History is full of truly startling and downright unfortunate experiences, especially when it comes to the world of music and entertainment.
From Kurt Cobain’s untimely demise at the age of 27 to Michael Jackson’s unexpected overdose death in 2009 and the King of Rock ‘n Roll himself, Elvis Presley, dying on the toilet after taking too many pills. Basically, if you’re a rock star, the chances of your life coming to a quick and sudden end are exponentially greater than the average joe.
That being said, not every famous musician goes out in such a dramatic way. Some stars end up fading gradually as their lives slowly crumble around them.
Today we’re going to be discussing a musical star and beloved actor that was quite possibly one of the most fascinating celebrities of all time – Sammy Davis Jr.
Sadly, the way he left this world was far less dignified than he deserved. This star was all over the place throughout his storied life. Sammy sang for the mob and satanic cults, participated in the 1963 March on Washington. And converted to Judaism in a Las Vegas ceremony in 1961. If you’ve seen any of our previous videos covering him, then you already know that he was very much so a free spirit.
He once referred to himself as the ‘only black, Puerto Ricans, one-eyed, Jewish entertainer in the world’. At 5’6” and 120 pounds, he wasn’t the most physically imposing figure in the entertainment industry. But throughout his six-decade-spanning career, he left a huge impression on the world of entertainment.
Sammy overcame racism to establish himself as a legend! He became a successful comedian, dancer, actor, and singer. And as a part of the notorious Rat Pack alongside Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, he became world-famous for starring in films such as Sergeants 3 and Ocean’s 11.
Even though he amassed a great deal of wealth throughout his life, by the time of his death, Sammy Davis Jr. was utterly penniless. Not only that, but he had also lost one of his eyes in a horrific accident that nearly killed him years prior.
Keep watching and Join Facts Verse to learn how Sammy Davis Jr. Died Flat Out Broke with a Glass Eyeball. If all you’ve ever known about Sammy was his films and musical offerings, this is one video that will quite possibly blow your mind.
The Accident That Cost Him His Eye
On November 19, 1954, Sammy Davis Jr nearly killed in a horrific automobile accident in San Bernadino, California.
At the time of the crash, Davis was making his way back from Las Vegas to Los Angeles.
A year prior, Sammy had struck up a friendship with Jewish entertainer Eddie Cantor who had gifted him a mezuzah. Instead of hanging it by his door, as is the tradition, Davis wore it around his neck like a necklace for good luck.
The only occasion that he forget to wear it was the night of his accident.
The wreck occurred at a junction point along U.S. Route 66, when a driver who missed their exit backed up her vehicle in Davis’s lane. Sammy unable to slow down quick enough to avoid hitting the car. And subsequently lost his left eye when his face hit the bullet-shaped horn button of his Cadillac.
Sammy’s close friend, fellow-actor Jeff Chandler, quoted as saying that he would gladly give Davis one of his own eyes if he could to keep him from going blind.
Fortunately, Davis recovered from his injuries despite the fact that there was no saving his eye. For six months after the accident, he had to wear an eye patch. In fact, he’s seen wearing said patch on the cover of his debut album. He also seen wearing the eye patch when he appeared on the CBS game show What’s My Line later that year.
Davis later fitted with a glass eye which he wore for the remainder of his life.
While in the hospital, Eddie Cantor described to Sammy the striking similarities between the Jewish people’s historical struggles to that of Black cultures.
Davis had been born into a Christian household. His mother was Catholic, while his father was a Baptist. He began studying Judaism and Jewish history several years after the accident and converted to the faith in 1961.
The accident marked a pivotal turning point in not just his spiritual worldview but also his career. Shortly after losing his eye and narrowly avoiding death, Davis transformed from a well-known entertainer to a national celebrity.
We’ll tell you more about Sammy Davis Jr’s incredible life story in just a moment. Keep watching and Join Facts Verse to learn how Sammy Davis Jr. Died Flat Out Broke with a Glass Eyeball. But first, take a moment to show us a little support by giving this video a like and subscribing to the Facts Verse channel.
In 1959, Sammy became a member of the notorious Rat Pack. Which led by his close friend and fellow entertainer Frank Sinatra. The ragtag crew of entertainers included the likes of Joey Bishop, Dean Martin, and John F. Kennedy’s brother-in-law Peter Lawford.
Sinatra initially referred to the gathering as ‘The Clan’, but Davis staunchly opposed to this title for obvious and totally understandable reasons. He felt like the name was much too reminiscent of the racist organization, the Klu Klux Klan.
Sinatra then renamed the group ‘The Summit’, but that one wouldn’t stick for very long either.
After a long evening of poker that extended into the early morning hours of the following day, the men were left drunken and disheveled. As the story goes, actress Angie Dickinson approached the group and stated that they looked like a ‘pack of rats’.
The nickname quickly caught on, and from then onward, they were known as The Rat Pack.
This story might be a bit apocryphal, however, as the earlier group that led by Humphrey Bogart and his wife Lauren Bacall who also called themselves The Rat Pack earned that designation after Bacall made a similar remark about them resembling a ‘pack of rat’. Keep watching and Join Facts Verse to learn how Sammy Davis Jr. Died Flat Out Broke with a Glass Eyeball.
Sammy’s Tragic Marriages To Kim Novak and Loray White
In 1957, Sammy began dating white actress Kim Novak. By most accounts, Davis was deeply in love with Novak, and she apparently shared those sentiments.
It was the first moment in Davis’ life that he loved someone enough to marry them. After the rumor started going around that Davis planned on marrying Novak , however, racist white people who opposed interracial marriage incensed. One particularly racist individual that took issue with the idea of Sammy marrying Kim was Novak’s boss, Harry Cohn.
Harry Cohn was the head of Columbia Pictures – the studio that Novak was under contract with. He thought that Novak’s marriage to a black man would hurt the studio’s profits. It didn’t seem to matter that Davis was incredibly famous, respected, and loved by many.
Cohn ended up hiring the mob to threaten Sammy. Reportedly, the mobsters claimed that they would blind him in his remaining good eye and break his legs if he didn’t marry a black woman in the next 48 hours. Keep watching and Join Facts Verse to learn how Sammy Davis Jr. Died Flat Out Broke with a Glass Eyeball.
Davis understandably spooked by these threats and subsequently gave into his harassers demands.
To protect himself from the violence that the mob was threatening, Davis married a black dancer named Loray White. Everyone around him knew that the marriage a sham. And that the only reason why he had agreed to go through with it was because of the threats.
Sammy agreed to pay White off with a large lump sum under the condition that their marriage would dissolved within the year.
Even though Sammy and Loray went through with a traditional wedding. It’s known that he drank too much at the reception. It’s also said that he attempted to strangle White en route to their wedding suite. Later that evening, he found holding a gun to his head, threatening to take his life.
Sammy and Loray’s marriage understandably short-lived, and they’re no longer married by 1959. All in all, this was one of the lowest points of his life.
He Died Of Throat Cancer
In August of 1989, Davis developed a disconcerting tickle in the back of his throat and lost the ability to taste food. His doctors quickly discovered that he had a cancerous tumor in his throat.
Davis had been a heavy smoker for the majority of his adult life. Reportedly, he smoked four packs of cigarettes a day.
When he informed that laryngectomy surgery provided him with the best chance of survival. He told his doctors that he would rather hold on to his voice and face the cancer head-on rather than have part of his throat removed.
So, instead of immediately going under the knife, he opted to treated with a combination of radiation therapy and chemo. Later on, however, after his cancer recurred, he had to have his larynx removed.
He released from the hospital in March 1990. But just two months later, he died from complications of his throat cancer on May 16, 1990, at the age of 64.
He subsequently buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. Two days after his death, the bright neon lights of the Vegas Strip went dark for ten minutes in his honor. Keep watching and Join Facts Verse to learn how Sammy Davis Jr. Died Flat Out Broke with a Glass Eyeball.
His Fortune Eclipsed By His Debts
In his will, Davis left the majority of his estate to his widow Altovise Davis. It’s estimated that his estate worth $4,000,000. But unfortunately, Davis had owed the IRS more than $5 million. Which after penalties and interest ballooned to more than $7 million.
Since Altovise had co-signed his tax returns, she became liable for this debt. To cover that massive bill, she left with no other choice but to auction off his personal possessions and real estate holdings.
A few of Davis’ friends in the entertainment industry, including Steve Allen, Ed Asner, Jayne Meadows, Joey Bishop, and Quincy Jones, arranged a fundraising concert at the famous Sands Hotel in Las Vegas to help ease that burden.
In 1997, Altovise reached a settlement deal with the IRS. After her death in 2009, she and Sammy’s son Manny became the sole executor of his estates. And made the majority-rights holder of his intellectual property.
On that note, we’re just about out of time, but we’d love to hear from you!
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