Service Merchandise CEO Blames Cosby 

Service Merchandise CEO Blames Cosby

Service Merchandise CEO Blames Cosby

Service Merchandise never would have gone out of business if company officials hadn’t hired Bill Cosby as a pitchman in the late 1980s, the company’s CEO Sam Cusano says.

Cosby was still at the height of his popularity, playing TV dad Cliff Huxtable in the NBC series The Cosby Show, when Service Merchandise used him in its television ads and catalogs. Cosby’s presence didn’t reverse the retailer’s fortunes, however, and the Brentwood-based catalog showroom chain announced, after a poor 2001 holiday season, that it was closing its doors.

Cusano, improbably, says those 14-year-old commercials put a hex on the company that it could not undo.

“We fell victim to the Curse of Cosby,” Cusano laments in a memo to employees announcing the company’s shutdown. “It’s all his fault.

“I mean, look at the facts,” Cusano elaborates. “Cosby was the pitchman for New Coke, and we all know what a disaster that was. Cosby was a pitchman for Ford, and they had the whole Explorer rollover/Firestone imbroglio, and just laid off 30,000 people.

“He did commercials for Kodak film, and now digital cameras are eating them alive. He fronted for E.F. Hutton, and they were taken over by Shearson Lehman.

“I like Jello pudding as much as the next guy, but I’m not sure I’d be buying any stock in it.”

Local business observers dispute the hex theory. “This is the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard,” one local broker scoffs. “I think [the failure] has to do with an outmoded retail concept, not who was in their old ads.”

But Cusano is sticking to his guns.

“I’ve been called by a former producer for Unsolved Mysteries,” he says. “She’s doing a documentary, and we’re going to expose the Curse of Cosby to the world.”

(Fabricate: to make up in order to deceive.)

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