Joyce Emmons spent three and a half decades staying silent about what she says happened to her late one night in Bill Cosby‘s five-bedroom Las Vegas hotel suite.
Now 71, the former comedy club manager, who worked with the likes of Jay Leno, Robin Williams and Jerry Seinfeld, has come forward with claims that Cosby gave her a “white pill” after she complained of a headache – and she woke up naked 11 hours later in bed with one of his friends.
“The reason I didn’t come out with this story earlier is because my son knew Bill and I didn’t want to disillusion him,” Emmons tells PEOPLE of the incident that she says happened in 1979 or 1980.
“He was more important to me than Bill Cosby or this story and I just couldn’t let him know about this. After he got older, I put it on the back burner.”
Cosby’s attorney, Martin Singer, has called the new wave of claims “unsubstantiated [and] fantastical” and noted that none of the women ever filed legal claims against Cosby.
Emmons says she and Cosby struck up a friendship in the late 1970s. Whenever he was in Las Vegas performing, she often drove there with friends or employees from her comedy club and stayed with Cosby in his massive suite on the 30th floor of Caesars Palace. Not long after they met, Emmons claims he asked her: “Do you do cocaine or any other drugs?” then proceeded to show her a dresser drawer full of “pills and cocaine.”
Emmons says she never once saw Cosby even “take a drink.” She alleged he told her: “I always keep drugs, not for me but for my friends who want to do them.”
On several of Emmons’s trips to Las Vegas to hang with Cosby, they were sometimes joined by one of his pals, a Midwest businessman who Emmons says often “hit on” her. His advances weren’t appreciated, recalls Emmons, who says she finally told Cosby, “You need to tell him to leave me alone.”
Late one night around 4 a.m. during one of her visits, she and a group of Cosby’s friends made their way back to the main room of his suite. Emmons, who was suffering from a splitting headache, told the comedian she needed “three Tylenol” for the pain, she says. “Bill said, ‘I have something for you. It’s a little strong,’ ” recalls Emmons. “I told him, ‘Bill, you know I don’t do drugs. Don’t give me anything like that.’ And his words were, ‘You’re my good friend. Would I do something to hurt you?’ ”
Emmons claims she lost consciousness within minutes. Sometime around 3 p.m. the next day she says she woke up in her bedroom without any clothes on with Cosby’s friend beside her. “Did you have fun?” she recalls the man asking her. Furious, she got dressed, grabbed her suitcase and stormed out of her room. On the way out of the suite, she spotted Cosby.
“What the hell did you give me?” she says she demanded. “Bill told me, ‘It was just a Quaalude. You said you had a bad headache and I knew that would help.’ ” The last thing she recalls saying to Cosby – whom she says she has never seen since – was: “Paybacks are a bitch.”
Emmons tears up while recounting the incident, explaining that she only shared the details of the assault with a few people before now because she was “ashamed.” Says her brother Dr. Marvin Silverman, a child therapist: “She first told me about this ten years ago. It’s always been in the back of her mind, always right under the surface. I think her talking about it now is therapeutic. She doesn’t have to keep it to herself anymore.”
Emmons’s accusations come on the heels of an ever-growing list of women who claim that the comedian drugged and sexually assaulted them. The most recent accusers include Victoria Valentino, a former Playboy Playmate, now 71, who told the Washington Post that Cosby assaulted her in 1970, shortly after putting “a pill” in her mouth.
“He came over to me and sat down on the love seat and opened his fly and grabbed my head and pushed my head down,” she said. “And then he turned me over. It was like a waking nightmare.”
Days earlier, former model and one-time aspiring actress Renita Chaney Hill, 47, who appeared with Cosby on his educational television segments, alleged that he began drugging her at the age of 15.
“No one wants to be associated with something like this,” she told KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh. “But the bottom line for me is that no one has the right to violate someone else, no matter who they are. I don’t care how big they are or how the community sees them, it’s not right.”
Emmons couldn’t agree more. “I trusted this man as a friend,” she says. “I just have never been able to understand why he would have done this to me.”
For much more on the Bill Cosby scandal, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.