"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Friday, August 6, 2021

Bill Cosby

 This mural portrait of William Henry Cosby Jr. by Aniekan Udofia shared the west wall of Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street with Barack Obama between 2012 and 2017.  I'm sure Bill Cosby needs no introduction but the Wikipedia sums up the story this way:

William Henry Cosby Jr. (/ˈkɒzbi/; born July 12, 1937) is an American stand-up comedian, actor, and author who had an active career for over six decades, starting in 1961. Cosby's greatest television success was the sitcom The Cosby Show which ran from 1984 to 1992.

…In 2014, Cosby became the subject of numerous sexual assault allegations which became highly publicized during the Me Too movement. In 2018, Cosby was convicted of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand. He was imprisoned until the conviction was vacated in 2021 by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania for violations of Cosby's 5th Amendment and 14th Amendment due process rights. -- Wikipedia

The historical marker, visible in the photo below, covers the history of Ben's Chili Bowl.

Bill Cosby had been a friend and customer at Ben's who had famously been given the right to eat free at the iconic Washington Restaurant. His face seemed appropriate in 2012, but by 2014 it had become controversial. In 2015, a “Street Artist” by the name of Smear Leader covered Cosby's face with that of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. (See: Kim Jong Un's Face Painted Over... in the DCist)

Smear Leader who's œuvre is pasting Kim's face on things, said this on facebook:
One of these men are happily married with a beautiful baby girl and uses his power to better his country for the people.
The other guy used his position of power to sexually assault over 35 woman (punishable by firing squad in DPRK) It’s not even a debate, WELCOME TO KIM’S CHILI BOWL.
Rachel Sadon at DCist on Oct. 20, 2015, reported that:
Ben’s owners have publicly refused to revoke their longstanding offer that Cosby eats free in the wake of accusations from dozens of women that the comedian drugged and then raped them. Calls for Cosby’s likeness to come down from the side of their iconic building have similarly gone unheeded until an artist, who goes by ‘Smear Leader,’ took matters into his own hands.
In January of 2017, the Ben's Chili Bowl websites said that “The mural alongside Ben’s was painted in 2012…Now, after 5 years of braving the elements, its time to refresh and repaint the mural and we want your input!” and the mural was painted over with white paint. By June of 2017 it had been replaced with another mural by Aniekan Udofia with a new cast of characters including Prince and Harriet Tubman. Devry Becker Jones photographed the new mural in 2019.

Devry Becker Jones, HMdb, 2019.

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