Bill Cosby biography sheds new light on personal life

Excerpts are out from a new biography that supposedly delves deeply into the personal life of a favorite Philly son, Bill Cosby.

Cosby: His Life and Times, by former CNN managing editor Mark Whitaker, is slated to be released Sept. 16 by Simon & Schuster, but The Hollywood Reporter is already sharing a series of passages from the book in its magazine and on its website.

The most poignant parts deal with Cosby's only son, Ennis, who was gunned down in Los Angeles in 1997 while changing a flat tire.

The media circus made it obvious that there was only one place where Ennis could be buried in privacy. Cosby started making arrangements so Ennis could be laid to rest on the family property in Shelburne Falls, Mass., in the fields where he had played as a child. ...

Ennis' body arrived at home on Saturday. The burial took place the following day, on one of those cold New England afternoons when the snow crunches underfoot. Besides three friends, there were only family members: Cosby and Camille and their four daughters; Cosby's brother, Russell, and his wife; Camille's mother and siblings and their spouses. There was no minister; as far as they were concerned, Ennis was already blessed.

Even in that setting, Bill Cosby found a way to lighten the mood. When talk got round to planting a pine tree to light on Christmas and Ennis' birthday, people started suggesting more occasions.

Cosby chuckled. "All right, Ennis," he said, "just to celebrate, we're going to turn the lights on the pine tree off on your birthday!"

We learn how Cosby pushed to become a spokesperson for Jell-O, had at least one bratty child actor removed from the filming, and ad-libbed a memorable clincher for a commercial about how Coca-Cola makes folks smile:

"I saw you!" Cosby said, his face capturing playful conspiracy. "I saw you! You're smiling!"

Being a popular pitchman "earned Cosby more than $3 million a year."

The Temple grad originally thought his Cosby Show character should be a limousine driver and his wife a plumber, but had his mind changed by the producers and his wife, who insisted the couple have their college degrees.

The real Bill Cosby story, though, still has a few chapters left to write. He'll appear Nov. 28 on Netflix as part of the streaming service's new series of performances by comedians.  A pilot in development for NBC revolves around Cosby as a grandfather. On Monday's Tonight Show he showed lots of energy as he rambled on about dead deer, Jimmy Fallon, and getting old. (See video.)  

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or Follow @petemucha on Twitter.