Bill Cosby accepts Marian Anderson Award with comedy set

Photo: Elizabeth Robertson/Staff Photographer

Not everybody knows what it's like to be roasted by Bill Cosby, but Pamela Browner-White does.

The comedian went into a five-minute bit about her gown (by local designer Melani Von Alexandria) after the Marian Anderson Award chairwoman introduced Cosby to the crowd dining at the Kimmel Center before last night's ceremony honoring Cosby for his humanitarian efforts.

Cosby gave special thanks to Gavin White, longtime Temple University track and football coach whom he credits with giving him an athletic scholarship to Temple. On his college boards, "I got a 500. After they saw my 300, they loaned me 200," joked Cosby, who wore a T-shirt from Central High, his alma mater, as he addressed the crowd. At Temple, "I was in remedial English, remedial math. Remedial swimming."

Cosby, who spoke for about 10 minutes, joked that when you're in your 70s, it's about seeing who you did better than. "It's not about hair anymore; it's about organs, hearing."

"This means an awful lot to me. This is my hometown. Some of the people in this room I grew up with," Cosby said in a moment of seriousness before thanking the crowd.

Accepting the award later while dressed in a tux, he said, "Thank you, Philadelphia, my hometown.

"I have never wavered in saying this is my home. I want to mention Ed Bradley another Philadelphian. Ed Bradley was the baddest dude I ever met," Cosby said of the late "60 Minutes" reporter.

Guests were treated to a program including Boyz II Men, singers Denyce Graves and Lizz Wright, the Philadelphia Orchestra, comedian David Brenner, and a jazz ensemble featuring veteran Philly players like Bootsie Barnes on tenor sax and drummer Mickey Roker.

Brenner kept the crowd laughing as he spoke about meeting Cosby at Temple and their longlasting friendship and Boyz II Men performed "I'll Make Love to You."

Gov. Rendell arrived with a gift for Cosby, a chocolate peanut-butter pie in a box from Stock's, in Harrisburg. "He loves this stuff," said the slimmed-down Guv, who didn't dare have any pie himself. "We had Cosby in Harrisburg when we were doing the budget and he fell in love with the dessert.

"His chef called for the recipe, but they didn't give it away," Rendell told us before presenting Cosby with the pie.

Former Mayor John Street attended and the Temple professor said the city may never see another native son as devoted to the community as Cosby. "In a strange kind of way, every young person in the city could be Bill Cosby if you work hard," Street said. Cosby stays connected with Men United for a Better Philadelphia, said Street, who sat with Men United's Bilal Qayyum.

We asked Comcast executive David L. Cohen, there with wife Rhonda, about the recent ribbing Comcast has been getting on NBC's "30 Rock." "We had better get used to it, but so far it's been pretty mild," Cohen said of the show's teasing of Kabletown. "Tina Fey is great. She made a joke that her mom has Kabletown, and it's probably true. She probably has Comcast," said Cohen.

The event, hosted by Chita Rivera, drew Eagles President Joe Banner and wife Helene, Councilwomen Blondell Reynolds Brown and Jannie Blackwell, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, Sound of Philadelphia pioneer Kenny Gamble and wife Faatimah, and local NAACP chief Jerry Mondesire.

Marian Anderson, the first black woman to sing with the Metropolitan Opera in New York, grew up in Philadelphia in the early 20th century. The award was created in 1998 to honor artists involved in humanitarian causes.

Click here to read more from our column in Wednesday's Daily News.