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Bill Cosby Remembers A Segregated Houston

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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.

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