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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Two Things I'm Not Surprised About.......1) That Harry Connick, Jr is a Class Act and 2) We Still Have Minstrelsy in 2009!

It appears the latest bit of controversy to hit the net involves noted Jazz vocalist and actor, Harry Connick, Jr.'s recent visit to the land down under-Australia. As the video above encapsulates, Mr. Connick was a guest judge on the long running and popular Aussie variety show, Hey Hey, It's Saturday Night (although it aired on Wednesday...go figure). One would assume that this was pretty routine fare for Connick, who has appeared on the show previously. However, much to his chagrin, the New Orleans native was subject to a new millennium Blackface routine intended to parody a classic Jacksons' performance. For the record, I always respected Connick as an artist, not so much for his neo-Sinatra jazz pop stylings but more for his pedigree as a protege of the late great Jazz icon, Eubie Blake. Therefore it's not a surprise that Mr. Connick took umbrage with this minstrel performance by emphatically denouncing the "Jackson Jive" during the taping of the broadcast. Here's more, courtesy of the New York Times:

ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) -- An Australian variety show host has apologized for a skit in which singers parodying the Jackson Five performed in blackface.

American singer and actor Harry Connick Jr., who was serving as a guest judge on Wednesday night's ''Hey Hey It's Saturday,'' was visibly shocked by the skit, in which four men with afro wigs and blackface sang and danced behind a Michael Jackson impersonator wearing white makeup.

Connick, 42, gave the performance a zero score and told them that if it had been done in the United States it would have been pulled off the air.

Blackface was a traditional trope of minstrel shows in the U.S. that dates to the 19th century. Whites playing stock black characters -- usually offensive stereotypes meant to demean -- rubbed coal, grease or shoe polish on their faces. Blackface performances are not common in Australia.

Public reaction to the ''Hey Hey'' performance in online forums was mixed. Some Australians said they were embarrassed such a racist sketch had been broadcast, while others said detractors were too politically correct and that the skit was funny.

Michael Jackson died June 25 at age 50.

At a news conference on other issues Thursday morning, opposition politician Helen Coonan labeled the skit ''disgusting.''

Host Daryl Somers apologized to Connick at the end of the live show.

''I know that to your countrymen, that's an insult to have a blackface routine like that on the show, so I do apologize to you,'' Somers said.

Connick said he would not have appeared on the show if he'd known about the skit.

''I just want to say, on behalf of my country, 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 told Somers after his apology.

Anand Deva, the frontman of the ''Jackson Jive'' act, said it was not meant to cause offense but added he would not have performed it in the United States.

''Hey Hey'' ran for 27 years starting in 1971. The ''Jackson Jive'' group first appeared on the show 20 years ago and were invited back to reprise their roles during the second of two reunion shows for the once-popular program.

Kudos to Mr. Connick for standing up against minstrelsy, which as one can see has not gone away, reaching worldwide proportions. Now, if we can only route out the coonery on display among some of the commercial hip hop artists there might be hope for this generation after all......crossing my fingers.

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