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It is simply a fact of life that beautiful women make men behave like complete idiots. I know first hand.

Along with the rest of America, The Cosby Show had become my favorite television program. Every Thursday evening, I was parked in front of my television to share life with the Huxtables. Like most men in America, I also had a huge crush on Lisa Bonet. Imagine, then, my thrill when, at the beginning of the show’s second season, my agent informed me that I was going to audition in front of the producers, for the role of Sondra’s boyfriend. I fell to my knees. “Pleeeeese God!”

I wanted to make the best of this opportunity, so I dressed to impress: Cotton and linen baggy pants, white sneaks, and a linen, unconstructed jacket, with the sleeves pushed to my elbows. I was as clean as mountain air and twice as fresh — looking like I just stepped off the set of Miami Vice. The Cosby Show had not yet moved to Astoria studios and was being taped at NBC studios in Brooklyn. Their stage was next to that of Another World. A handful of us young men met in Manhattan and were put in a van and taken out to the hinterlands of Brooklyn to audition for the producers. As we walked into the studio, I bumped into Sabrina Le Beauf, the actress playing Sondra. Sabrina and I were acquaintances. We’d come out of acting school at the same time — She from Yale and I from NYU — so we had several friends in common.  I’d also auditioned with Sabrina for a role on the soap opera One Life To Live. During the scene we had to kiss and I thought Sabrina and very soft, kissable lips. But I digress. Sabrina and I stopped to chat. She offered to put in a good word for me with Bill. (Thank you, Sabrina!)

As we were herded back into the office area, I noticed a young man, maybe 17 or 18 years old, sitting outside the stage door. He looked like an actor, so I took notice. You had better believe I was sizing up all of the competition. He was good looking, but he was too young to be up for the role for which I was reading. I guessed he must be a member of that week’s guest cast.

The casting director parked the five or six of us in a reception area, outside a couple of offices. We waited, all of us filled with nervous excitement. Then Bill walked in. Smiles broke out all over the room. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one who idolized Bill. A few of the guys stood up. “Hello, Mr. Cosby.” Brown nosers! Obsequiousness is so transparent. I remained quietly seated. When my name was finally called, my stomach did hand springs. I took a deep breath and walked into the room. There sat my idol on the couch, a big cigar in his hand. Outwardly, I was Steve McQueen cool; Inside, I was Jerry Lewis. I was flustered, intimidated, unsure if I was going to be able to remember any of my lines. Thank God for nervous energy because once I opened my mouth, my adrenaline carried me to the finish. When I had finished reading, Bill asked me to read the scene again and make a few adjustments in my performance. Ordinarily, this is a good thing. If a director gives you notes and asks you to read again, it means he likes you. Actors love when this happens, unless, of course, you’re nervous and just want to get out of the room. Rather than be excited, I immediately began to panic. I thought, “what if the first time through was luck? Reading it again, my nerves were going to ensure that I will mess up.” I took another breath and began some positive self-talk. “Joseph,” I said to myself. “You graduated from one of the best acting programs in the country. If you can’t make these simple adjustments, you don’t deserve the job. Stop acting like a baby and just do what you know how to do.” My nerves steadied. I began the scene again, made the adjustments easily, and thought that I nailed it. Bill smiled and thanked me.

All the actors except me were put back in the van and taken back to Manhattan. I stayed and went to Bill’s dressing room to read again for the writers. It was then that Bill told me he hadn’t realized that I was Sabrina’s friend. He said that after I finished reading he had turned to the casting director and said, “Well, let’s see Sabrina’s friend, but he’s going to have to be awfully good to beat out this guy.”

“That was him,” the casting director said.

Bill was relieved that he didn’t have to let Sabrina down.

As I was leaving the studio, I again bumped into Sabrina outside the stage door. She was excited that I was going to be working on the program. As we talked, I again noticed the young man sitting by the stage door. Something was odd. I had been at the studio for a couple hours and he hadn’t budged.

“Who is that?” I inquired. “Is he on the show?”

“He’s a fan.” Sabrina said, “He lives in (I think it was Minnesota). He spent all of his money on a bus ticket to come out here to meet Lisa. He doesn’t have any more money,”  She continued. “They’re trying to get him back home.”

I began work the next week. A dream and a fantasy came true. Working with my idol Bill Cosby and meeting Lisa Bonet. It was a great week!

Three years later, in spite of Lois Planco, I became a regular cast member on the number one show in America, working with a woman so beautiful that she inspired men to behave like complete idiots — to spend their allowance buying one-way bus tickets to New York City and become stranded without a dime to their name. I was now the on-screen spouse to the woman who was Halle Berry before Halle Berry was Halle Berry: Fine ass Lisa Bonet. Up yours, Lois Planco!

Next…First impressions

About Author

Joseph C. Phillips

Joseph C. Phillips was born on January 17, 1962 in Denver, Colorado, USA as Joseph Connor Phillips. He is an actor, known for General Hospital (1994), The Cosby Show (1984) and Strictly Business (1991). He has been married to Nicole since 1994. They have three children.

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