November 2014

Bill Cosby: Who Knew?

In the 27 years I’ve been in the hemophilia community, I’ve seen us searching for celebrities with ties to hemophilia. For spokespeople, supporters, to help us raise awareness. We’ve come close a few times, but no celebrity we know of actually has hemophilia or has a child with hemophilia.
Last week we showed how the Beatles had a brush with hemophilia. Now our friend Richard Atwood has uncovered another connection: Bill Cosby. Who knew?
Richard writes a review of a book on Cosby:  William Henry Cosby Jr., or Bill, was born in
Philadelphia on July 12, 1937. He was the eldest of four children, one of whom
was epileptic, born to Anna and William Cosby. The sometimes fatherless family
lived in the projects in a poor district of North Philadelphia. As a child,
Bill was shy and used humor to gain acceptance. Though he was admitted to a
high school for gifted students, Bill did not fit in and transferred. After
being held back for the 10th grade, Bill dropped out of school and later at 19 joined
the navy. While serving as a hospital corpsman, Cosby earned his high school
diploma. Older and more serious, Cosby next enrolled at Temple University where
he ran track and played football. He also started earning enough as a stand-up
comic to drop out of school. In 1963, he met Camille Hanks, a psychology major
at the University of Maryland, and the couple married on January 25, 1964.
Cosby also performed for the first of many times on The Tonight Show in 1963. Both live on stage and recorded on vinyl, Cosby presented his comedic monologues that created a mythical childhood blending fact and fiction. Beginning in 1965 for three years, the television series I Spy was groundbreaking, and Emmy award winning, for the young actor. That same year, the first of his five children was born — Erika was soon followed by Erinne, Ennis, Ensa, and Evin. Cosby’s interest in teaching children through documentaries and television programs led to his enrollment at the University of Massachusetts to earn master’s and doctorate degrees in education in 1976. More television series, cartoon series, commercials, records, movies, and books, plus his stand-up comedy tours, increased his celebrity status, income, and awards, but not without some controversy. His humor offended some, and Cosby could not please others for his perceived lack of involvement in the civil rights movement. Richard notes that this friendly biography of Cosby glosses over any personality difficulties, such as being irritated by continual questions about race.
As a celebrity, Cosby helped raise funds and served on advisory boards for organizations such as the American Cancer Society, the American
Heart Association, and the Black Film Foundation. Sometime before 1971, Cosby was also chairman of the National Hemophilia Foundation. (pp. 91-92).
Representatives of NHF could neither confirm nor deny that Cosby once held the title of chairman of NHF. The December 4, 1969 issue
of Jet magazine reported that Cosby was named honorary chairman of the National Hemophilia Foundation, a more likely distinction for his fundraising role.
The book is by Ronald L. Smith, 1986, Cosby. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 181 pages. Celebrity is a double-edge sword. Now, with allegations of sexual misconduct  by Cosby flooding the media, it’s probably a good thing there are no ties with NHF any longer.
Great Book I Just Read
It’s So Easy and Other Lies [Kindle]
Duff McKagan
McKagan tells the interesting, shocking and even poignant story of his rise from obscurity to incredible fame as a founder of Guns N’Roses in 1984, when he answered an add for a bass player by someone called Slash. Only 20 years old, naive and shy, he was thrust into the world of music industry sharks, massive egos, crazed fans, brutal travel schedule… and drugs. It’s hard to overestimate the impact the band had on his life: dubbed the most dangerous band in the world, headed by a seemingly ego maniacal front man, Guns N’Roses would sell more than 100 million albums. What makes this story so different than the ones I read by Slash himself and Chuck Negron recently, is the tone and the obvious depth McKagan has. He is a sensitive soul who loves his mother. He grieved when fans were crushed during one of their concerts. He isolated himself when he became addicted, sought help, and soon became clean; he buried himself in reading the Classics, shunned women, took up mountain biking (great section to read), became a devout martial arts student, and most amazingly, went to community college, then college to complete his degree with the enthusiasm of a child. It’s hard not to love this guy and applaud his amazing come-back and story. Wonderful read. Four/five stars just for heart.

With a Little Help from My (Hemophilia) Friends

While I’m on vacation this week, please enjoy this fascinating bit of hemophilia rock trivia from our colleague Richard Atwood of North Carolina!

During their 1964 tour of America, the Beatles stayed in Los Angeles for five days. The band rented a mansion at 356 St. Pierre Road in the Hidden Hills neighborhood of Bel Air. They held a sold-out concert on Saturday, August 23 for almost 19,000 paying fans seated inside the Hollywood Bowl, plus another 10-15,000 gate-crashers in the trees outside the amphitheater. Capitol Records planned to record the live concert but the continual shrieking by the audience prevented a good sound recording. After
their performance, the band members partied until dawn at their gated house
with about 30 starlets, including Peggy Lipton, Joan Baez, Billy Preston, and
Ray Hildebrand and Jill Jackson (known as Paul and Paula).
Then on Sunday afternoon, Brian Epstein and the Beatles attended
a charity garden party hosted by Alan Livingston, the president of Capitol
Records, in the Brentwood backyard of Livingston’s mother-in-law. The party was a fundraiser for the Hemophilia Foundation of Southern California. Livingston’s wife, the actress Nancy Olson, was a foundation board
member. Hollywood celebrities were charged $25 each to bring their children.
This event, held on August 24, 1964, raised $10,000.
“At the party, Livingston went to great lengths to accommodate the Beatles, who, after being cold-shouldered by the label, had rocketed Capitol’s profits into stratosphere. No expense had been spared to stage a Hollywood-style spectacular. A festive striped tent had been set up in
the spacious backyard, where vendors dispensed soft ice cream and lemonade to a litter of gorgeously groomed children. There were pony rides and games. Security was unparalleled, befitting a presidential visit, with a fully armed riot squad stashed in the garage, just in case. The guest list was a who’s who of local dignitaries, complete with a selection of hand-picked celebrities, each of whom was required by the hosts to bring a child: Edward G. Robinson had in tow his granddaughter, Francesa; Lloyd Bridges, his son Jeff; Rita Hayworth, her daughter, Princess
Yasmin Khan; Donald O’Connor, his son, Freddy, and daughter, Alicia; Jack Palance, his daughter, Holly; Eva Marie Saint, her son Darrell, and daughter, Laurie; Barbara Rush, her son Christopher; Jeanne Martin brought five of Dean’s children a few feet in front of Jerry Lewis, who bolted as soon as he saw them, leaving his son, Gary, behind rather than risk an encounter with his estranged partner.” (pp. 527-528).
The Beatles were not impressed with the fundraiser. “We saw a couple of film stars,” John [Lennon] relented, but added: “We were expecting
to see more.” (p. 528).
Richard writes: The hemophilia fundraiser was just a minor event in the definitive biography of the Beatles. Captured on news footage and
reported by Saul Halpert, the hemophilia fundraising event has since been posted on YouTube. Other celebrity guests who reportedly attended but were not recognized in the biography included John Forsyth; Groucho Marx; Jack Benny; Jack Lemmon; Rock Hudson; Dean Martin; Richard Chamberlain; Hayley Mills; Shelly Winters; Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper; Los Angeles mayor Sam Yorty, his wife, and his son, Bill; and Kenneth Hahn with his daughter, Janice. A multitude of teenage fans and press reporters remained outside the mansion gates that Sunday afternoon.
From Bob Spitz, 2005, The Beatles: The Biography. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company. 984 pages.The 984-page biography of the band includes 32 pages of photographs, 4 pages for Acknowledgments, 87 pages for Notes, 11 pages for a Bibliography, 3 pages for a Discography, and 21 pages for an Index. The author lives in Connecticut.

Blood: From Vitalism to Vampires

Halloween has passed, and though it’s fun to see our friends’ and family’s children dressed in costumes on Facebook, there are plenty of
“shock” photos circulating on the internet of dummies smeared with blood—one even prompted a 911 distress call, so realistic was it. Halloween conjures up images of Friday the 13th movie characters as well as vampires.
Transfusion: Now that’s scary
Our business in hemophilia is blood. Blood at once attracts and horrifies; it is the stuff of legends
and tales, myths and medicine. I recently read the classic Dracula [read the book review below] and was amused to read how Dr. Van Helsing wanted to help the young Lucy, a victim of a vampire, by giving her
a transfusion of blood. “Is it you or me?” he asks Dr. John Steward, about who will roll up their sleeve to donate; Steward who replies, “I am younger and stronger, Professor. It must be me.”
Steward offered his blood based on the concept of vitalism, that blood contains the traits
of the being in which it flowed—a concept that was unchallenged for fifteen
hundred years. Later in the book, Van Helsing says to Lucy’s fiancé Arthur, “John was to give
his blood, as he is the more young and strong than me…. But now you are here,
you are more good than us, old or young, who toil much in the world of thought.
Our nerves are not so calm and our blood so bright than yours!”
So Arthur becomes the better blood donor because he is calm and not scholarly! Of course, this is nonsense, but author Bram Stoker fell for the widespread belief in vitalism when he wrote his book. Dracula isn’t so picky; he pretty much would drink anyone’s blood.
Douglas Starr tells us in his book Blood that the Egyptians saw blood as the carrier of the vital
human spirit, and would bathe in it to restore themselves. Roman gladiators
were said to have drunk the blood of their opponents to ingest their strength. “Our
own culture attaches great value to blood, with the blood of Christ as among
the holiest sacraments, blood libel as the most insidious slander, the blood-drinking
vampire as the most odious demon.”*

Not so picky: Any old blood will do
Vampires… which are repelled by garlic and crucifixes (the two seemingly have nothing to do with one another). Yet rather than secure eternal spiritual life by consuming wine that has been
transformed into Christ’s blood during Christian mass, Dracula drinks human
blood to extend his physical life.
The only thing scarier than vampires is the proliferation of teen movies about vampires!
*Starr, Douglas (2012-09-05). Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce (Kindle Locations
97-101). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
Great Book I Just Read
Dracula  [Kindle]
By Bram Stoker
I haven’t read this book since high school, and forgot how
wonderful and visionary it is. A classic, as it has spawned an entire genre of
books and movies. Jonathan Harker, a young English lawyer, is summoned to Castle
Dracula in Transylvania to finalize a real estate transaction with the eerie Count
Dracula, who is purchasing property in London. Harker is warned by local
peasants, who give him crucifixes and other charms against evil. As a guest,
Harker soon notices strange things: the Count has no reflection, is never
present in daylight, and scales the castle walls downward, like a lizard.
Unable to escape, Harker is soon a prisoner, until the Count reaches London,
with 50 boxes of earth. The novel is told only through letters and diary entries
of the main characters, including: Harker’s fiancée, Mina Murray; her friend
Lucy Westenra, who is bitten by Dracula and slowly turns into a vampire; Dr.
John Seward, Lucy’s doctor and once beau. Harker reappears in Budapest and eventually
returns to London. Dr. Van Helsing, an expert on vampires, is called in from
Holland to help save Lucy. Everyone realizes Dracula’s scheme to populate
London with the “Undead”—vampires. When Mina is bitten, and begins to turn into
a vampire, the men sterilize the boxes of earth, set about London. Dracula,
having no haven to stay when dawn comes, flees back to Transylvania, while the
men pursue him. This is a fantastic story, though the language is not lofty or
even that clever, with memorable characters, and cleverly told in letters and
diaries. Perfect Halloween reading. Five/five stars.
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