The Truth About Sammy Davis, Jr., As Told
by His Best Friend & Business Partner
Book Review by Linda Lane
Carpe diem—seize the day—sums up the fervor with which Sammy Davis, Jr. spent 23 years navigating the peaks and valleys of personal friendship and the entertainment industry. Sammy Davis, Jr.: Me and My Shadow is a biographical memoir told from the inside out. It has a coming-of-age quality that is heightened by dozens of personal photographs from the author’s collection. The relationship between Sammy Davis, Jr. and Arthur Silber, Jr. began when Arthur Silber Sr. agent and manager for the Will Maston Trio consisting of Will Mastin, Sammy Davis, Sr. and young Sammy Davis, Jr., took his son to Hawaii where the trio was performing.
The young juniors, Davis and Silber, became fast friends. The two got along so well that after a few years, Davis asked Silber to accompany him on the road as his personal and production assistant. When Davis and Silber moved to the Sands the most prestigious property on the Strip, Davis pushed the racial envelope. The Mob made the rules and their decisions were far reaching.
But they recognized the entertainers drawing power, and in a bold move, assigned Davis and Silber a large two-bedroom bungalow. But Davis wanted more. He wanted to eat at the restaurants, enjoy the steam room, and even deal a few hands of 21. Little by little, he was able to achieve his goals, thus opening the door for blacks. Both young and eager to see the world, one black, one white, their relationship became one of brotherhood, confiding in and protecting each other.
The author unveils the tragic details of the Davis Jr. affair with Kim Novak, the car accident that cost him an eye, and the racial hatred that erupted from his engagement and subsequent marriage to Swedish actress May Britt. Silber’s book is filled with stories of show business legends such as Judy Garland, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis— the list goes on. Life was great on stage, offstage, however, in the 1950’s and part of the 60’s, blacks were not allowed in a casino unless they were working there, Silber could stay at the Frontier while the Will Mastin Trio had to stay at a colored boarding house across town.
Sammy Davis, Jr. began his stage career at the age of 3. He taught himself to read, but never learned math or writing skills. After Arthur Silber, Sr. passed away, Davis became easy prey for the professionals “looking” after his financial interests. Today, he is primarily remembered as one of the Rat Pack, a distinction the author points out that has been blown out of proportion. Silber’s first hand account seems far more interesting than any of the myths.