Sammy Davis Jr.'s Interesting Facts

1 According to the 2-Part A&E Biography documentary on The Rat Pack, there was a falling out between Sammy Davis Jr. and his support of John F. Kennedy. Two reasons prominently cited are: 1. When Sammy attended the Democratic National Convention and stood on stage with other Hollywood celebrities singing the "Star Spangled Banner", he was heckled and abused by the Democratic delegates from the South and therefore chose not to attend further rallies or conventions. 2. After Sammy married May Britt, which in those days was controversial since many states had laws against inter-racial marriage, Joseph Kennedy no longer invited Sammy to political functions and advised his sons John and Robert to stay away from Sammy in order to avoid controversy. (By a similar token, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin found their own relationships to the Kennedys severed due to their alleged ties to the Mafia). Eventually, Davis would switch his political allegiance from Democrat to Republican and would later support Richard Nixon in his presidential elections.
2 According to Frank Sinatra Jr. in the DVD Commentary for "Ocean's 11" (1960), Sammy Davis Jr., like all black performers, was not allowed to stay in the major Las Vegas casinos despite the fact that he was filming Ocean's 11 there and performing on stage at the Sands Casino with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford in the legendary "Summit" Rat Pack shows. In those days, there was such strict segregation in Vegas that many people derisively joked that Las Vegas was an outpost of the Deep South. Sammy, like all other black performers, was forced to stay in "coloreds only" hotels in the western part of town. This finally changed when Frank Sinatra used his considerable clout with the hotel managers and owners to get this ban lifted, finally creating equality in Las Vegas.
3 Was originally cast in Never So Few (1959) until a feud broke out between him and Frank Sinatra after Sammy had claimed in a radio interview that he was a greater singer than Frank. Frank demanded he be dropped from the cast, and was replaced with Steve McQueen.
4 Shortly after his death in 1990, the hotels on the Las Vegas Strip turned off their exterior lights for 10 minutes in tribute. There is now an outdoor theater in Vegas named in his honor, the Sammy Davis Jr. Festival Plaza.
5 His 8 Billboard Top 20 Pop hits, now standards, are "The Candy Man" (#1 1972), "Somethings Gotta Give"(#9 1955),"I've Gotta Be Me " (#11 1968), "Love Me Or Leave Me" (#12 1955 )," That Old Black Magic"(#13 1955 ),Hey There" (#16 1954),"What Kind Of Fool Am I" (#17 1962) and "The Shelter Of Your Arms" (#17 1963).
6 In 1956, he starred on Broadway in 400 performances of "Mr. Wonderful".
7 A "contract" was allegedly put out on Sammy's life because of his interracial affair with Kim Novak, and he was threatened that 'you will lose your other eye' if it continued. Before the "contract" was executed, allegedly Frank Sinatra intervened and saved the day. Nevertheless, Davis married a black showgirl, Loray White, out of fear for his life. The marriage lasted a few months before Davis got it annulled. Loray allegedly received a $10,000 settlement and a Cadillac.
8 Daughter Tracey was enraged when she found out that Davis Jr. adopted his third son, Manny, because she found out about it on national television instead of from her father. Sammy also didn't spend enough time with the three children he already had.
9 After John Wayne left the stage, during the 1979 Academy Awards ceremony, he was greeted by his old pal Sammy Davis Jr., who gave him a big bear hug. Davis later told a friend he regretted hugging Wayne so hard in his fragile condition. But Davis was told: "Duke wouldn't have missed that hug for anything." The idea of a 125 pound Sammy Davis Jr. worrying about hugging him "too hard" was a sad commentary on John Wayne's failing health.
10 He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 6254 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
11 Inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2005.
12 Campaigned for Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election.
13 Shortly before his death surgeons removed his voice box in a larengectomy, but the cancer had spread.
14 Converted to Judaism in the 1950s.
15 When he married Swedish actress May Britt in 1960, unions between whites and non-whites were still banned in 30 US-states.
16 Had a relationship with Kim Novak in the 1950s.
17 Portrayed by Don Cheadle in The Rat Pack (1998). Cheadle went on to appear in the remake, Ocean's Eleven (2001).
18 Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 235-237. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.
19 Despite being 64 at the time of his death, he was survived by his mother Elvera Sanchez (1905-2000) and his grandmother, Elvera's mother Luisa (who died in 1996 at 112).
20 According to the "Fastest Gun Who Ever Lived," Bob Munden, Davis was the second-fastest draw in Hollywood, trailing only Jerry Lewis. Davis presented Munden with a customized Colt Peacemaker in recognition of Munden's skill after they appeared together on The Mike Douglas Show (1961).
21 Was the childhood idol of director Tim Burton, who wanted to cast him as the title character in Beetlejuice (1988), but Warner Bros. ultimately refused.
22 Was an acquaintance of Ron Perlman.
23 Described himself as "a one-eyed Jewish Negro."
24 He and the other members of the Rat Pack were banned from Marilyn Monroe's funeral by Joe DiMaggio
25 Filmed a cameo appearance for the James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever (1971). The scene was ultimately cut, but can be seen in the DVD of the movie.
26 He was a regular at many of Elvis Presley's concerts in Las Vegas.He appeared in the audience and backstage in the Elvis documentary "That's The Way It Is"(1970).
27 Was given a gift, of a black sapphire ring, by Elvis Presley , who told him, "This is the biggest black star I've seen, so I'm giving it to the biggest black star I know."
28 Once took Donald Rumsfeld to visit Elvis Presley after one of his concerts in Las Vegas.
29 Died the same day as Jim Henson.
30 He had a daughter, Tracey Davis, with his second wife, May. He and May also had two adopted sons: Mark Sidney (born in 1960; adopted on June 4, 1963), and Jeff (born in 1963). Jeff was named after an actor, Jeff Chandler. He also adopted a son, Manny Davis (born c. 1978), in 1989, with his third wife, Altovise.
31 During his childhood as a vaudeville entertainer, he often appeared in states and cities with strict child labor laws. To get around these laws, he was billed as "Silent Sammy, the Dancing Midget", and conspiciously walked around backstage with a rubber cigar in his mouth and a woman on each arm.
32 Long-time friend Bill Cosby wore a small button with the letters "SD" on episodes of The Cosby Show (1984) after his death in 1990 as a tribute.
33 Smoked 4 packs of cigarettes a day during his lifetime.
34 He lost his left eye in a car crash when he was on his way to record the theme song for the Tony Curtis film, Six Bridges to Cross (1955). He wore an eyepatch for sometime after that, but Humphrey Bogart ultimately convinced him to unmask when he told him that he didn't want to be known as the kid with the eyepatch.
35 Always articulate, he never attended school of any kind; performing since the age of five, he was largely self-taught.
36 Starred in the 1964 Broadway Musical "Golden Boy" for which he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor (Musical) in 1965; he lost to Zero Mostel for "Fiddler on the Roof." "Golden Boy" also featured many then unknown or relatively unknown talents such as Roy Glenn who later portrayed the father of John Prentice/Sidney Poitier in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967); other talents included then very young performers Lola Falana, Louis Gossett Jr., who later won an Oscar for his performance in An Officer and a Gentleman (1982); and Johnny Brown who is best remembered for his portrayal of "Nathan 'Buffalo Butt' Bookman" on the popular television sitcom Good Times (1974). A then unknown performer named Ben Vereen was Davis' understudy in "Golden Boy."
37 Son of Sammy Davis Sr. and Elvera Davis.
38 Interred at Forest Lawn, Glendale, California, USA, Garden of Honor, next to his father Sammy Davis Sr..
39 Member of the "Rat Pack" with Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop. All appear in Ocean's 11 (1960).
40 Singer/dancer/actor.
41 TV composer Morton Stevens (Hawaii Five-O (1968), Police Woman (1974)) was Davis' musical director between 1950 and 1960 before moving into television music composing. He then returned as music director for Sammy, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Liza Minnelli in the late 1980s.
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