- The Washington Times - Friday, October 9, 2009

Among the most well known Ben’s Chili Bowl customers is comedian Bill Cosby, who on Friday fondly recalled his times at the restaurant.

Mr. Cosby said he ate at the restaurant when it opened in 1958 and a half-smoke cost 35 cents.

“The price has gone up but the quality has never gone down,” he said Friday. “The taste is one of those things I always dreamed about, even in the South of France.”

Mr. Cosby, whose pictures still hang on Ben’s walls, said he discovered Ben’s as a military corpsman stationed in Bethesda and Quantico and racing across the region to play basketball and run track.

“I was lean then, had an athlete’s body,” he recalled. “I could eat six half-smokes. Chili, raw onions and mustard. That’s how I like them.”

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Mr. Cosby said after finishing in the military and attending Temple University, he “started taking serious steps in his showbiz career” in 1963, and returned to the nightclubs of D.C., where he stayed with old military buddy and D.C. native Ronald “Stymie” Crockett, who was attending Howard University and “played a little bit of piano.”

Mr. Crockett, he said, would send him jazz albums off the Blue Note label when he was stationed north of the U.S. border because the commissary “only carried Chet Atkins records.”

Mr. Cosby, who on Thursday said he was saddened by the death of Ben’s co-founder Ben Ali, played the drums and together they worked such jazz clubs as U Street’s Bohemian Caverns and Shadows in Georgetown.

“It was, ‘after the Caverns go to Ben’s, after Shadows, go to Ben’s,’” Mr. Cosby said. “We never drank and our motto was: ‘six half-smokes and a good woman.’”

Mr. Crockett eventually introduced him to a University of Maryland freshman named Camille Hanks, whom Mr. Cosby brought to Ben’s on their sixth date then proposed to her there. They married about a year later, in 1964.

“Camille was the only woman I ever brought there,” he said.