Oprah Talks to Camille Cosby
Oprah: What was the worst part about that time?
Camille: When Bill started I Spy around 1965. That was during the civil rights movement. Bill was the first African-American to have a leading dramatic role on television, and there was pressure on him to do certain things.
Oprah: To be the spokesperson for blacks?
Camille: That's right, and many other things that go along with that. Also, unbeknownst to us, when Richard Nixon became president, he had put Bill on his enemies list. Prior to the revelation of that, we were harassed. Our phones were tapped. We had the FBI at our house and visiting him at the studio.
Oprah: Why was Bill an enemy?
Camille: Because he had rejected a couple of Nixon's requests. That was all it was. And when that enemies list was released after Nixon resigned, we said, "This is why." It was a horror during that time. We were audited four times in one year.
Oprah: So fame was a double-edged sword?
Camille: Yes. It was a real awakening to what was going on in this country politically and sociologically. It made us grow up very quickly, and it was difficult. If Bill had made critical statements about the treatment of African-American people, he would sometimes go out and do a concert and his venue would be half full. Someone would plant information in the newspaper that he didn't like whites, for example. All of this was going on in the beginning of our marriage.
Oprah: I was in your kitchen once, whining to you and Bill about handling fame. I had the disease to please, and you said to me, "Honey, just wait until you're 40. All of this will change. You will let it all go. It will not be a threat to you anymore." How did you know that?
Camille: At 40 you become more self-assured. You realize that men don't look at you as a toy any longer; they don't flirt in the same way. And if they flirt, it is because you are really looking good. It's the real deal. Everything becomes real after 40. I'm now in my fifties, and my tolerance level for nonsense is zero. I know I'm going to be something else when I'm 60.
Oprah: So your tolerance for nonsense disappears?
Oprah: And the need to please others?
Camille: Out the window. You realize it is a waste of your time, because the older we become, the busier we become. We become busier with things we really love to do rather than being busy with other people's stuff.
Oprah: Do you have greater clarity about what is important to you?
Camille: Absolutely. Also, you know you don't have time to accomplish everything, because you're getting older, so you want to stay on course with what you want to do.