WELCOME TO THE HUXTABLES

True, I had some fun at Lisa’s expense. However, I also liked Lisa a great deal. She tended on the quiet side, but was sweet and I thought, very kind. She went out of her way to make me feel welcome, like one of the family. Her husband at the time, Lenny Kravitz, had just released his first album. Lenny was performing at one of the hot clubs in town. Lisa invited me to the club for his premiere performance. Bill stood behind her screwing up his face and shaking his head, “No. Don’t go.” I ignored Bill and told her I would try to make it. Lenny’s music was not really my cup of tea and I was being shy, so I didn’t go the club. I did, however, appreciate the gesture.

In spite of my teasing, Lisa was always willing to sit with me and chat. She was even concerned about my health. “You’re eating too many hamburgers and french fries,” she warned. The day I told her that the redhead was taking me to get soul food for my birthday and that I intended to order a bowl of chitlins, her head almost exploded. On one occasion, she tried to get me to try some of her vegan food. Nothing on her plate looked appetizing. There was something muddy-looking in one corner, something that looked grey and hard in another, and something that looked wilted in the middle of the plate. There is only one thing I do not eat: Green beans. Well, I wasn’t touching anything on her plate. Instead, I offered to take a sip or two of her soy milk. Let’s just say that I was polite enough not to spit it back into her glass.

There are a couple of Lisa-moments that I remember fondly.

Early in my first season, the Huxtables celebrated Olivia’s birthday. At the end of that episode, Denise sits on Martin’s lap and Martin delivers a long speech, telling her how wonderful she is and how much he loves her. It was a really nice moment between the two characters and is one of my favorites. The writers worked hard to create that moment, so hard that all week the scene kept changing. In fact, before the first taping, the scene was still incomplete. We didn’t know exactly what we were going to shoot until we were backstage, taking our places for taping. Lisa and I were looking at the clock when a production assistant walked up and handed us our new pages. The scene was easy for Lisa. The final rewrite had Lisa sitting on my lap, listening as I delivered a speech. In theater terms, the speech was not that long. However, in the world of television, where no one speaks longer than two or three sentences at a time, this was a long speech. I had time to read it over a few times before heading on to the set. When it came time to shoot the scene, The stage manager counted down, Lisa crossed the kitchen to where I was sitting and I pulled her onto my lap. The audience was dead silent. She looked at me with those smokey eyes and I began speaking. I delivered the speech and didn’t drop a word.

Later, during the dinner break, the director was giving us notes. He came to our scene and complimented me on my quick memorization. I was eating it up. “Well, you know, heh, heh, heh,,,my theater training…blah blah blah.” Then Lisa busted me.

“His heart was beating so loud, I was sure everyone in the audience could hear it.”

The rest of the cast laughed out loud. And so did I. She was right. I was so nervous, my heart was pounding out of my chest. Sitting at dinner that night, I really liked Lisa. Her gentle teasing was that of a friend. That was the moment I first felt accepted as one of the family. As the cast and crew laughed, I thought, I can’t believe it. I’m actually a Huxtable. Or at least a Huxtable in law.

Early in the spring, I was invited to introduce a speaker at the Earth Day Rally in Central Park. One of the wonderful things about New York City is the efficiency of the mass transit system. Everyone rides the subway in New York: rich and poor, famous and infamous – everyone. Well, almost everyone. During my time on The Cosby Show I frequently rode the subway, although there were plenty of times I stuck my hand out and hailed a cab.  After all, I was making grab-a-cab money. There were times, however, when the train was more efficient. Riding the trains was not a problem, so long as I kept my head down in a newspaper or in a book and didn’t make eye contact. Once I made eye contact, there was a good chance I would end up having to interact. At any rate, the day of the rally in Central Park was the same as any other Saturday. I got up, got dressed, got on the train and headed up to Central Park. The train let me off a few blocks from the entrance on the east side, so I began walking. As I neared the entrance, I noticed the street lined with limousines. Yes, many of the presenters at the Earth Day celebration arrived in limousines and no, the irony was not lost on me, although, I’m fairly certain it was lost on them.

Once inside the park, I was given a pass that allowed me access backstage and into the food tent, or so I thought. The pass I was given only allowed me backstage and into the drink tent. I didn’t have the higher level pass that gave me access into the food tent. Word must have got out that I arrived via subway. Apparently, celebrities who took public transportation were not famous enough to eat.

The program was running behind schedule, so I wandered around the backstage area looking for someone to talk to. My shyness was kicking in and I was getting that awkward feeling. I made some small talk with Ben E. King (Stand by Me had been Corey and my song), but other than that, I was just standing with my hands in my pocket, trying to look like I belonged. To my surprise, I ran into Lisa, who was also introducing a speaker. She seemed happy to see me and greeted me with a big “Hello.” We chatted a bit, and when the music act began, Lisa invited me out front, into a small blocked-off area in front of the stage, to dance. I believe the band performing was the B-52’s. Lisa handed me a tambourine – yes a tambourine –and she began to dance. I am sure you have the picture in your head: Flower child Lisa Bonet, dancing around, banging on her tambourine, lost in the music and in her own world. Next to her, Joseph, idiotic grin, holding a tambourine, frozen with self-consciousness. Denise and Martin. Clearly, there were no two people more opposite. We were the perfect couple.

Next…Kissing Lisa Bonet


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 (1963), The Cosby Show (1984) and Strictly Business (1991). He has been married to Nicole since 1994. They have three children.

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