex. When I began working on the show, Bill gave me a hint of what was to come.
Cory came to the taping of my first episode. Afterward, I introduced her around to the cast and crew. In spite of our recent troubles, I was proud of Corey; I had intended to marry her. She was my woman and I wanted everyone to meet her. A week or two later, as we were sitting backstage, Bill remarked to me that “You can do better.” He kind of half closed his eyes, put his head back a bit as if in serious contemplation and said, “Another episode or two…” adding — and these were not his exact words, but the meaning was clear — I would then attract better women. His remark stung. Everything Bill said carried weight with me. My feelings were hurt. In an odd way I felt as if I had somehow let him down — not lived up to expectations, maybe wasn’t quite ready for the big time. At the same time, I was angry, feeling both insulted and protective. As far as I was concerned, I had great taste in women. He didn’t know Corey, so he could have only been referring to her looks and I thought Corey was pretty. Yet, there was something in what Bill said that I must have known to be true, because I didn’t respond to him. Corey was a pretty girl. She was also smart as a whip, funny, tons of personality, and although she could be bossy, she was kind. The truth, however, was that I had never really felt a great lust for Corey. As much as I loved her, she wasn’t, well, sexy to me. I don’t ever recall looking at her and having the uncontrollable and primal desire to rip her clothes off and make love to her. I’d felt that kind of sexual passion before and I simply didn’t have it with Corey. And she knew it.
At some point during that unfortunate summer, we had traveled to Westchester to visit one of her college girlfriends. Later that night, she became angry and accused me of “looking” at her friend, and then through tears, (she cried a lot that summer), she asked why I never looked at her like that. Other than being polite, I honestly didn’t recall looking at her friend in any particular way. I defended myself, denying the accusation up one side and down the other. “You’re seeing things that aren’t there,” I charged. “You have no reason to be jealous.” Then in a clumsy effort to calm her fears and sweeten the moment, I said, “Corey, I see so much more in you than sex.” My efforts failed because, of course, given how rocky things were between us, she wanted me to see sex in her. Whether I looked at her friend or not, I knew exactly the look she was talking about and she was right, I didn’t look at her like that.
So, as Bill had predicted, I began meeting prettier girls. Or was it simply that I was now talking to the pretty girls that I was meeting? Being on the show definitely made me more confident around women, and being recognized from the show certainly made me more attractive to women. Let’s face it, there are some women (and men) for whom celebrity is an aphrodisiac. I was meeting extremely beautiful women — women I looked at in the way I had never looked at Corey. At the end of the day, it didn’t really matter whether it was the chicken or the egg. I was going out more, and meeting more people, than I ever had. All this new attention was bringing me out of my shell, as if my eyes were now looking outward instead of constantly focused inward. And there were a lot of beautiful women to see, women of all shapes and sizes, colors and complexions. What I found amazing was that I didn’t have to do very much to meet them; they would introduce themselves. I could just stand…here, there, or anywhere and women would approach me in singles or in groups, smiling and looking up at me with eyes, sparkling with life and opportunity. They handed me business cards. “Call me,” They would say. They giggled and winked and hovered. They bought me drinks. Lord have mercy, a few of them even called me up to ask me out.
It took me about two seconds to decide that breaking up with Corey when I did was the best thing for us both. There was just no way that I was going to remain faithful. I was not that strong. In fact, I will go so far as to say that no 27-year-old, single, healthy, heterosexual male who finds himself as a star on a popular television program is that strong and shouldn’t saddle himself with a long distance relationship – or any serious relationship. The idea is just crazy! It’s a nasty break-up lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce and kick your ass.
I should amend that to say, “Breaking up with Corey — more or less.” After she went back to school, we remained in a kind of gray area for the next couple of months. You know that stage when both people know it’s over, but like Gladys Knight sang, no one “wants to be the first to say goodbye.” We still called each other, but we were no longer speaking every day. When we did speak on the phone there were pauses in conversations that used to be filled with easy banter and laughter. I couldn’t share with her everything that was happening with me and I don’t think she really wanted to hear it all. Corey and I had genuinely been in love with one another, so there was a sharp pain in my heart at the end of the summer when I put her in a cab to the airport and back to law school. Nevertheless, I had taken a deep breath and decided to get on with my life. I was, as they say, newly single and ready to mingle, and I must confess that I wanted to mingle with just about every woman I laid eyes on. I didn’t mingle with everyone I dated, and I didn’t date everyone I mingled with, but I tried to do as much of both as I could – and my new celebrity was a huge asset.
Next…The Redhead and the end of Corey