Despite quadruple platinum albums and hit Broadway shows, nothing changed David's life more dramatically than his two children—Beau and Katie.
Beau, who's 17, wants to follow his dad into the music industry, but David says he wants him to finish college first. "I feel that way now not just about my children, but I've been around a lot of children working in show business. I wasn't. I was out of high school," he says. "He's so sophisticated as an artist. I want him to have all the tools because when he goes out there, don't think people aren't gonna say, 'Oh, here's David Cassidy's son, let's see what he's got,' you know? And I worry for him for that reason."
David's 21-year-old daughter, Katie, is a working actress. "She's a beautiful, beautiful girl, and she's becoming a very accomplished young actress, and she cares about her craft," David says.
David says too many people today have become obsessed with celebrity, not art. "I think it's a dangerous thing now where people just want to be famous, you know? They just want to be rich," he says. "The only thing that lasts, the only thing that survives, is talent."
And David proves he's still got the moves! Nearly 40 years after he wowed teenagers across the country, he brings our audience to their feet once again with his performance of another Partridge Family favorite, "I'll Meet You Halfway."
Oprah admits she's not a huge television watcher, but she does have a few all-time favorites—including The Cosby Show.
The show hit the airwaves in 1984, and it was unlike anything America had ever seen. For the first time in history, viewers turned on the TV and saw a black, educated, upper-middle-class family. Creator and star Bill Cosby played Cliff Huxtable, a successful doctor. Phylicia Rashad played Clair Huxtable, a lawyer. Together, they played a loving couple raising five kids. Each week, viewers watched to see which Huxtable child would be in the hot seat.
The Cosby Show was number one in primetime television for five years straight. Twenty years later, an audience member named Chatice wanted to give a heartfelt thanks to the Huxtable family for their love, their laughs and their nonstop fun. Growing up in the Bronx with an unhappy home life, Chatice says the show fed her soul. "I didn't have to run away. I could escape to Brooklyn where a black family ate together and the kids were just as important as the adults," she says. "The Cosby Show is the reason why I graduated from the University of Virginia, married an engineer, earn six figures and currently have two beautiful boys."
Oprah has a big surprise in store for this fan. "Well, Chatice, we thought it only fitting for you to meet the Cosby family in person!"
We've recreated an exact replica of the Huxtables' living room—right down to the artwork on the walls and The Cosby Show kids—Sabrina Le Beauf, who played eldest daughter Sondra; Malcolm-Jamal Warner, who played only son Theo; Tempestt Bledsoe, who played Vanessa; Keisha Knight Pulliam, who played the bossy Rudy; and Raven-Symone, who played the youngest child, the Huxtables' stepgrandaughter Olivia. Lisa Bonet, who played Denise, wasn't able to make the reunion because she just had a baby.
Malcolm says the set brings back great memories—his mom even started to cry when she saw it. "One of the reasons why the Huxtables came off so well and worked so well on camera is because we all really, really liked each other," Malcolm says. "People would come to the set and talk about how that was such a rare thing."
Tempestt says shooting the show in New York City was a positive experience for the cast. "Mr. Cosby's family was based in New York, and there was never a question of taping in Los Angeles," Tempestt says. "We were in Brooklyn, in Queens, and all these other kids were out [there] and exposed to all the things that Hollywood has. We were ensconced in these incredible little communities, and we had these incredible families, and our parents were there and were very supportive."
Raven-Symone made her debut as little Olivia on The Cosby Show when she was only three years old. Now all grown up and 22 years old, she's still acting and stars in her own Disney Channel show, That's So Raven. Although she was very young when she was on the show, Raven says she still feels the impact of The Cosby Show every day.
"I actually read an e-mail the other day: 'Yeah, we watch That's So Raven, but I only know her as Olivia. I'll only know her as that.' I think that's fabulous. If I didn't have that, I don't think I'd be where I am today," she says.
Raven was a little too young at the time to understand the enormous impact the show had on the world—she says just loved seeing herself on TV. "And the story goes, I said, 'Mom, I want to do what Rudy does. I want to be with her.' So I was with her, and I was excited when I was a kid."
Raven's latest film—College Road Trip, starring Martin Lawrence and Donny Osmond—is available on DVD. Her latest CD, Raven-Symone, will is available in stores. Raven also helps inspire kids to create their own meals and crafts on her website, ravensymonepresents.com.
As the youngest Huxtable kid, Rudy, Keisha Knight Pulliam literally grew up on set and says that Bill was not only her boss, but also was like a father to her. "I definitely think he was the best combination of all of those," Keisha says. "He was definitely a father figure in that he led by example." As a boss, Bill set the standard for Keisha. "It was so wonderful for my first major experience to be so perfect in terms of he taught us so much about professionalism," she says. "You know, about the craft."
While the social significance of The Cosby Show is often talked about, Keisha says it wasn't until she went to Spelman College that she truly began to understand the importance of her days playing Rudy. "I was a sociology major with a concentration in film, and I'm sitting in a sociology class, and we're discussing us—The Cosby Show—and they're looking at me like the authority on the situation," she says. When Keisha saw the show in a textbook, she says she was shocked. "I'm, like, are you serious? This is crazy! I guess it really, really hit me, the magnitude, how deep it was, at that point."
When she's not acting on the sitcom Tyler Perry's House of Payne, Keisha says she's busy with plans to start her own acting studio in Atlanta.
Sabrina Le Beauf played the oldest Huxtable kid, Sondra. It was her first big job after graduating from the Yale School of Drama. "You know, I had been struggling in New York as an actor, so you get a job and you're just happy to have a job," she says.
Like Keisha, it wasn't until much later in life that Sabrina realized the lasting impression The Cosby Show had on its viewers. "Even now, when they write you on MySpace or whatever, and they tell you that there's a whole other generation—that they're raising their children to watch The Cosby Show—and just how important it was to them growing up and how important they want it to be to their children."
After the show ended and Sabrina continued acting, she realized she had even more to be grateful for. "Another thing about our set that I didn't realize was unique to us was that Mr. Cosby made sure there were many people of color on staff—in the makeup room, directors, writers," Sabrina says. "And so therefore, when I left the show and went to do other shows and found out that that was not the rule in Hollywood, then I began to realize just again by example how lucky we were."
Since then, Sabrina has taken up interior design but is still acting. "I do a lot of original theater. I've actually worked right here in Chicago at the Goodman," she says.
Even at a young age, Malcolm-Jamal Warner says he understood the importance of The Cosby Show and his role as Theo. When he was a child, Malcolm-Jamal says his father would make him read biographies on African-American activists like Richard Wright, Langston Hughes and Mary McLeod Bethune. "So being on the show, for me it was finally like, 'Wow, finally here's a television show that I can relate to as a viewer, one, but to be able to be a part of a show where people really cared about how people of color were being portrayed was like Nirvana," he says.
Malcolm-Jamal says one of the biggest criticisms The Cosby Show received was that black people didn't really live like the Huxtables. However, Malcolm-Jamal says their fans constantly proved the critics wrong. "Day in and day out, we were getting thousands of letters from young people saying, 'Thank you for the show because my father is a doctor. My mother is a lawyer. We really do live like that,'" he says.
"It was wonderful that the show forced black America and white America to finally recognize the black middle class," Malcolm-Jamal says.
Since The Cosby Show, Malcolm-Jamal has continued acting and added director, poet and musician to his list of talents. Currently, he can be seen in the film Fool's Gold with Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson. His jazz-funk band, Miles Long, is working on its third CD.
Since both her parents were teachers, Tempestt Bledsoe said it was always a given that she would go to college one day. She figured that while the show was taping, she would have to go part-time. "We did a Monday to Thursday schedule, and I said, 'I'll take some classes on a Friday.' And once Mr. Cosby found out I was really serious and I was going to take these classes, he said, 'You take a full load, do whatever you need to do, and we'll schedule around you.'" So while still playing the role of Vanessa, Tempestt was able to get a degree in finance from NYU.
Tempestt says Bill taught the children on set by leading by example. "It wasn't like he was sitting us down and giving us a set of rules and [saying], 'You have to do this and you have to do that.' The strongest example you can give to any child is your behavior, what you do every day," she says.
Looking back, Tempestt says family and love are what stand out the most to her—especially the relationship between Cliff and Claire. "You know, the way he loved his wife," she says. "That's what struck me."
Tempestt has had a number of television roles since playing Vanessa. Currently, she's the voice of Riley on the Disney series The Replacements.
Bill Cosby joins his TV children via satellite so he can put "Dad's" two cents in. When critics would tell him that black families didn't really live like the Huxtables, Bill was glad to have the support of his cast. "The pleasure of all of this is not one of those people that you're sitting with has ever been at a loss to straighten people out about what the intention was of the show," he says. "And that makes me very, very proud."
For Bill, his response to critics who said they had never seen a black family like the Huxtables was simple. "My answer's always been, 'Well, you need to get out more often.'"
With eight incredible seasons of memories, Oprah says there one scene in particular that has always meant a lot to her. In the clip, Cliff comes home with a headache after suffering through one of his children's noisy band concerts. Although the storyline wasn't significant, Oprah says the way Cliff and Clair comfort one another really touched her. "I started crying because I had never seen a black man put his head in the lap of a black woman and have her stroke his face with such tenderness—we had not seen [that] on television," Oprah says.
Bill says this scene and the relationship between Cliff and Clair was intentional, but that he owes Phylicia Rashad the credit for bringing the role of Clair to life. "If there was ever an actress who should have gotten an Emmy for her work—nobody tied everything together like Phylicia Rashad."
Bill says Phylicia was the anchor in the Huxtable family and that the interaction between Clair and the kids was extremely important. When Malcom-Jamal tried out for Theo, Bill says he was told to go back and rethink how his character should interact with his mother. Phylicia, however, knew just how to react to the children. "The reason why Phylicia got the job as the mother was because of the way she cut a look to the children when they were wrong," Bill says. "And only mothers know that or children who have gotten that look."
The Cosby Show is still being embraced by people of all backgrounds, races and demographics. Bill says people often tell him that they loved the show. "They say it's because it's about family, and we need that today," he says. "We need people to adopt the old mantra, which is, 'My children will live a better life than I because I'm going to make sure that they study.'"
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