Quick Hit Memoir: Jerry Willick remembers Cosby at the Hilton


Other cities have “Reader Mail.” In Vegas, we have “Mail From Readers Who Knew Famous People.”

Actually, I like to think of this as a “Quick Hit Memoir,” a short look back at celebrity run-ins as recollected by regular readers of my columns who often write me little nuggets, such as this one from Jerry Willick. He wrote this to me after reading my interview with Bill Cosby. I edited it to fit newspaper style.

Submit your own Quick Hit Memoir to delfman@reviewjournal.com.

To Doug

From Jerry

Doug,

Great column today. I thought you might like a few more stories about Bill Cosby. I owned the hair salons at the Hilton for 30 years. During that time, I met Bill many times and thought these two stories might bring a smile.

Eddie Fisher always asked me to cut his hair whenever he came to Vegas. After doing his hair on one occasion, he was opening for Bill.

Bill came into the dressing room to tell Eddie something about the show, and I walked out of the suite with Bill and asked him:

“Bill Barron (Hilton) is giving you $500,000 a week for this gig, right?”

He said, “Yes.”

“Aren’t you embarrassed getting that much money when the president of the U.S. only gets $250,000 a year?”

Bill turned to me and says, “He can’t do what I do!”

In 1972, Bill came for a two-week gig, and I took my wife and three children to see the show. He did a thing on gambling and gamblers. Really great material.

At the end, he suggested the 2,000 in the audience rush the casino and grab all the chips, then run backstage and divide the chips up — democratically — black chips for the black folks, and white chips for the white folks.

After Bill did that ‘grab the chips’ bit, Bruce Banke, who was publicity director for the hotel, asked him to cut that part from the act. It scared the hotel.

The next day, I was doing a hotel guest in the salon. I was ‘doing’ Bills material that I had heard that evening before, and the guest was laughing really good.

I stopped to ask a question about how he wanted his neck line to look, and he continued laughing.

I looked up in the mirror to see why he was still laughing, and to my shock and embarrassment, there stood Cosby, lipsinking his material.

When I turned to Bill, he said, “Jerry, just keep telling my stuff to all the guests and they won’t have to come tonight.”

With that, he headed for the tennis courts, which was where he was heading, I guess, when he heard me doing his material.

I got to know many entertainers over the years. Sig Sakowicz and I had a TV show (“Sig’s Superstar”) on Channel 8 from 1971 to 1985. I did the hair and make-up for the show and helped with getting sponsors. Also, I managed three entertainers during and after the show.

I’d like to tell you another one.

One time when I was cutting Eddie’s hair in the Hilton dressing room, the phone rang just as I was starting to leave.

Eddie was heading to the back bedroom, where his steamers were going (for his voice), and he asked if I’d answer it.

So, I picked up the phone and said, “Hello, this is Mr. Fisher’s dressing room.”

A female voice said, “Let me speak to the S.O.B.!”

Eddie turned and asked, “Who is it?”

I replied, “I don’t know, but she wants to speak to the S.O.B.”

Eddie said, “Oh, that’s Debbie!”