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Bill Cosby helps Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington, D.C. celebrate anniversary

By DANIELLE HAYNES, UPI.com   |   Aug. 24, 2013 at 5:09 PM   |   Comments

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Aug. 24 (UPI) -- Bill Cosby helped Ben's Chili Bowl restaurant in Washington, D.C., celebrate its 55th anniversary alongside a letter from President Barack Obama.

Cosby has long been a fan of the famous eatery, which sports a mural including the actor's likeness. Cosby's voice is also used on a message callers hear when they telephone the restaurant.

The actor first began frequenting Ben's Chili Bowl during his time in the Navy in 1959 and he even took his wife Camille there on dates.

"He wasn't famous, but he was always funny. He was just great fun to be around," said Virginia Ali, the wife of Ben Ali, the founder of the restaurant. "He's been coming since '59 and he's been the most ardent and faithful supporter all these years. As he grew, he kind of took the chili bowl along with him."

When NBC asked Crosby to do a press conference in Washington D.C. in the late 1980s, when "The Cosby Show" was at the height of its success, Crosby chose to do it at the restaurant.

"Bill could have done it at the White House, but he said at Ben's," Virginia told CNN. "And it wasn't a great neighborhood then ... because after the riots of 1968 many middle class African Americans moved away, businesses that were looted and burned and never reopened."

In addition to Cosby's appearance at the celebration, a letter from the president and First Lady Michelle Obama was read promising they would return soon.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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