Bill Cosby Bill Cosby

Cosby: His Life and Times, Mark Whitaker's comprehensive biography of Bill Cosby, hits stores Tuesday. The absorbing read chronicles the comedian's rise from the Philadelphia projects to stand-up king, his groundbreaking role on I Spy — as TV's first black leading man — and TV's most beloved dad on The Cosby Show. But for every high, there were plenty of lows: his near-bankruptcy, his scandalous affairs that resulted in an extortion trial, his estrangement from a daughter and the bizarre murder of his only son.

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Here are 10 things we learned from the book:1. He wasn't a good student.

Though Cosby is a prominent education advocate, he was a terrible student in school, opting to be the class clown instead of studying up. Because he never opened his geometry book, Cosby, who had the highest IQ in his grade, once took 12 pages to work out one of four problems on a test. He ended up getting that one right, but failed the test because he didn't have time to attempt the other questions. The SATs? He scored a 500 total.2. He got his love of education from his mother.Cosby's mother, Anna, dreamed of becoming a teacher, but had to drop out of high school after one semester to support her family as a maid. Her high school friend, Mary Forchic, also had education aspirations and would become Cosby's sixth-grade teacher. Anna asked her old friend to do whatever it took to "get" Cosby, who earned straight As that year. In the '70s, Anna saw her high hopes for her son realized when he received his bachelor's degree from Temple University, after he dropped out in the '60s to purse comedy, and a master's degree and doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts — Amherst. Cosby keeps the ashes of his mother and Forchic in his study.3. He bombed the first I Spy table read and test pilot.Because he had little acting experience, Cosby sweated and flubbed his way through the first reading, and things didn't go much better on the pilot. After NBC executives screened the pilot, their note back to creator Sheldon Leonard read, "unanimously disparaging," and requested that Cosby be replaced. Leonard and Cosby's co-star Robert Culp, who threatened to quit if Cosby were fired, stood up for him and NBC eventually backed off.

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4. Culp's "Valentine's Day present" to Cosby won him his first Emmy.Dissatisfied with I Spy's early scripts, which often played up race and didn't treat Kelly (Culp) and Scotty (Cosby) as equals, Culp took matters into his own hands and famously wrote seven episodes. One of them, "The Loser," in which Scotty falls for a drug-addicted jazz singer played by Eartha Kitt, was conceived as a "Valentine's Day present" to Cosby because Culp knew a black leading man wouldn't be allowed to "get the girl" on TV yet. Cosby won the first of three consecutive Emmy Awards with the episode, and beat Culp each time. When Cosby later refused to submit himself for Emmys for The Cosby Show, he publicly explained that he didn't want any more Emmys, but the truth was he still felt guilty for beating Culp.5. He invited the mother of one of his mistresses to dinner.After his manager squandered nearly all of his money, Cosby rebuilt his fortune in the '70s via Jell-O and Coca-Cola ads and gigs in Las Vegas, where he had many a "rendezvous." When he decided to end his womanizing ways, he broke up with one longtime girlfriend and took the woman and her mother, who had disapproved of her daughter seeing a married man, out to dinner. The mother told Cosby that she "always thought you had more sense than that."6. He learned of his possible love child when he called her mother for another "rendezvous" in 1975.Shawn Berkes instead pulled out a photo of her 14-month-old daughter, Autumn Jackson, telling Cosby that he is the child's father and she is not asking for money. A decade later, with The Cosby Show a huge hit, Berkes repeatedly called Cosby at the studio against his wishes to hit him up for money. (He would give her more than $100,000 over the years.) Two days after his son, Ennis, was murdered in January 1997, Jackson was arrested for trying to extort $24 million from Cosby. She was later sentenced to 26 months in jail and refused to take a paternity test.

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7. He learned of Ennis' murder while on set.The comedian was shooting the episode "Lucas Platonicus" for his CBS sitcom Cosby when producer Joanne Curley Kerner came to deliver the tragic news. "Can we just finish this scene?" the director asked Kerner, who obliged. (Ennis, 27, on whom Theo was based on The Cosby Show, was shot in the head as he was changing a flat tire on the side of the 405 freeway in Los Angeles. His killer, Mikhail Markhasev, is serving life without parole.) Cosby pays tribute to Ennis with "Hello Friend" — his favorite saying — shirts on tour, an education foundation, and keeps paintings and busts of him in his home.8. He didn't see his estranged daughter Erinn for nearly 10 years.Cosby and his wife Camille became estranged from Erinn, their second of five children, after she developed a cocaine addiction and dropped out of school. In 1989, after she accused Mike Tyson of assault, Cosby forced Erinn to seek treatment and told her she wouldn't be allowed back into the family until she got her life together. Erinn had close to zero contact with her family until she arrived at the family home in Shelburne Falls, Mass., for Ennis' burial.9. He bought a gun after Sharon Tate's murder.Fearing for the safety of his family after his friend Tate's death, Cosby bought a revolver, but he became so paranoid about using the weapon that he locked it in a drawer and never touched it. When he moved his family from L.A. to Massachusetts, he sold the gun and donated the money to charity.10. He saved Everybody Loves Raymond.Ray Romano's sitcom was floundering on Friday nights when it debuted in 1996, but one person was watching. Cosby, who tuned in from the Cosby studio, liked Raymond's similar humor and instructed his agent to get CBS Chief Les Moonves on the phone. "I love this man, Ray Romano," Cosby told him. "You put him behind me on Monday nights, and that show will work. We're compatible." Moonves did and the rest is history.