Following the incident with Tempestt, I kept a wide berth of her. If she was anywhere around, I tried to make certain I was in a different zip code. Of course, being cast mates made that rather difficult so, I just kept my head down where she was concerned and minded my own business. If only she had done the same. Instead of simply staying away from me, she chose to interject herself into my personal life and spread gossip.
I got along with all of the stand-ins on the show. (Stand-ins are the actors who “stand-in” for the regular cast whenever there is a camera rehearsal or need to focus lights, etc.) When I first began working as an actor, I did extra work. My first year out of acting school, I paid my rent doing background work. You can still see me running around in the background of films like Brewster’s Millions (Walter Hill 1985) or Beat Street (Stan Lathan 1984). There are some actors (in reality it is very few) who think of themselves as too good to mingle with the extras and stand –ins. I still remember what it was like and how I felt when actors ignored me or seemed to look down on me. I didn’t like that feeling, so when I am on set, I speak to everyone.
During my time on the Cosby Show, I spent time talking, joking, and eating lunch with the stand-ins. I developed friendships with several of them – friendships that continued after the show ended and continue to this day. There was one particular stand-in on whom I had a huge crush: Kim. I liked Kim quite a bit. She was young, pretty, a bit quirky, and as sweet as caramel candy. I looked forward to seeing Kim each week. I found it extremely difficult not to touch Kim whenever I was around her. In fact, I touched Kim whenever I could. Kim liked to wear shirts that showed her extremely cute bellybutton. Whenever I saw her at work, I would say hello and push her bellybutton. Often, when we were standing around talking, I would hug her or put my arm around her. She didn’t seem to mind. In fact, she not only seemed to enjoy my attention, she reciprocated, often putting her arms around me. I can’t say for certain that Kim was burning up with desire, but I know she liked me. And I clearly liked her. I wanted to sweep Kim off to some romantic and secluded spot where we could explore the limits of sensual pleasure undisturbed. Whenever I was around her, my body behaved like it used to when I was about 14.
“Joseph, would you please come to the chalk board and give us the answer to the equation?”
“Yes. Just give me a second…and perhaps some cold water.”
Our attraction to each other was obvious, but the only one who ever said anything (to me) was Lisa.
One day, Lisa passed the two of us and I was behind Kim with my arms around. Lisa looked at us and quipped “Tempestt was right.”
My jaw dropped. “What?” I asked.
“She said you are always touching the girls.”
OH MY GOD! I wanted to scream. If it hadn’t been so insulting, it would have been funny. Why was Tempestt so involved in who I was touching? How was it that she had time to pay attention to who I was affectionate with? Was she hiding about the studio taking notes, reporting back to whoever she could bore with the information? Her high school drama had crossed the line. Tempestt was now simply being malicious and inaccurate. Other than tripping over Tempestt in the hallway, I had never touched her. I didn’t “touch” any of the other female stand-ins and though it was not for lack of wanting, I didn’t “touch” Susan at work. Perhaps she was referencing four-year-old Raven, who I carried around and tossed up and down like a rag doll, while she screamed with delight. Other than that, Miss Busybody, I only put my hands on one girl: Kim! I was touching the young woman I liked and who liked me. Who I wasn’t touching was the 16 year-old, who was busying herself gossiping about me.
Given the fact that I was dating Susan, you can imagine that my flirtation with Kim presented certain logistical problems. Thank goodness Susan was rarely on the stage. That would have made things extremely frustrating, to say the least. There was one evening I took Susan to dinner in the East Village. On the way out of the restaurant, we saw Kim and a friend of hers just sitting down for dinner. Fight or flight. I tried not to panic. I played it cool. I walked right over to Kim’s table and said hello. Of course, as was typical of Susan, who didn’t want anyone from the show to see us together, she turned into a ghost and disappeared. I turned to introduce Susan. “Kim, you know…uhm, (where did she go so fast?) Yeah, well, good to see you, Kim. See you next week.” Disaster averted, I think.
So, with all the fireworks shooting off between us, love must have blossomed. Surely, there is some folk singer, somewhere, singing the ballad of Joseph and Kim. Alas, it was not to be. The passionate lovemaking and romantic canoodling that I envisioned with Kim remained a fantasy. Kim and I never made it past the flirtation stage. Our timing was horrible. When I was available, she was in a relationship; when she was free, I was dating. A year after the show ended, we were both finally unattached at the same time and resolved to stop fooling around and actually try being together. Again, our timing was poor. The following week, the redhead came back into my life.
That experience with Tempestt changed the way I behave on the set. Show business people tend to be very touch – oriented people, you know, hugging and kissing on each other. I suppose that was fine in its time, but times have changed. My rule now is: Keep your hands and lips to yourself! Once you touch someone – no matter how innocent your intentions – you are at the mercy of their interpretation. Was it an innocent hug, or did it suggest something else? Did you wiggle your hips just ever so slightly? According to you, you were just being friendly. According to them, you were grinding your sex into them. The door to my dressing room stays open whenever a female production assistant enters. I don’t laugh at off color jokes because I don’t want someone to say, “Oh yeah, and Joseph was also laughing. Add his name to the law suit.” I’m not loaning anybody shit. Period. I’m not making anyone tapes. I’m not discussing dating or relationships, or anything else with anyone under the age of 40. And I need photo ID as proof of age.
Now, when I am on a set, I keep to myself. Call me Casper. I’ll appear when I am called. Other than that, you won’t see me.
Next…Life as a scrub