Two of the most controversial clips include the lighting department asking Malaysian-born Kamahl to smile so “we can see him” and Daryl wearing blackface with a wig to impersonate Kamahl as he performed next to him on stage.
However, the most offensive skit showed an assistant rushing at Kamahl and covering his face with white powder before announcer John Blackman yells: “You’re a real white man now, Kamahl...”
Kamahl, who is currently working on a new biography, admits he wasn’t forewarned it was going to happen and found it incredibly humiliating at the time. He continued to appear on the show because it boosted his profile and record sales.
“If they could insult me or humiliate me, they did it,” he tells. “The white powder incident was the most humiliating. That was just the pits. I went along with it because I didn’t want to be seen as a prude. But I had friends in America at the time who couldn’t believe how disrespectful they were.”
Kamahl says he’s grateful that he wisely declined an offer to appear on the show in 2009 when superstar Harry Connick Jr. took great offence over a blackface skit that was featured in an appalling segment.
“They wanted me to be in the green room in case they wanted to use me in the line-up, but they refused to pay for my airfares or accommodation so I politely declined,” he says.
Kamahl doesn’t hold a grudge against Daryl or the show’s background announcer, John Blackman (who now says he would have “desisted” if Kamahl had complained at the time), and says he feels he became the butt of their jokes due to jealousy of his overseas success.
“Daryl has to take responsibility,” he says. “I’ve never had a problem with Daryl, but he made no effort to stop anyone else being disrespectful because it was good for the show – and the ratings. Hey Hey always divided the audience – those who were in favour of those kind of jokes and those who detested it.
“And no, Daryl hasn’t apologised personally.”
Daryl did, however, issue a public apology on the show’s Facebook page following the backlash.
“I have always considered Kamahl a friend and supporter of the show, so I deeply regret any hurt felt by him as a result of anything that took place on the program in the past,” he said.
Channel 7 announced three weeks ago that it will air a one-off 50th anniversary celebration episode. Despite his complicated history with the show, Kamahl is eager to party!
“I’d welcome the opportunity – and tell Daryl I’ll even pay for my own airfares and accommodation,” he laughs.
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