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'A sad sign of the times' THEATRE ROW: Jolson performer blasts Belgrade.

Byline: Martin Baggot

FURIOUS tribute performer Clive Baldwin has hit back at Coventry's Belgrade Theatre after beingbanned from appearing in black make-up.

The Telegraph was inundated with angry letters from fans of American singing legend Al Jolson after the theatre was the only one to ban the "blacking up" convention on the 14-venue tour.

Bosses at the Corporation Street venue said the authentic actwas "inappropriate in a modern multicultural society".

Speaking from his Miami home, Clive slammed the theatre for political correctness and said it was a sign of the times.

He said: "Other people think they are speaking for the black race when try to stop me doing a Jolson show.

"They are dumbing us down to elevate others. They are discriminating against us so we don't appear to be discriminating against someone else."

Al Jolson was the most famous and highest paid entertainer in 1930s America and popularised the convention of performing in black make-up. The convention dates back to minstrel showswhich became popular following the American Civil War.

Hull-born Clive has performed as Jolson for six decades but says attitudes have changed down the years.

"Everybody loved Jolson," he said.

"We never said a thing about the black face, it was just something that happened and it was part of 140 years of tradition.

"Then it changed with the multicultural, social engineers and they decided our culture was offensive to the people the government was bringing in. Us actors we're never really ourselves and are always putting on someone else."

Seen by some as portraying black people as negative stereotypes, Jolson was the first major Jewish entertainer in America and championed racial equality.

Clive added: "After he did that, black people could come on stage themselves. It was start of a new generation after the war."

CAPTION(S):

ANGRY... Clive Baldwin has been doing his act for six decades.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Nov 11, 2009
Words:312
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