Bill Cosby, who turns 75 today, was already thinking about the trials of getting older when I first spoke with him nearly 10 years ago.
"Things are old," he told me. "Parts are old. I'm talking about 'us' parts. AARP-parts. Some of us were born with stronger parts than others."
It was a routine visit with his doctor that made Cosby realize just how weak at least one of his parts was-that part being his carotid artery, which was dangerously clogged.
"That was a sign that I was really a human being," he recalled, "that I was not Clark Kent.
"And then the next worst news was: 'There's nothing you can eat that will reverse it.' So I wrote a book, 'I Am What I Ate and I'm Frightened.' Because these things that I ate that I love-hot dogs, chili-they have all found a home in me."
From his breakthrough 1960s comedy album "Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow" to his landmark TV series I Spy to his ridiculously popular sitcom The Cosby Show, Bill Cosby climbed from one plateau of fame to another. And just when it appeared he'd reached the summit, another level always seemed to be waiting.
His face is instantly recognizable. But that voice, well, it's somehow universal.
" Telemarketers tell me I sound like Bill Cosby," he laughed. "They called and the lady wanted to know if I'd get the paper. I said 'No, thank you.' She said, 'You sound so familiar.' I said, 'People always say that to me.'
"People say to me, 'Do you know who you look like?' And I say, 'I'm really tired of looking like that guy.'"
For those of us who aren't famous, universal recognition sounds kind of fun. But for the megafamous like Cosby, something as simple as using a hotel gym can become downright impossible.
"I use the exercise room early, because I don't want to get on the treadmill and everyone's going 'Oh, Bill Cosby,' and then they come around to see how fast I'm walking, and it becomes very competitive.
"It was about five o'clock in the morning, and I picked the middle treadmill because it was facing the TV set. The place didn't open 'til six, so I figured, "Alright, I have a good hour to do what I want to do.'
"By the time six o'clock came I was up to four point seven miles an hour, and I'm really pumping. The sweat is flying and flinging. Well, two men came up, and they had waistlines, you know, and shorts. Each of them about 55 years old. One on the left and one on the right. And these guys were running.
"My ego said, 'Wow. We're really slow. Let's pump it up a little bit!'
"Immediately, my legs shot back, 'If you do, you're not gonna be on this treadmill, I tell you that!'"
Cosby resisted getting into a stationary footrace with the guys, lest he relive an embarrassing event that occurred at home early one morning.
"I caught my sneaker in the treadmill," he said. "The left one. I wound up sitting on the tread and coming off and landing. And then I started to laugh. I said, 'Boy, that was a chocolate Hershey coming off the conveyor belt!'"
At 75, Cosby is still touring the country (you can find out where at his website, billcosby.com). And he's written another book, "I Didn't Ask to be Born (But I'm Glad I Was)." Eating healthier and staying in shape, Cos looks poised to be with us for a good long time.
Long as he watches his step on that treadmill.
Photo Credit: probookings.com
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