Sammy Davis, Jr.: Me & My Shadow by Arthur Silber, Jr.
Bio & Tribute to an American Icon, Show Biz Legend & ‘My’ Friend
In his biography of one of the greatest entertainers in history, Sammy Davis, Jr.: Me and My Shadow, Arthur Silber, Jr. lays out his personal journey as Sammy’s closest confidant, advisor and business partner from 1949 to the mid-1970s. Peppered with scores of pictures never seen and stories never told, Silber also corrects details of major events in Sammy’s life which have become legend through re-telling or being related in recent books. Beyond setting the record straight and chronicling the life of an American icon, Silber is also on a mission to bring to light the very real strides Sammy made in breaking down numerous color barriers well before and during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
Literally growing up on the boards of the vaudeville circuit during the 1930s and 1940s, Sammy saw first- hand racial discrimination decades prior to the gains made in the tumultuous 1960s. Silber, whose father managed the Will Mastin Trio (Sammy’s uncle), and Davis grew close in the mid-1940s and became practically inseparable for over 15 years. When Sammy Davis, Jr. began to establish himself as a major star in the mid-1950s, he was allowed to play hotels in Las Vegas but not allowed to stay in them, eat in the restaurants or gamble in the casinos. Sammy broke that color barrier down. This is only one example of the racial divides he confronted and just one example of how this diminutive man and entertainment powerhouse changed life in America, for one of his deepest desires was just to be treated equally.
*Click Here to See a Detailed BBC Interview of
Arthur Silber, Jr. in a Playlist Format
Much has been made of other Civil Rights pioneers, but Sammy Davis, Jr. gets short shrift in this regard, something which must be changed.Whil e acknowledging the roles so many played in the Civil Rights Movement, Arthur Silber, Jr. and many others, feels that Sammy Davis, Jr. deserves and must be given a proud place in the pantheon of those who fought this fight in the trenches. Sammy confronted it in his travels around the country and very often had swallow his pride, often enduring death threats, so that those to follow would have it better than previous generations. Sammy Davis, Jr. was not only one of the greatest entertainers in history, he was a sensitive and gracious man who was all too aware of his surroundings, determined to change them and, most importantly, a proud man who loved his family, friends and country with equal fervor.
No matter our race, creed or religious beliefs, all Americans and people around the world must give thanks for brave men like, well, you can just call him ‘Sammy.’
Part 1 of Detailed Interview of Arthur Silber, Jr.
Rat Pack Performance with Sammy, Sinatra, Martin & Unlikely
Participant Johnny Carson, Who Was Terrific, St. Louis, 1965
A Short Bio of Arthur Silber, Jr.
My parents spent all of their lives in show business. My father started out as a song Agents Association for twelve years, Arthur Silber, Sr. managed such stars as Hopalong Cassidy, Martha Raye, Ann Miller, Nat King Cole, Mary Martin, Dorothy Dandridge and her sister Ruby, and Sammy Davis, Jr., just to name a few. On the maternal side, my mother was a world famous dancer who ended her professional dancing career in Seattle, Washington. There, she owned her own dance studio and among her students were Gypsy Rose Lee and her sister. Mother later moved to Hollywood where she met my father and worked in motion pictures for thirty-five years. I was an only child who traveled constantly with my father. When I was fourteen years old, traveling with Dad in Hawaii, I met Sammy Davis, Jr. and we became lifelong friends.
My first big professional break came when I was twenty and Sammy Davis, Jr. hired me as his personal assistant and lighting director, a position I remained in for over thirty-three years. It would be impossible to measure everything I learned from Sammy about show business. He was the consummate professional, a genius at his craft. During that time we became business partners and formed Samart Enterprises, which I still own to this day. Some of the highlights of my years with Sammy were when I staged and produced his portions of three Royal Variety Performances.
The first was for Queen Elizabeth II in London, 1960. Then, in 1961 I staged and produced Sammy’s portion of Princess Grace Rainier Red Cross Gala in Monaco for their Royal Family and, finally, a Royal Variety Performances for the Queen Mother in London, 1961. Over the years I produced and co-produced many of Sammy’s shows including England’s Best TV Show of the year, 1961, Sammy Meets the British, and the following year Sammy Meets the Girls. For eleven years I was company manager, production manager and lighting director for The Lettermen during the height of their popularity.
Since leaving The Lettermen, I was company manager, production manager and lighting designer and director for Vikki Carr for over twenty-seven years. A few of the highlights of my years with Vikki were as production designer and lighting director of an NBC special, A Very Special Evening With Vikki Carr (which I won the IRIS Award in 1979), the UNICEF All Children Show in Vienna, Austria and last, but certainly not least, production design of her shows for Presidents Jerry Ford, Jimmy Carter and a special show for President Reagan.
At the same time I have worked in one or more of these capacities for Bob Hope, Bill Cosby, Charo, Debbie Reynolds, Sammy Davis, Jr., Danny Thomas, and Marco Antonio Muniz (known as the Bing Crosby of Mexico), Mariachi Sol de Mexico, Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles, Mariachi Cobre, and Mariachi Vargas.