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New Bill Cosby accuser: ‘Do you remember me?’

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Bill Cosby

Editor’s note: This story contains graphic language.

(CNN) — Heidi Thomas has one question for Bill Cosby, “Look me in the eyes. Do you remember me? Do you remember me?”

Thomas says she has held a secret for 30 years. Now, for the first time, she wants to be heard.

Her secret is one that may sound familiar as she adds her name to the list of more than 20 women who have spoken out to various media outlets about allegations of sexual misconduct by Bill Cosby.

Cosby’s attorney has called the spate of sexual assault accusations against the comedian “ridiculous.”

Martin D. Singer said in a statement it defies common sense that “so many people would have said nothing, done nothing, and made no reports to law enforcement or asserted civil claims if they thought they had been assaulted over a span of so many years.”

A representative of Cosby did not immediately respond to this most recent allegation.

Thomas’ account dates back to 1984. Los Angeles was preparing for the Summer Olympics, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album topped 37 million albums sold and a Hollywood icon was ready to launch a new show that would rewrite television history. Bill Cosby was on the verge of superstardom.

Meanwhile in Denver, a 24-year-old aspiring actress, then known as Heidi Johnson, was on the verge of her big break.

“My agent said, ‘Well, you’re tall enough and slender enough. Let’s put you into modeling,'” Thomas recalls.

She was represented by JF Images, considered one of the premier modeling agencies in Denver. Its founder, Jo Farrell, had earned the nickname “Barracuda.”

“I’d go into her office and your knees would shake. But then again, as a young talent trying to get started, you look at that kind of intimidation factor and you think, ‘Oh, she’s– she knows what she’s doing. I am in good hands here,'” Thomas says.

In 1975, the local press reported that Farrell responded to her nickname by saying, “if being a barracuda means I work very hard, protect my people and being a good businesswoman, then I accept it.”

CNN reached Farrell, who is retired, by phone, but she declined to comment on Cosby.

Thomas says her career was picking up in 1984, but she was questioning whether she wanted the lifestyle of a model. That’s when the call came from Annie Maloney, an agent with JF Images, who told her there was a very important person in the industry who was “looking for young talent that he can mentor.”

She says Maloney told her that she needed to go to Reno, Nevada, because Bill Cosby wanted to work with her — to coach her and help her act. Maloney died in 1997.

Cosby was performing at Harrah’s Hotel and Casino. Thomas says her agent told her she would be staying there and Cosby would probably be doing the coaching in his hotel suite.

Thomas’ mother, Greta Lea Johnson, was concerned about her daughter going to a new city by herself.

“I’m not a hovering mother, but, of course, we had no cell phones. We had nothing that we could use to keep in contact with her … We had no knowledge of where she would be.” Looking back, Johnson says, “We were pretty naïve.”

Thomas says she was picked up by limousine at the airport in Reno. She questioned the driver because she remembered seeing the city lights behind her as they drove away. Thomas says she was confused because the postcard she bought at the airport showed Harrah’s as being in the middle of town.

The driver told her that a friend let Cosby use their house outside Reno so “he doesn’t have to deal with all of the paparazzi,” Thomas says.

Thomas says Cosby greeted her at the door of the sprawling house, and later, the coaching began.

She says she performed a monologue, and when she finished, Cosby asked her to do a cold read of a person who was intoxicated.

According to Thomas, Cosby wasn’t impressed. Thomas wasn’t much of a drinker.

“How are you ever going play an intoxicated person … if you’ve never been drunk?” she says he told her.

She says Cosby wanted her to relax, and he gave her a glass of Chablis.

Thomas admits that her memory of the next few hours is “foggy,” but she says that at one point, he may have asked her something like, (Are you) “feeling the part now?” or “Feeling the lines now?”

Thomas says that when she woke up, Cosby was next to her in bed, naked and “forcing himself in my mouth.” She says she remembers feeling like she wanted to throw up.

Soon after, Thomas says, Cosby was getting on top of her again and referring to himself in the third person.

“I’m your friend … your friend is gonna (ejaculate) again,” Thomas remembers him saying.

Rather than get angry with Cosby, Thomas says, she made excuses and asked herself, “What’s happened? Why am I here? Why is he naked? What did I say? What did I do?”

Thomas says she remembers eventually storming out of the room and slamming the door, and then apologizing for being “rude.” The next thing she can remember is riding with Cosby to his show. She says the rest of her memory is spotty: She recalls a cook offering her strawberries and having wine with Cosby before his show. But, she says, she doesn’t remember much more from the four-day trip.

Thomas says that months after the incident in Reno, she learned Cosby was going to be in St. Louis. She says she traveled there and was able see him backstage after one of his shows, but never talked to him about what happened in Reno. She was never alone with him, she says.

“There’s another thing I wish I could explain,” she says of the trip. “[The] closet thing I can say here is I just wanted to make this right … I’m still not thinking I’ve been abused. I’m thinking this is all my fault.” Thomas says she wanted to see if Cosby really thought she had talent.

That was 1984 — and Thomas says that she’s been haunted in the years since, thinking that maybe she’d brought it on herself. She chose not to confide in anyone, including her agent or the talent agency.

But Thomas says everything changed a few weeks ago when she learned that her mother knew something had happened in Reno. Thomas says she learned this from a friend; her mother had never mentioned a word of it to her in all these years.

Indeed, Johnson says Thomas called her from Reno back in 1984 after her first full day there and after the alleged incident. Thomas says she doesn’t remember making that call, but her mother has little trouble recollecting the confusion and anguish she felt hundreds of miles away.

“I remember standing in the kitchen thrilled to hear from my daughter. She was excited.” Johnson remembers making some small talk when she said Thomas said something very disturbing.

“I did something wrong and … I got away and slammed the door,” Johnson remembers her daughter telling her.

Johnson says she continued trying to get more information from her daughter on the phone.

“‘Did he rape you?’ She said, ‘No, I got away.'”

Johnson says she wanted to comfort her but didn’t know how. “I couldn’t reach her. I couldn’t touch her. I didn’t know anyone in Reno to send her to. She was on the other side of the earth.”

Thomas says she returned to Denver with no memory of the flight or the ride home with her parents.

“I don’t remember seeing them. What did we say to each other? How did she look? I-I-I have nothing.”

Johnson says she decided not to mention the phone call — or let on that she knew in any way — because she just wanted “things get back to normal” for her daughter.

Thomas has never spoken publicly about this incident, until now. She says finding out that her mother knew all along was what freed her to speak.

“I finally find out that she knows, that Dad knows, that they are supporting me if I want to go public…Then it became full steam ahead, I want to empower people.”

“I was beginning to think though…that whole keeping-your-silence is a form of acceptance. It’s not supporting the women who are coming forward. It’s not helping … and if enough people make enough of a fuss, maybe we can get a culture that starts to listen,” Thomas says.

Today, Thomas teaches piano to children who share the same dreams she did 30 years ago. Playing “Clair de Lune,” her mother sits next to her on the bench, turning the pages of her songbook.

24 comments

  • jim

    Either this guy has been wrongly accused by mass numbers of women; or he has gotten away with being one of the most prolific serial rapists in probable history!

    • Pamela

      Jim, to even suggest that it’s possible ‘this guy has been wrongly accused by mass numbers of women’ is the kind of denial and ignorance that will certainly keep that single rape victim from coming forward. No one wants to believe that any man could drug and rape women, but we are adults, and can take reality. Personally, I’ve realized that with 2-3% conviction rates of rape with adult females, most of our children don’t stand a chance to be protected or believed in this ‘developed’ country.

      • James Lenfers

        Pamela Frankly I find your allowance for these stories as being true without any of them outside of Constrand having ever elevated these stories from stories to telling them in a objective environment of examination and cross examination and thereby meeting the “test” in testimony to have a ring to it that appears more like some kind of religious like fervor to it. These stories are allegations of criminal behavior, not affirmations of experiences with God where they just get to tell those stories and we all just yell “AMEN!” And if enough tell their stories, then that is just proof right there in the numbers. Your personal ratification of these stories, your opinion of belief doesn’t create corroboration anymore then any individual story that has not met the test of testimony corroborates another that also has not met the same test. 30, 40 or 100 stories that are essentially starting out in a state of neutrality and then have the opportunity, really the burden since those stories are doing great harm, to substantiate and elevate individually to a condition of higher credibility, and don’t just fail at doing it, but all seem to go to great extremes to avoid a objective venue of examination and cross examination is just incredibly suspect. Your saying people that aren’t accepting this many stories are in great denial. I say those of you taking them at face value are going out of your way to create allowances and a false sense of ratification on them.

  • Teresa Ganim (@henleyurban)

    Just in time for tonight’s CNN special. I think the count is up to 40 women who claim Bill Cosby raped them. Gloria Allred says she has hundreds more waiting in the wings and that her phone rings non-stop with women alleging Bill Cosby raped them 30 years ago. Now that so many women have come out in 2014/2015 and we have seen these accounts on the internet expect many more of these stories as promised by Gloria Allred.

    • Jvk

      The owner of the modeling agency was highly respectable and was in the business for hears and never heard of such claims.

    • James Lenfers

      It really has become quite ridiculous Teresa Ganim. Not a single story of any of them outside of Constrand has met so much as a iota of burden. And I will grant them that on stories that are 20 to nearly 50 years old, bringing evidence along with the story would be incredibly difficult. But that does not alleviate the accusers of what burden they have and what they are capable of still meeting. This is not a church where 40 members stand up and give their testimony of personal experience with God and we simply all yell Amen when they are done talking. These are serious allegations of criminal behavior, and it has done great harm to make them. If these people want the right to tell their stories, they need to face the burden of what they can meet to elevate those stories as much as possible to a higher form, resembling something closer to real testimony, not stories. In a court of law that would be accomplished by putting those stories into a critical environment of examination and cross examinations. And the very opposite has happened on all of the stories. They have completely avoided any venue of objectivity, where examination and cross examination is even allowed or pursued. Each story has been tossed out there in the most friendly environment possible, and left at that, stacking one neutral story, never objectively examined, one on top of the other. I know I will be accused of mansplain on this, but I am sorry, a stack of stories without a iota of proof, or even meeting a venue of objective analysis at the time of telling them is not evidence or corroboration, and until that happens I am not yelling AMEN! to those doing it, or the believers that want to believe their opinions provide any confirmation of those stories.

      • James Lenfers

        And yes, I am sitting in the front row of the church of due process. If people are going to tell stories that come down to allegations of criminal behavior, and it does damage to the accused, they have already brought that story into the realm of right to real and serious objective scrutiny and the need to back up that incredibly claim with more then just additional blank incredibly claims.

      • David

        Too bad we live in a society that hates women and court system that’s a bunch of stacked aces. But yes, it is all their fault for not living up to their responsibilities as women.

    • James Lenfers

      And if it was actually testimony, any of it risen to the level of testimony it might mean something. One of the key parts of testimony is the “test” of the story or allegation in a formal venue, usually a court of law, but at the least a objective venue of examination, and cross examination. If your story is told outside of a objective critical venue of analysis, then it is simply a story, neither inherently true or false. Essentially neutral, neither positive or negative, a zero, that if you want it believed, its the burden of the person telling the story to do it in such a way it elevates it to the stature of testimony. If they fail at this, and it seems in the case of nearly all of these stories, have gone out of their way to avoid a critical venue of analysis, that big pile of zeroes become in itself quite suspect.

  • F. Misutka

    This is absolutely horrifying. So many women with the same horrific tale. Roseanne Barr thinks Cosby can make things right by apologizing. That won’t go near enough. Cosby needs to wave the statue of limitations so these women can seek real justice. What this poor Heidi Thomas describes is nothing short of a hostage situation.

  • Gerry Bowman

    Let me get this straight. A modeling agent sent a client to Reno to be “mentored” by a stand-up comedian who (in 1984) had not had a TV or movie role in years? He then takes her to a rental house and “auditions” her? This story makes no sense from top to bottom and is not the least bit credible.

      • Jerry

        JVK … I’m sorry, but you are simply in complete denial. There is no imaginable way that all of these women would come forward with nearly identical scenarios just to take down an innocent. Bill Cosby used his influence and a standing procedure (drugged beverages) to sexually assault young, vulnerable and trusting women at will. It’s disgusting, vile and inexcusable. He deserves whatever notoriety comes from this. He should be facing a life behind bars, though the latter will not likely occur because you just can’t take on such male prestige and power in our culture. These women were victims, and he was a vulture.

  • Juggling For A Cure

    Black men are reported, charged, convicted, and incarcerated at a much higher rate than the general population. Any Black man who rapes 30+ women–mostly White women–is headed to jail swiftly. One thing about Black men that people are not afraid of is calling the police on them.

  • alawyer

    Let me get this straight. You are 24 years old and an aspiring actress in 1984. Your agent tells you that this Geezer (who at that time was known mostly for his Saturday Morning Cartoons), wanted you – who he had never met – to come meet him in Reno so that he could “mentor” you and give you “private acting lessons,” and that these “private lessons” would likely be in his hotel room (!!!!) So he paid your freight, sight unseen, and when you got there, he had a limo pick you up and drive you to a secluded location.

    Then, instead of demanding the driver take you to the hotel, you engaged in “acting lessons.” after You consume a drink he provided you at the door, and a second glass of wine – which would make many small women legally drunk, and if the glass was refilled while you weren’t paying attention, prone to partial or full blackouts. Surprise – you have a partial blackout, which sounds like alcohol, not a drug induced stupor. You then call your Mom – who had misgivings about you going from the onset, since most normal women would recognized this as a prelude to the casting couch. Normal actresses attended real acting schools with multiple pupils – taking private lessons in a Reno hotel room from a man old enough to be your Dad likely is not how Faye Dunaway got into the business. Mom immediately asks if you have been raped – based on your comment that you did something wrong – not that he did something wrong. Hence, memory implanted.

    Next step, instead of going to the police or even complaining to your agent, you take a trip to St. Louis and have a happy, smiling face shot with him.

    And you wonder why people would not have believed that you were assaulted in 1984? As a woman the exact same age, if I had been on the jury, I would have had a hard time not laughing out loud at this absurd story. Sorry. Next.

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