While Sammy Davis Jr.’s nickname was “Mr. Show Business,” he called himself “the only Black, Puerto Rican, one-eyed, Jewish entertainer in the world.”
Sammy’s 60-year-long career is one of the most impressive careers to date in the entertainment world. Not only did he star in seven Broadway shows, he also appeared in 23 films including Ocean’s Eleven while also regularly landing television roles and recording dozens of albums. And while he passed away from throat cancer at the age of 64, he continues to be known as one of the greatest pop-culture icons of the 20th century.
He was good friends with Frank Sinatra
While he was in his teens, Davis Jr. first met Frank Sinatra when he also opened for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and Sinatra. The two went on to becoming lifelong friends. In fact, Sinatra was like a big brother to Sammy. There was a moment when Sinatra tore up his contract when a theater forbid Davis him in due to his race. Another time, when SDJ had his car accident, Sinatra paid the medical bills. Sammy’s love for Sinatra was mutual. “I wanted to be like him, I wanted to dress like him, I wanted to look like him, I took my hair and had it all done up, Sinatra style, with the little curl here and all.”
He lost an eye in a car accident
On November 19, 1954, Davis was driving from Las Vegas to Los Angeles to record a soundtrack for the film Six Bridges to Cross. However, he did not make it to that studio. That morning, his Cadillac collided with an automobile that backed out in front of him. Unfortunately, he sustained massive injuries to his face, including a broken nose and damage to his left eye so severe that it had to be replaced with a plastic one. But just like the professional he was — he was right back on stage in just two months later.
He had a difficult relationship with his daughter
While Sammy Davis Junior had one of the most successful careers to date which also meant a strained relationship with his family. In a memoir about her father, Tracy Davis, his daughter, said her father missed her fifth party. He then went to attempt to make it up to her by handling over $100 bill. She also revealed that he skipped her college graduation and would often lose track of her phone number. And while the two grew closer later in life, Tracy says there was still a lot of hurt left. “I am not saying that he didn’t love us, but work was his driving force.”
He converted to Judaism
After Davis’ car accident, he believed that was surviving the crash was a miracle. While he was at the San Bernardino hospital, he met a Jewish Chaplain and asked “a million questions about the miracle” of coming out of the accident alive. And while his parents were Christians, Davis was not deeply religious. But after learning about Judaism, he felt Jews and Black people shared a similar history of oppression. Years later, he studied more about the religion and eventually converted.
The paternity of one of his sons was in question
At one point, there were rumors that one of Davis’ adopted sons was actually his biological son. Mark Davis, 55, said he first learned he was adopted after reading a Life magazine article in the 1960s that said the entertainer had adopted Mark around the age of two. However, in 2013, Mark found his original birth certificate which listed Davis as his biological father. That being said, a DNA test revealed that Davis wasn’t his biological father. But according to Davis, it didn’t matter. Mark said his father’s last words to him from his deathbed were: “You are my son.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
Mamas Uncut is THE online place for moms. We cover the latest about motherhood, parenting, and entertainment as well – all with a mom-focused twist. So if you're looking for parenting advice from real parents, we have plenty of it, all for moms from moms, and also experts. Because, at the end of the day, our mission is focused solely on empowering moms and moms-to-be with the knowledge and answers they’re looking for in one safe space.