‘One unanswered question’: Kamahl’s open letter to Daryl Somers

Hey, Hey It’s Saturday is a ratings smash once more – but Kamahl still has “one unanswered question” about his treatment on the show.

Hey, Hey It’s Saturday was a ratings smash once more this week, with the show’s 50th anniversary reunion special easily winning the night’s ratings on Sunday.

But amid the plaudits, one veteran entertainer still feels hurt about his treatment on the show many years ago.

Hey, Hey was in the spotlight for a different reason earlier this year when vintage clips from the show circulated on social media – many of them featuring Malaysia-born singer Kamahl, who was mocked and belittled during his frequent appearances.

One clip, from a 1984 episode, shocked many: An unsuspecting Kamahl was ambushed mid-song and hit in the face with a white powder puff.

“You’re a real white man now Kamahl, you know that?” host Daryl Somers’ off-camera sidekick John Blackman told him on-air. The stunt happened just a week before he was set to enjoy a huge career milestone, headlining New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall for the second time.

As the uproar over the resurfaced clips raged in March this year, Somers publicly apologised to Kamahl, saying the show “never set out to offend anybody” and that “all members of the Hey Hey team do not condone racism in any form”.

But in an open letter to Somers released exclusively to news.com.au, Kamahl reveals he still has “one unanswered question” for the TV host:

An open letter to Daryl Somers

I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to you for the great success achieved with the Hey Hey It’s Saturday 50th Anniversary show. The accolades that you received within the program were well earned and rightly acknowledge your place in Australian TV history. As an Australian entertainer, my being a part of that history for a number of years is truly humbling.

Daryl, having viewed the show it was greatly evident that you fully understand the significance of career milestones for entertainers. It is therefore puzzling to me that in 1984 during my appearance on Hey Hey, on the eve of my second appearance at Carnegie Hall, that your show decided on setting me up as the butt of a rather crude joke in preference to acknowledging my achievement.

The Carnegie Hall concert was my second sellout performance at the venue, I was being introduced by none other than entertainment legend Bob Hope and yet this was evidently not worth a mention. The fact that I had poured my heart and soul into making that concert a success made the stunt on Hey Hey that evening an incredibly dispiriting experience. As a supporter of Hey Hey, I have to say that at the time I felt let down by your show and it is a disappointment that still remains with me today.

My continued confusion at this treatment lies in one unanswered question that I would like to put to you. If I had been any other Australian artist about to embark on such a massive venture would I have received such treatment?

In a week where you are deservedly receiving such plaudits for your career milestone, I am left wondering why when you had the opportunity to acknowledge mine you chose not to.

As someone who throughout his life has been lucky enough to have been on the receiving end of the “kindness of strangers,” I am sometimes forced to wonder, “Why are people so unkind?”


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