Berle risked his newfound TV stardom at its zenith to challenge Texaco when the sponsor tried to prevent black performers from appearing on his show:
I remember clashing with the advertising agency and the sponsor over my signing the Four Step Brothers for an appearance on the show. The only thing I could figure out was that there was an objection to black performers on the show, but I couldn’t even find out who was objecting. “We just don’t like them,” I was told, but who the hell was “we”? Because I was riding high in 1950, I sent out the word: “If they don’t go on, I don’t go on.” At ten minutes of eight—ten minutes before showtime—I got permission for the Step Brothers to appear. If I broke the color-line policy or not, I don’t know, but later on I had no trouble booking Bill Robinson or Lena Horne.
Berle asked NBC to switch from live broadcasts to film, which would have made possible reruns (and residual income from them); he was angered when the network refused. However, NBC did consent to make a kinescope of each show. Later, Berle was offered 25% ownership of a company manufacturing the teleprompter by its inventor, Irving Berlin Kahn, if he would simply use the new gadget on his program. He turned the offer down.
A frequent user of the tranquiliser, Berle frequently endorsed Miltown on his show, and became one of the main figureheads promoting the drug in 1950s America. Due to his promotion of the
drug, Berle was dubbed ‘Uncle Miltown’ by Time magazine.
For Berle’s contribution to television, he was inducted to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.