Tom Hanks, Glenn Frey in 2004: ‘Blackface,’ race jokes at fundraising auction [VIDEO]
Video footage obtained by The Daily Caller shows Hollywood screen legend Tom Hanks and Eagles musician Glenn Frey at a 2004 fundraising auction, playfully interacting with a white man dressed as an African native, complete with blackface makeup and a giant Afro wig.
Hanks most recently provided the narration for “The Road We’ve Traveled,” a 17-minute-long campaign video meant to help President Barack Obama win re-election in November.
The fundraiser, held March 13, 2004 at St. Matthew’s Parish School in Pacific Palisades, Calif., featured Hanks and Frey as co-emcees. Children of both men attended the school. The event’s theme, “Castaways,” evoked memories of the 2000 film “Cast Away,” in which Hanks starred.
The 2004 auction’s routine included a white man in blackface, identified in the footage as investment banker James Montgomery, CEO of the Santa Monica, Calif., firm Montgomery & Co. In addition to blackface makeup and the wig, Montgomery wore a leopard-print toga and an arm band made to look like it consisted of animal teeth.
During a lull in the auction, Frey refers to Montgomery and comments, “See how boring money management and stock investment is, people? It’s not nearly as much fun as, like, professional basketball.”
In response to the video, Congress of Racial Equality national spokesperson Niger Innis has called on President Obama to remove Hanks’ narration from his campaign film. Innis called the incident “an orchestrated, heinous, and racist ‘Stepin Fetchit’ routine that Mr. Hanks was a part of.”
The final item auctioned in the 2004 fundraiser depicted in the video was a large stuffed “trophy gorilla” that came with what Hanks described as a “dowry”: 5,000 shares of pre-IPO stock in Corus Pharmaceuticals, a company whose limited partners included Montgomery’s family trust.
The video shows Montgomery in blackface, holding the stuffed animal and standing with Hanks, while Frey is heard saying into his microphone: “This is as close to diversity as we’ll get at St. Matthew’s.”
It also shows Hanks taking his own stab at humor while he stands next to Montgomery and the stuffed gorilla, saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, a celebrity in our midst! Who would have thought that Bill O’Reilly would join us?”
Frey identifies Montgomery by name and says he is “just back from a Jerry Falwell sensitivity training seminar.” Referring to his appearance as a black caricature, Frey later says, “All I know is, this school is so conservative that Jamie Montgomery was almost not allowed in. They stuck him in the parking lot — they let him in. These are the jokes, people.”
Frey also is heard saying of the investment banker in blackface, “Remember, Jamie Montgomery — he handled the Idi Amin account back in the ’80s, which was good.”
Montgomery is shown in the video standing next to Hanks for several minutes, and the two take turns bantering into a shared microphone about the value of the auctioned stock.
“I call upon President Obama, who has Tom Hanks doing the narration to his campaign video, to cease, to remove Mr. Hanks’ voice-over from his video, and end any association or affiliation with Mr. Hanks,” Niger Innis said Monday in an interview with The Daily Caller.
“It is gross, it’s coarse, and it is shocking that something like this would be done in California. Not Mississippi — in California!”
Blackface makeup was a theatrical device, largely abandoned after the advent of the U.S. civil rights movement, involving a white actor creating a caricature of an African-American complete with racist stereotypes. In the early part of the 20th century, traveling minstrel shows typically featured white actors in bigoted portrayals of blacks as stupid, lazy and dishonest.
“I am outraged, offended,” Innis added. “You know, people can make a slip of the tongue, make a politically incorrect spur of the moment mistake. But this seems to have been an orchestrated racist activity, which Mr. Hanks at best was an intimate witness to, and at worse a participant.”
The footage was provided to The Daily Caller by an observer who filmed the auction. She said Hanks’ “sharp-elbowed partisanship” prompted her to have the tape digitized and share it with TheDC.
“Tom would be the first to scream ‘racist’ if a conservative put their arm around a ‘Wall Street Banker’ in blackface while their co-emcee made racists remarks,” she said. “He’s a hypocrite.”
Hanks and Frey are not the first modern celebrities to appear in a performance that included a blackface-makeup actor. In 1993 “Cheers” actor Ted Danson was universally criticized for appearing in blackface at a celebrity roast held in honor of his then-girlfriend Whoopi Goldberg.
Several emails and phone messages seeking comment from Montgomery were not returned.
In a statement to The Daily Caller, St. Matthew’s Parish School development director Janet McKillop would only say that “it is St. Matthew’s Parish School’s policy not to comment on any press inquiries regarding fundraisers or other school events.”
Publicists for Hanks and Frey also did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
But in 2010, Hanks spoke to TheDC’s Nick Ballasy — then of CNS News — about racism in America. “I’d like to think that … ignorance is being replaced by a certain amount of enlightenment and racism is going to be replaced eventually by an acceptance,” Hanks said. “It’s just taking an awfully long time.”
In addition to a short video excerpt, TheDC is making available the entire 10-minute video segment it received.