Star’s ‘terrible’ Hey, Hey humiliation

 

Iconic Australian variety show Hey Hey It's Saturday has been under fresh scrutiny in recent days, with music legend Kamahl further opening up to Studio 10 about the "terrible" experiences he had on the show.

Speaking to Sarah Harris, Tristan MacManus and Angela Bishop this morning, the musician admitted it "hurt" being subjected to racist jokes on the variety show, pointing out that the same gags wouldn't have been played out on white performers.

"They wouldn't hit John Farnham or Jimmy Barnes in the face with a powder puff," he said in reference to one of the show's most shocking resurfaced skits.

The critical lens on the show's past emerged again last week when Daryl Somers, who is soon to appear as host on Channel 7's Dancing With The Stars, told The Daily Telegraph that "it's a shame" segments deemed acceptable to air in the past wouldn't fly today due to "cancel culture."

His comments prompted a series of clips unearthed on Twitter depicting Somers and off-screen partner John Blackman's behaviour on Hey Hey It's Saturday, particularly to singer Kamahl, who was once hit in the face with white powder during a performance on the show. "You're a real white man, Kamahl," Blackman told him after the prank.

"Daryl, it's lighting here - could you ask Kamahl to smile so we can see him?" Blackman had asked via voiceover before the performance.

 

This cartoon flashed on screen when Kamahl was being interviewed.
This cartoon flashed on screen when Kamahl was being interviewed.

During the same segment, a drawing from the show's resident cartoonist appeared on screen, showing Kamahl in a boiling pot of water with a bone through his nose. "Why... why they do this to me?" Blackman said, impersonating the singer's accent.

As the clips resurfaced, Blackman has rejected racism claims, suggesting Kamahl should move on - comments which prompted a fierce public backlash.

RELATED: Daryl Somers blackface video resurfaces

Appearing on Studio 10 this morning, Malaysian-born Kamahl, 86, said of the saga: "There is a reason why they did what they did.

"The reason is that I was successful … They couldn't understand it … It's a form of envy, jealousy, hate. It was their form of cutting the tall poppy down."

He continued: "It hurt, of course it hurt. It's terrible to be humiliated. I know they wouldn't hit John Farnham or Jimmy Barnes in the face with a powder puff, but the root of it was I was too successful for them … If I was a nobody, they wouldn't have done anything."

Kamahl blamed some of the Hey Hey cast’s racism on “tall poppy syndrome”. Picture: Kym Smith
Kamahl blamed some of the Hey Hey cast’s racism on “tall poppy syndrome”. Picture: Kym Smith

Elsewhere, the Order of Australia member said: "I tried not to complain, but at the end of it all, 34 years later, I'm still here, I'm still laughing."

He also thanked fans for their support over the past few days, saying: "there are (tweets) coming through with an ocean of kindness and love."

It comes after the recording artist yesterday slammed John Blackman's defence of the show, reiterating why he never spoke up at the time.

Here's how the drama unfolded:

 

Daryl Somers' comments about 'cancel culture'

 

Last week, 69-year-old Daryl Somers said it was a "shame" television shows can't "get away with half the stuff you could on Hey Hey."

"You probably could not get away with half the stuff you could on Hey Hey now because of the political correctness and the cancel culture," he told The Daily Telegraph.

"It is a shame because showbiz does not get much of a chance."

He went on to say he's slightly dismayed with the shift in public opinion, but accepts the world is changing.

"A lot of comics can't work much because what would have been just tongue-in-cheek previously now can easily get them into trouble.

"I can't say I am enamoured with it, but it is a changing world in which we live and you just have to work around things," he said.

A throwback still Daryl Somers doing blackface on Hey Hey It’s Saturday. Picture: YouTube.
A throwback still Daryl Somers doing blackface on Hey Hey It’s Saturday. Picture: YouTube.

 

Kamahl recalls 'humiliating' segments

 

 

Asked whether he thought Hey Hey could return in light of Somers' interview and the social media storm it ignited, 86-year-old Order of Australian member Kamahl recalled "a number of instances where I felt humiliated".

Kamahl was regularly subjected to jokes about his skin colour on the show before it ended in 1999, with resurfaced clips including blackface segments impersonating the musician, and a moment which saw Kamahl's face covered with white powder, to which Blackman joked off-screen: "You're a real white man now Kamahl, you know that?"

Another gag saw the lighting department asking Kamahl to smile so "we can see him".

Kamahl told The Guardian he didn't want to raise any objections at the time, and would instead just smile and "pretend everything was OK".

"Friends of mine in America saw that and to this day they can't believe that somebody would treat an artist with that amount of disrespect," Kamahl explained.

Kamahl was hit in the face with white powder while performing live on the show to promote his album. Picture: Twitter.
Kamahl was hit in the face with white powder while performing live on the show to promote his album. Picture: Twitter.

 

John Blackman weighs in, claims Kamahl should have complained

 

Blackman, 73, who also voiced the faceless puppet Dickie Knee, promptly hit back at Kamahl's admission he felt "humiliated" by the numerous racist skits on the variety show, saying he would have "desisted" had Kamahl spoken up at the time.

Posting to Facebook on the weekend, Blackman said that while he "cringes" looking back at some of the episodes, Kamahl should have let it go by now.

"Goodness me Kamahl, 37 years and you're still "humiliated"," he wrote in response to comments the entertainer made in an interview with The Guardian.

Responding to the resurfaced clips and Kamahl's comments, Blackman wrote: "You knew where my booth was!

"If you felt so aggrieved by my "quip" you should have had marched up to it, had a quiet word in my ear and I would have desisted from making any further "racist" remarks forever."

He added: "Keep in mind, we were all performing in less-enlightened (unintended pun) times back in the day and, when I look back over my career on HHIS (via YouTube), I sometimes cringe at what we got away with - but none of it with any intended malice."

Former Hey Hey It’s Saturday stars Daryl Somers and John Blackman have caused uproar with their recent comments about cancel culture and racism. Picture: Supplied.
Former Hey Hey It’s Saturday stars Daryl Somers and John Blackman have caused uproar with their recent comments about cancel culture and racism. Picture: Supplied.

He also recalled offending the music star on a separate occasion, questioning why the star "took umbrage" to him joking that he'd ridden an elephant to the venue.

"I do recall you getting offended after I mentioned you at a Melbourne venue," he wrote.

"Something along the lines of 'Kamahl is performing tonight - he's running just a little bit late because he's having trouble getting his elephant under the boom gate in the carpark.' Got a huge laugh but I heard you took umbrage. Why?"

Further, when asked by a fan if he "feels bad" about humiliating Kamahl, he said: "Not in the least!"

 

Racism row erupts over Blackman's dismissive post

 

A number of people on social media have since lashed out at Blackman, with Kamahl himself slamming his remarks in a follow-up post.

Kamahl tweeted yesterday: "John Blackman wants to know why I did not make any complaints then! Mr. Blackman, you of all people know that it's all about TIMING! There's a time for everything!"

Flocking to support him in the comments, a number of followers called out Blackman's actions.

The cast of Hey Hey It’s Saturday: Red Symons, Wilbur Wilde, Plucka Duck, John Blackman, Jo Beth Taylor, Daryl Somers and Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum. Picture: Supplied.
The cast of Hey Hey It’s Saturday: Red Symons, Wilbur Wilde, Plucka Duck, John Blackman, Jo Beth Taylor, Daryl Somers and Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum. Picture: Supplied.

"How pathetic of John Blackman, peddler of cruel and degrading stereotypes to condemn @OfficialKamahl for calling out racism," one fan said.

"You'd think John Blackman and Daryl Somers would pull their heads in and reflect on what they used to do. But no - whingers and whiners," said another.

"Wouldn't it just be better for John Blackman to say "you're right Kamahl and I'm sorry" … Let's be honest, we've ALL said or done the wrong thing at some time, we're more enlightened now so just say sorry & learn from it," one more wrote.

 

Hey Hey's uncomfortable history

 

Last year, people were similarly reminded of the show's controversial moments when a video of Somers performing in blackface circulated online.

The clip shows Somers singing Louis Armstrong's What A Wonderful World alongside New Zealand jazz singer Ricky May.

It was part of a tribute package that aired on the show in 1988 after May's death, and it is still available to view on the show's YouTube page.

Hey Hey It's Saturday infamously made headlines again in 2009 when five men performed in blackface during the Red Faces segment in a Hey Hey Reunion Special.

The infamous blackface skit on the Hey Hey It's Saturday reunion show in 2009. Picture: Supplied.
The infamous blackface skit on the Hey Hey It's Saturday reunion show in 2009. Picture: Supplied.

The men, who were pretending to be the Jackson Five, received a score of zero from guest judge, US singer Harry Connick Jr, who said he was offended by the performance.

Somers apologised to the singer at the end of the show, saying: "I think we may have offended you with that act and I deeply apologise on behalf of all of us - because I know that to your countrymen, that's an insult to have a blackface routine like that on the show, so I do apologise to you."

Connick Jr said he would not have appeared on the show had he known about the performance.

"I know it was done humorously, but we've spent so much time trying to not make black people look like buffoons that when we see something like that we take it really to heart," he said.

Originally published as Star's 'terrible' Hey, Hey humiliation

 


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