Grandparents may remember Bill Cosby as the racial-barrier-breaking co-star of the ’60s action series “I Spy,” or as a voice coming from a record player, talking about his brother, Russell, or re-enacting one of history’s first major naval construction requests.
For kids, he’s mostly the stuff of legend and re-runs. But at 75, he’s still touring, and he still thanks his time in the Navy for helping shape his success.
Cosby enlisted in 1956 and served as a hospital corpsman until 1961, leaving as an HM3. His service is a recurring theme in this must-read profile by John Liberty at MLive.com, written in advance of a Cosby concert in Kalamazoo, Mich., this weekend. The walk-off quote from Cosby, on how the Navy taught him to approach his half-century-long entertainment career: “I have learned if you’re going to make this bed, you’re going to make it so you can bounce the quarter off of it. If you’re going to sweep, mop, dry, you’re going to make it as perfect as you can — to be proud of it.”
And while Navy service may have shaped his career, the end of Navy service played no small role. From Navy Times’ 2010 article, linked above:
Cosby was offered $200 to re-enlist for another four years, he said, and he went to a detailer to accept the offer. But the man talked him out of it.
“Divine intervention, I think it might have been,” Cosby said. “With [a second four-year enlistment]you don’t get a Bill Cosby. Temple University? Gone. Instead, now, I’m retired, working at the post office.”