African Americans on TV -
Variety Shows

February 1, 2002

While Laugh-In's bawdy humor suggested 'anything goes,' some things were still considered taboo on TV.

That's what top-10 recording artist Petula Clark learned when she made her first NBC special in 1968.

I wanted a guest, obviously, and they said, "Who would you like?" and I said Harry Belafonte.

Clark and Belafonte performed an anti-war song called "Paths Of Glory."
("On The Path Of Glory" was co-written by Petula Clark)
And of course because it's a very emotional song I just took hold of his arm as a natural thing.

Petula put her hand on Belafonte's arm or whatever and it was a big deal. Please!

An executive at the show's sponsor, Plymouth, saw the taping and objected to Clark's physical contact with Belafonte.

I didn't get it. I just didn't understand what was going on.

Fearing negative reactions in the South, Plymouth threatened to pull their sponsorship unless the offending scene was cut. But Clark and her producers refused to re-shoot the show.

She wasn't even doing me a favor, or doing the race a favor. She was just looking at the way it should be.

Petula working on a commercial for Plymouth.

Narrator: When the story was picked up in the press Plymouth issued a public apology. The special aired uncut.

Harry Belafonte: The way it was for Petula Clark and everyone involved with this, how they stepped up to the table, I think it was absolutely a wonderful moment