Posts Tagged ‘Sammy Davis Jr.


The Rat Pack – Naming Names

The Rat Pack

The names by which we know the members of the Rat Pack are all familiar, but for the most part those are not the names the guys began with in life.  For example, Dean Martin was born Dino Paul Crocetti and briefly used the name Dino Martini when he started out.

Joey Bishop was born Joseph Abraham Gottlieb, and Peter Lawford came into the world as Peter Sydney Ernest Aylen.

Sammy and Frank however, used their real names, although early on, a bandleader suggested a name for Frank that might have changed the course of the chairman’s career.   It was a name that Frank said would have kept him singing in lounges and small venues for the rest of his life as you’ll probably agree when you hear it.

One of Frank’s favorite composers and a close friend, Jimmy Van Heusen started out life as Chester Babcock and was probably well-advised to change that one.

Possibly Frank’s closest friend, restaurant owner Jilly Rizzo was born with the first name Ermenigildo that definitely warranted shortening.

It’s believed that Frank’s dad, Marty Sinatra tried boxing and briefly took the name Marty O’Brien because for some reason boxers with Irish names were the thing at that time.

By the way, Frank Sinatra Jr. is not technically a “junior” because his middle name Wayne is different from his father’s middle name which is Albert.

The Rat Pack itself would have been remembered by a different name if Frank had his way.  According to The Rat Pack Authority, Frank didn’t like the Rat Pack title, and preferred to call the group The Summit, after the high profile U.S./Soviet summit conferences of the time.

And oh yes. . .The name suggested for a young Frank Sinatra was “Frankie Satin”.  Hearing that, it’s a good thing Frank said no thanks.

For more stories on Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, visit this Frank Sinatra tribute resource.


A Rat Pack Member’s Racial Struggles

It wasn’t easy to make it to the top for Sammy Davis Jr. back in the 50’s and 60’s.  He had the talent of a superstar, but  being a young  black man subjected him to humiliations that civil rights campaigns had only started to address.  And it hit Sammy hard.  Segregation was prevalent in many of the places Sammy performed, including Las Vegas.  Back in the 50’s a casino called the Moulin Rouge was practically the only place in Las Vegas where African Americans could gamble and stay.

One  particularly troubling incident for Sammy occurred at the 1960 Democratic convention, at which John F. Kennedy won the presidential nomination with help from Frank Sinatra and friends, including Sammy.  As Sammy was introduced, boos erupted from the Alabama and Mississippi delegations.  During that campaign, instead supporting Sammy, the Kennedy camp was worried about the consequences among voters in the South among others, and actually put pressure on Sammy to keep a low profile.  They even wanted him to put off his upcoming marriage to a white woman, May Britt, until the voting was over.  Frank refused to ask that of Sammy, but Sammy felt obligated, and so, for Frank and the campaign, he postponed the wedding.

Although it tooks years, Sammy eventually did get to see the times change and racial relations improve in America, although he didn’t stay with us long enough to see Barack Obama elected president.  That, Sammy would have loved. 

Sammy’s experiences are well documented in the book Rat Pack Confidential by Shawn Levy.  And Sammy’s on-stage personality is re-created in today’s Rat Pack tribute shows, featuring some of America’s top Rat Pack Impersonators.


A Rat Pack Wife Departs

Altovise Davis was Sammy Davis Jr.’s third wife, and together they had reached their twentieth wedding anniversary five days before Sammy passed away at age 64 in 1990, after battling a devastating case of throat cancer.  That was nineteen years ago.  This week, on March 14th,  Altovise Davis passed away after suffering a stroke. 

She was a dancer and actress who met Sammy while both were performing in musicals on Broadway, with Sammy starring in Golrat-pack-sammy-altoviseden Boy.  Altovise later worked as a dancer in Sammy’s show.  They were married in a court house in Philadelphia in 1970 and together, they had an adopted son named Manny.  Altovise Davis was 65.   From a tribute to The Rat Pack.