Bill Cosby Remembers A Segregated Houston

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

From time to time, Hair Balls talks to celebrities (real celebrities, not the "I invented a purple potato" type of pseudo-celebrities). And from time to time, those celebrities can be, oh, shall we say, unconventional. (Larry Harlow once slammed us for not being Puerto Rican.) So, we weren't too surprised when Bill Cosby booed us during a recent telephone interview.

Cosby: "Where did you go to college?"

Hair Balls: "Texas Southern University."

Cosby: "Who was the president there then?"

Hair Balls: "You know, I don't remember right off hand."

Cosby: "Boooooo! That means you haven't given them any money or you would know."

Hair Balls: "Ah, okay." 

(We didn't bother telling Mr. Cosby that we don't give TSU any money because we don't want to subsidize landscaping and house repairs for university officials.)

Once Hair Balls was sufficiently shamed, Cosby went on to share memories about performing here early in his career. "The first time I played Houston I opened for Nancy Wilson. It was '65, maybe. In the `60s they had a couple of clubs that were segregated. Some of them had policies, you could play there but maybe there was segregated seating so I just didn't go in. There was a club called the Tidelands. I think it was a private club because the people there could mix.

"I came in right at the tail end of all of the shenanigans of segregation. Those things had just started to be peeled away and things were just beginning to be [successful] in terms of demonstrations and testing [laws]. When I opened for Nancy Wilson, it was in a concert hall. They couldn't stop you from using the municipal buildings, so the hall where we played was owned by the city.

"Houston did have some funny rules back then. There was liquor thing. At a certain time, you put your bottle under the table and you'd drink out of paper cups. Funny, funny rules."

(The Tidelands, of course, was near the Medical Center and became famous as the place where Bob Newhart recorded the first comedy album to win an Album of the Year Grammy.)

Cosby's in town Friday night with the Houston Symphony at Jones Hall.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.