*This afternoon, Harry Belafonte took questions from journalists about his upcoming HBO documentary “Sing Your Song,” which chronicles the life and times of the 84-year-old singer/actor/activist, including his civil rights work with Dr. Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy, speaking out against apartheid in South Africa and mobilizing celebrities for social justice.
The film, premiering Oct. 17, also spends a considerable amount of time on Belafonte’s early career as an entertainer and the racism he encountered while on the rise.
In one segment, Belafonte recalls his days performing in Las Vegas during the 1950s. Although African American entertainers such as Belafonte, Sammy Davis Jr., and Lena Horne regularly took the stage before packed clubs, they remained victims of ingrained racism that earned Vegas the nickname “Mississippi of the West.” Not allowed to stay at the resorts where they performed, the artists were forced to bunk in boarding houses on the city’s predominantly minority West Side.
In one incident, Belafonte refused to go along with the policy and threatened to pull out of his performance unless he was treated fairly, only to be told by hotel bosses that if he didn’t honor his contract, he would leave Vegas “in a box.”
Not only did Belafonte manage to stay in the Vegas hotel anyway, but he added an exclamation point by taking a dip in the hotel pool – which resulted in white people first scattering like roaches, then, returning to the area one by one with cameras wanting to take pictures with the superstar.
In the audio bonus below, he tells EURweb exclusively just how he was able to get around The Strip’s strict discrimination policies.