The funniest part of Bill Cosby's appearance at a fundraiser for mayoral candidate Otis Rolley this week wasn't funny-ha-ha but funny-strange.
Cosby held a 15-minute news conference with reporters from TV, newspapers and blogs in between a $4,000-a-head dinner and his stand-up show. In a brown sweater and trousers, Cosby greeted reporters with a jocular "OK?"
Then came the first question, a perfectly polite, normal, opening softball that nonetheless annoyed The Cos.
"I'm Melody Simmons with the Daily Record. Nice to meet you. Could you please talk about why Otis, why now?"
An awkward few seconds of silence passed, so Simmons appended "Mr. Cosby" to her question. To no avail. She might as well have asked the comedian about that gal who claimed to be his love child.
"You know, I really hate that," Cosby replied. "'Why Otis, why now?' What does that mean? What does that question mean? 'Why Otis, why now?' As opposed to what, Coca-Cola?"
Simmons tried again: "We'd like to know about your affiliation with the candidate here tonight at the fundraiser."
For some reason, the question suited The Cos better that way.
"Good!" he said, going on from there to make his pitch, pleasantly if somewhat ramblingly, for Rolley.
What's a Cosby worth?
Rolley wasn't saying how much money his event raised, so politicos will be in suspense until the end of the month, when his first campaign finance report is due.
Since the crowd numbered about 300 and tickets ranged from $75 for Cosby's show to $4,000 a head for the show plus dinner and a reception with Cosby, the total should be somewhere between $22,500 and $1.2 million.
About 20 to 30 people were at the dinner, according to one person who attended, so that sounds more like low six figures. About 75 of the show passes were offered free to Johns Hopkins graduate students, according to some who attended.
Rolley would only say this much: "We are on target and last night we very much surpassed what we hoped for — to have standing-room-only in a snowstorm."
On or off the clock?
No need for guesswork when it comes to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's haul at a rival fundraiser a few blocks away.
"The mayor raised more than $600,000 at the fundraiser, according to spokesman Ryan O'Doherty," The Sun reported.
That line surprised several readers. Not the number — but who disclosed it. O'Doherty is the mayor's City Hall spokesman, not her campaign spokesman. City taxpayers pay his salary.
"when i commented about anything related to the political process you all raked me over the coals," Margaret Burns, who was spokeswoman for former city State's Attorney Pat Jessamy, e-mailed The Sun on Wednesday. "is it ok for the mayor's city paid spokesperson to comment on how much she has raised in her war chest for a re-election bid?"
O'Doherty contacted The Sun with the fundraising total at 9 p.m. Tuesday, so it might be fair to say he'd punched out for the day. But a big-city mayor's mouthpiece is never really off duty, as many of them can wearily attest. That's why elected officials have separate campaign staffs, so the taxpayers don't end up footing the bill for political work.
I asked O'Doherty why he supplied the fundraising total. He declined to comment. No surprise there; it was the middle of the work day, and he was surely too busy serving the public to stoop to politics.
But O'Doherty must have had politics on his mind when he'd sent me this e-mail earlier Wednesday: "The purpose of a fundraiser is to raise money," it read. "Has otis reported a figure yet?"
O'Doherty did use a private e-mail account — but the time was 11:17 a.m.
A Don deal
Question: With the addition of William "Pete" Welch to the City Council, fully one-third of council members have:
A. A criminal record
B. Membership in a dubious political dynasty
C. A diploma from Loyola High School
The answer is C (but the criminal numbers are subject to change).
Five of the council's 15 members are Dons: Welch (Class of 1972), Bobby Curran and Carl Stokes (both Class of '68), Bill Henry (Class of '86) and Bill Cole (Class of '90).
"We have enough for our own committee," Curran said.
Does that mean the Jesuits in general and Loyola in particular can take credit (or blame) for council doings?
"We are pleased to see graduates of Loyola Blakefield serving their community," said the Rev. Thomas A. Pesci, president of what is now Loyola Blakefield High School. "Part of the tradition of Jesuit education is a dedication to instilling passion to serve others and to embrace leadership roles."