Deep in the rolling farmland of western Massachusetts, Bill Cosby's compound has for decades provided refuge for the comedian and his family. The typically low-key Cosbys have been known to spend holidays and large parts of their summers there, a popular tourist stop situated more than 100 miles from Boston. And most people in this normally reserved New England community are content to leave the Cosbys alone. But as allegations about years of sexual misconduct continue to reverberate around Cosby, it's become more difficult for locals to ignore their most famous resident. In downtown Shelburne Falls, about 15 minutes from Cosby's compound, some shop owners say they're weary of answering questions about the 78-year-old comedian, who they say never frequented their shops anyway. "It's sad when your town's No. 1 celebrity-type person ends up [in] a situation like this," says Michael Eller, co-owner of the Sawyer News store. "But there's nothing we can do about it."
Although many residents are still reluctant to pass judgment, they nonetheless find themselves pulled into the debate. "I think a lot of people had sympathy for him early on, but it's just a tidal wave right now," says Sidney Anderson, whose family has owned the Baker Pharmacy for three generations. "There obviously has to be something there." Others say they feel sorry for Cosby's family, noting they've contributed many positive things to the community since moving there in the '70s, from buying acres of rural land for preservation to speaking out against a controversial natural-gas pipeline. "I view it as a private matter," says Town Clerk and Selectman Joseph Judd, who's known the Cosby family for years. "I can't imagine a finer family. ... There's really nothing negative to say." Most say they wouldn't act any differently if they encountered Cosby. "I'd probably still say hi," says Justin Nichols, the master roaster at Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters. "Not that I feel bad for him. I'm just a nice guy. I wouldn't want to make anything awkward."