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Deconstructing Sammy: Music, Money, Madness, and the Mob

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Equal parts cultural history, celebrity biography, and brilliant investigative journalism, Deconstructing Sammy by Matt Birkbeck is a behind-the-scenes look at the disastrous fall of one of the brightest stars of Hollywood and Las Vegas: Sammy Davis, Jr. A member of the infamous Rat Pack, a compatriot of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and one of the most popular performers Equal parts cultural history, celebrity biography, and brilliant investigative journalism, Deconstructing Sammy by Matt Birkbeck is a behind-the-scenes look at the disastrous fall of one of the brightest stars of Hollywood and Las Vegas: Sammy Davis, Jr. A member of the infamous Rat Pack, a compatriot of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and one of the most popular performers of his day, Sammy Davis, Jr. was an entertainment icon and a national treasure who earned more than $50 million over the course of his career yet ended up nearly destitute. Deconstructing Sammy tells the whole sad, sordid, fascinating true story.


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Equal parts cultural history, celebrity biography, and brilliant investigative journalism, Deconstructing Sammy by Matt Birkbeck is a behind-the-scenes look at the disastrous fall of one of the brightest stars of Hollywood and Las Vegas: Sammy Davis, Jr. A member of the infamous Rat Pack, a compatriot of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and one of the most popular performers Equal parts cultural history, celebrity biography, and brilliant investigative journalism, Deconstructing Sammy by Matt Birkbeck is a behind-the-scenes look at the disastrous fall of one of the brightest stars of Hollywood and Las Vegas: Sammy Davis, Jr. A member of the infamous Rat Pack, a compatriot of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and one of the most popular performers of his day, Sammy Davis, Jr. was an entertainment icon and a national treasure who earned more than $50 million over the course of his career yet ended up nearly destitute. Deconstructing Sammy tells the whole sad, sordid, fascinating true story.

30 review for Deconstructing Sammy: Music, Money, Madness, and the Mob

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    This was an interesting read. The take-aways: -Pay your taxes -Avoid working with the mob -NEVER hug an unpopular republican president -Partake of cocaine, booze, and loose women in MODERATION -If you ever become an international star, make sure you own the rights to your work

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    Great book. Sad what fame can do to people.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Christine (booktumbling)

    Deconstructing Sammy: Music, Money, and Madness is not an actual biography in the traditional sense. Author Matt Birkbeck shares the stories and memories of those that were closest to the iconic entertainer as well as the findings of Sonny Murray, whose investigation into Sammy’s debts encompasses the bulk of the book. This is not a glamorous portrait of a man who was, and still is, a loved entertainer. This is a look at a man who wanted fame and fortune at almost all costs. He spent without res Deconstructing Sammy: Music, Money, and Madness is not an actual biography in the traditional sense. Author Matt Birkbeck shares the stories and memories of those that were closest to the iconic entertainer as well as the findings of Sonny Murray, whose investigation into Sammy’s debts encompasses the bulk of the book. This is not a glamorous portrait of a man who was, and still is, a loved entertainer. This is a look at a man who wanted fame and fortune at almost all costs. He spent without reserve, dabbled heavily in drugs and alcohol, married for convenience, neglected his wife and children, had numerous affairs, made deals with the mob, and surrounded himself with an entourage of mostly self-serving individuals. Those around him could see his decline but few, very few, attempted to put a stop to the disaster that was inevitable – they were being paid to say yes. This was a truly fascinating book. There are so many stories and recollections of other household names. Frank Sinatra “discovering” Sammy and supposedly introducing him to the ways of the mob. Dean Martin was actually a quiet homebody who did not partake in the over-the-top partying of the Rat Pack crew. Sammy ran with a powerful crowd, in the entertainment industry as well as politically. There is even a hint that Sammy knew the true story who shot JFK. What really struck me was how massive the fall from fame and fortune. From buying Chinese carry-out for an entire commercial airliner that was stranded on the runway all the way to his “friends” sneaking into his home and stealing his belongings (furniture, clothes, heirlooms from his friends in the entertainment industry, jewelry) while Sammy Davis laid in bed stricken with cancer. There is also the story of Sonny Murray’s attempts to deal with the largest individual IRS debt on record in 1994 and revitalize Sammy’s name and reputation. The obstacles in dealing with the wife (Altovise), Sammy’s children, the IRS, and Sammy’s former accountants and financial advisors makes for an interesting read. Reading this book was like peeling back layers with a new revelation in each chapter. Entertaining read!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lynell Baker

    I admit I was taken for a loop with the continuing saga of Sonny Murray and the Hillside Resort but quickly grasped to the importance of the mention in this gripping tale of the 'Altovise Davis Syndrome' so to speak. Many emotions arise inside me enduring the fact of my love and admiration for Sammy Davis but also now coping with the reality of this man's actual life and history. This book allows many informative facts and statistical references which keep me asking this question: "Why Sammy, wh I admit I was taken for a loop with the continuing saga of Sonny Murray and the Hillside Resort but quickly grasped to the importance of the mention in this gripping tale of the 'Altovise Davis Syndrome' so to speak. Many emotions arise inside me enduring the fact of my love and admiration for Sammy Davis but also now coping with the reality of this man's actual life and history. This book allows many informative facts and statistical references which keep me asking this question: "Why Sammy, why? Yes, I highly recommend this to all of SDJ Fans around the world who really want some answers to why our legend is not recognized as he ought. I can't help but feel anger, remorse, sadness and total disgust all wrapped in one. This book now leaves me with a bitter yet tearful memory of the dark, morbid life and death of a great legacy.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dixie Theriault

    I was eager to read this book. I find that one of the most fascinating facts of our celebrity culture has always been their ability to continue earning long after they have left us. They cease to be individuals and in fact, become corporations and icons, their names and likenesses a logo, with every part of their existence licensed and trademarked. According to Forbes, Elvis Presley was the top earner in 2008 for the 2nd year in a row, pulling in an impressive $52 million dollars...(which is incid I was eager to read this book. I find that one of the most fascinating facts of our celebrity culture has always been their ability to continue earning long after they have left us. They cease to be individuals and in fact, become corporations and icons, their names and likenesses a logo, with every part of their existence licensed and trademarked. According to Forbes, Elvis Presley was the top earner in 2008 for the 2nd year in a row, pulling in an impressive $52 million dollars...(which is incidentally, 8 million more than Justin Timberlake earned, and 12 million more than Madonna, who are both still alive and kickin'.) And depending on which source you read, there are reports that Michael Jackson has already topped $100 million just since his death in July. To quote Forbes reporter Peter Hoy "While things might be topsy-turvy in the financial markets above ground, it's still a bull market in the boneyard." So my question is not why did a cultural icon of the sixties and seventies like Sammy Davis Junior die over 15 million dollars in debt and owing half of that to the IRS, but how come 20 years later his estate is still in shambles? By all accounts Sammy should still be bringing home the bacon with his heirs enjoying a handsome income from their father's legacy. He was Mister Bojangles, he was the Candyman, (ironically that hit was a song that Sammy hated and didn't want to record) There would've been books, a movie deal or two, merchandising, and royalties that should have long ago satisfied the IRS and other outstanding debts. He was part of The Rat Pack, that infamous group that included Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, who ruled Vegas for almost a decade. These men, or rather their estates still earn tidy sums of money posthumously-why doesn't Sammy? Matt Birkbeck has written an in depth probe into the entertainer's life and death and all that followed afterward. It's a tragic report of greed, excess, and mismanagement. This book was so well researched and written, that it held me enthralled from start to finish. I knew I was watching a train wreck but I couldn't look away. I guess I am always amazed to see that someone who had it all could end up with so little, and this book is a hard lesson on what happens to someone who chooses to live their life "In the moment".

  6. 5 out of 5

    Glen Hannah

    I was very keen to read a biography of entertainer Sammy Davis Jr after taking a renewed interest in his music and career and this book just happened to come along. However, Deconstructing Sammy isn't a conventional biography. It approaches its subject from a certain angle in that it focuses on the events after his death. You see, Sammy died leaving an estate in utter turmoil. He owed the IRS so much in back taxes that they owned his name. His wife was an alcoholic who struggled to keep her life I was very keen to read a biography of entertainer Sammy Davis Jr after taking a renewed interest in his music and career and this book just happened to come along. However, Deconstructing Sammy isn't a conventional biography. It approaches its subject from a certain angle in that it focuses on the events after his death. You see, Sammy died leaving an estate in utter turmoil. He owed the IRS so much in back taxes that they owned his name. His wife was an alcoholic who struggled to keep her life on track. His children, from a previous marriage, felt abandoned by Sammy and held animosity towards his widow. His affairs were a mess and nobody could find the paperwork let alone sort it out. There were dubious characters that lurked around the edges of his life,and property was hidden, stolen or just disappeared. Deconstructing Sammy is the story of how one lawyer and his associates tried to untangle the mess and restore Sammy's name and credibility as well as broker a deal with the IRS and assist the widow in getting her life back on track. It's a fascinating paper trail that explores Sammy's life and the events after his death. Only occasionally does the book get bogged down in the banality of business and finance. For most part the author does well to balance this content with the people in Sammy's life as he sorts out fact from fiction and lies from truth. The other members of the Rat Pack (Sinatra, Martin) also get more than a mention as their stories merge with Sammy's. It's a compelling read only distracting when it detours for too long into the life of the lawyer and his family. My only complaint has nothing to do with the book but with my general expectations. I kind of wish that I'd actually read another more conventional biography of Sammy before reading this book. I felt that it wasn't giving me the reading experience I was expecting. Not that there was anything wrong with this book, it just wasn't quite what I thought I was going to get. A great read for fans of the singer. Up the star rating to 4 stars. Those who only have a middling interest might want to seek something else. Something more conventional. That's what I'm going to look for now.

  7. 4 out of 5

    GoldGato

    Whoa. Talk about finding out more than you wanted to know via a biography...at least more than you could possibly imagine. Unlike many celebrity bios, this well-researched book doesn't sell sensationalism. That's because it doesn't need to, as Sammy Davis Jr.'s life wasn't something that could even be expanded any further. After reading this book, I promptly found a yellow pages (thought they were obsolete) and started scouring for tax attorneys, even though I don't have any tax issues. If nothi Whoa. Talk about finding out more than you wanted to know via a biography...at least more than you could possibly imagine. Unlike many celebrity bios, this well-researched book doesn't sell sensationalism. That's because it doesn't need to, as Sammy Davis Jr.'s life wasn't something that could even be expanded any further. After reading this book, I promptly found a yellow pages (thought they were obsolete) and started scouring for tax attorneys, even though I don't have any tax issues. If nothing else, this biography taught me to never ever mess with the IRS. The story uses a different approach to the typical life story, and that is by focusing the book on someone who isn't Sammy. Instead, we learn the story of Sonny Murray, an attorney who ends up picking up the pieces of Sammy's final days. We also have the second main character, Altovise Davis, Sammy's widow. She is quite the character. That's where the "whoa" comes in at the beginning of my review. And finally, there's Davis himself, really the third character. If you're a fan of Sammy Davis Jr., you'll still get a good view of his background in music, his Rat Pack friendships, and his wacked-out world. You may not like it, but it's there, including a separate section listing all of the court documents involved in the telling of this book. I think the author has done a very good job of getting the reader involved and not trying to create different personas for the cover subject. Sinatra does NOT come off well here, but Dino does. In fact, Dean Martin and his longtime manager, Mort Viner, are the only ones who seem to have lived in reality. Yeah, it's that kind of book. Whoa. Book Season = Winter (prepare your taxes)

  8. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    This was a decent book if you're at all interested in Sammy Davis, Jr. and the Rat Pack. Contrary to the title, the book's main character in this non-fiction story is not SDJ, but the lawyer Sonny Murray, who tried to sort out the estate of SDJ after his death for his beleaguered widow Altovise (who besides being an alcoholic Hollywood wife basket case was also an ingrate) and salvage his legacy of one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th Century. It's a pretty sad story. Sammy blew millions This was a decent book if you're at all interested in Sammy Davis, Jr. and the Rat Pack. Contrary to the title, the book's main character in this non-fiction story is not SDJ, but the lawyer Sonny Murray, who tried to sort out the estate of SDJ after his death for his beleaguered widow Altovise (who besides being an alcoholic Hollywood wife basket case was also an ingrate) and salvage his legacy of one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th Century. It's a pretty sad story. Sammy blew millions of dollars on partying and stupid "investments," and was awful to his children and wives. There is so many stupid and nasty behaviors recounted by all the main characters in the book that one gets very weary and just wants it to end. I was interested in this book because I was a SDJ fan. In fact, when I was 16 I saw him in "Stop the World, I Want to Get Off." He was amazing singing, "What Kind of Fool Am I." Such a tiny guy with so much stage presence you couldn't take your eyes off of him and not jump to your feet applauding when it was all over. Reading this book...my feelings in a nutshell were "Stop this Book, I Want to Get Off."

  9. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Fascinating story of a lawyer who represented Davis's wife in regaining control of Sammy's estate after his death. This story unravels all the intricacies and problems that the Davis's complete mismanagement of their lives caused with the IRS, family members, and life-time friends. This is a sad commentary on the racial double standard that existed in the entertainment industry throughout Sammy's life. The private Sammy Davis, Jr. was a far different person from the one whom the publicists portr Fascinating story of a lawyer who represented Davis's wife in regaining control of Sammy's estate after his death. This story unravels all the intricacies and problems that the Davis's complete mismanagement of their lives caused with the IRS, family members, and life-time friends. This is a sad commentary on the racial double standard that existed in the entertainment industry throughout Sammy's life. The private Sammy Davis, Jr. was a far different person from the one whom the publicists portrayed him as being. I highly recommend this to anyone who remembers the Rat Pack era and "thinks" that he or she knows the whole story. Appearance and reality were at definite odds with each other during Davis's turbulent life.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Amjad Al Taleb

    This is a biography of the investigations of Sonny Murray regarding the heritage of Sammy Davis. I became interested in the book after listening to Malcolm Gladwell's podcast about Sammy, which was, considering information per time, better than the book, however, the book is more detailed and brings to light the dark side of Sammy's life. This is a biography of the investigations of Sonny Murray regarding the heritage of Sammy Davis. I became interested in the book after listening to Malcolm Gladwell's podcast about Sammy, which was, considering information per time, better than the book, however, the book is more detailed and brings to light the dark side of Sammy's life.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tonya

    I'm reading the ebook version of this book. The writing is informative and succinct enough to keep you interested in completing the book even though the story of Sammy and Altovise Davis is pretty sad and, yes, frustrating. It seems as if these people never learned from mistakes. I'm reading the ebook version of this book. The writing is informative and succinct enough to keep you interested in completing the book even though the story of Sammy and Altovise Davis is pretty sad and, yes, frustrating. It seems as if these people never learned from mistakes.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    This book focuses on the trials and tribulations that Sammy's family and his estate faced following his death. Although Birkbeck does not provide a thorough biography of Davis, he provides insightful Davis anecdotes and paints an intimate portrait of Altovise Davis, his wife. This book focuses on the trials and tribulations that Sammy's family and his estate faced following his death. Although Birkbeck does not provide a thorough biography of Davis, he provides insightful Davis anecdotes and paints an intimate portrait of Altovise Davis, his wife.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kay

    Incredible talent, sad story.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Frances

    So much talent and yet life is so difficult for some of these people. The book is a lesson for up and coming stars to make sure they have the right people around them.

  15. 5 out of 5

    D. E.

    An MB. Summation of the Life of Sammy Davis, Jr (DS) MD. has penned a summation of Sammy Davis, Jr. 's life through the good time and the bad. SD. was born an entertainer. He was the son of entertainers and because he was he was a polished dancer, singer and comedian. He travel the world and did his best work in La s Vegas. He was a member of the Rat Pack, which was famous for showing up unannounced at different actors and singers shows. They always made a splash and SD. Was one of the good ones. An MB. Summation of the Life of Sammy Davis, Jr (DS) MD. has penned a summation of Sammy Davis, Jr. 's life through the good time and the bad. SD. was born an entertainer. He was the son of entertainers and because he was he was a polished dancer, singer and comedian. He travel the world and did his best work in La s Vegas. He was a member of the Rat Pack, which was famous for showing up unannounced at different actors and singers shows. They always made a splash and SD. Was one of the good ones. This is an excellent read for the genre....DEHS

  16. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    A book about the estate of Sammy Davis, Jr. I had heard about this book since is was published, around 2008 or so. I was intrigued by the lurid stories. I came across it at a used bookstore and picked it up. It is poorly written, but interesting in spite of itself. It's also very sad, a glimpse into the universe that exists to make money off of stars. Not the star making machinery, but all the vultures that you know are out there but don't know much about, or at least I didn't. Sammy's financial A book about the estate of Sammy Davis, Jr. I had heard about this book since is was published, around 2008 or so. I was intrigued by the lurid stories. I came across it at a used bookstore and picked it up. It is poorly written, but interesting in spite of itself. It's also very sad, a glimpse into the universe that exists to make money off of stars. Not the star making machinery, but all the vultures that you know are out there but don't know much about, or at least I didn't. Sammy's financial life was a mess, really, his whole life sort of was. He never had good representation. Being black, he was often confronted with horrible options--in some ways, it was great that the Frank and Dean championed him when they did, bringing him into segregated venues and all. On the other hand, he basically had to accept whatever terms Frank dictated and they were never that great. I think the book should have focussed entirely on sammy and the estate's problems, but the author tells two stories. Only one is SDJ, the other is the story of the lawyer that represented SDj's estate after he died, Sonny Murray. I wasn't really interested in Murray's life, i wanted to read about Sammy's. There are lots of lurid details and hints of even more things that aren't presented in the book. The most curious part of all is the relationship between SDJ and DONALD RUMSFELD! Yes, that donald rumsfeld was hanging out with Sammy during all the cocaine fueled, satan worshipping, sex crazed, mania. Really, though, the whole thing is just sad and depressing--SDJ wasn't able to take care of himself or surround himself with people who could. The story is one of incompetence, grifters, racism, and dissipation. I do think the info in the book could be fascinating given the appropriate context--a really good biography of SDj, for example.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nada

    This book is painful. Eye-opening? Yes absolutely but still painful nonetheless. Sammy Davis, Jr wasn't merely mismanaged but straight out hustled; his legacy was downright robbed. This is a heartbreaking story about the vultures of show business that are constantly taking advantage of artists, especially black artists. Deconstructing Sammy doesn't only expose the darker side of Sammy's legacy, it rather highlights the ugly side of these vultures that take advantage of vulnerable and unsavvy arti This book is painful. Eye-opening? Yes absolutely but still painful nonetheless. Sammy Davis, Jr wasn't merely mismanaged but straight out hustled; his legacy was downright robbed. This is a heartbreaking story about the vultures of show business that are constantly taking advantage of artists, especially black artists. Deconstructing Sammy doesn't only expose the darker side of Sammy's legacy, it rather highlights the ugly side of these vultures that take advantage of vulnerable and unsavvy artists. And it’s not like they always say, you know, “They built a big house, they spent a lot of money, they bought a lot of cars.” That’s stupid. That’s just an excuse. That’s nothing compared to what artists make. (...) But if you go to the bookstore down at the corner, you won’t see ONE BLACK PERSON on the cover! You’ll see Elvis Presley. You’ll see the Rolling Stones. But where are the real pioneers who started it? Otis Blackwell was a prolific, phenomenal writer. He wrote some of the greatest Elvis Presley songs. And this was a black man. He died penniless. And no one wrote about this man ever, they didn’t write one book about him at all. His songs were heard all over the world. - Michael Jackson in a speech he gave against racism at the headquarters of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in Harlem, New York However, this book entirely isn't a fair portrayal of Sammy as a human being, and it's a one sided narrative but it does provide insightful account to the question of why Sammy Davis Jr is not acknowledged and celebrated as his peers, Sinatra per se. As a whole, it's crucial and distressing yet the captivating story-telling is smooth and engaging. I read and listened both the physical edition plus the audio-book but I highly recommend the latter.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

    This is an excellently written and researched book. The author did a GREAT researching Sammy Davis, Jr. (SDJ) through the experiences of others. I really enjoyed how he focused on "Sonny" and his journey of learning and helping SDJ. The writing flows from beginning to end. Anyone interested in SDJ, this is the first book that I would recommend. This is an excellently written and researched book. The author did a GREAT researching Sammy Davis, Jr. (SDJ) through the experiences of others. I really enjoyed how he focused on "Sonny" and his journey of learning and helping SDJ. The writing flows from beginning to end. Anyone interested in SDJ, this is the first book that I would recommend.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michele Wallace

    This is a wonderful and revelatory book. The story of the decimation of Sammy Davis Jrs career both during life and after death is not entirely surprising given the exploitative racism of the times in which he çame of age but learning the precise details of who did what to whom is devastating. The tragic drama of the life of Altovise, the last Mrs Sammy Davis Jr., the financial entanglement that ultimately drowned them both and drove them to thier various refuges of alcohol, drugs and sex, the f This is a wonderful and revelatory book. The story of the decimation of Sammy Davis Jrs career both during life and after death is not entirely surprising given the exploitative racism of the times in which he çame of age but learning the precise details of who did what to whom is devastating. The tragic drama of the life of Altovise, the last Mrs Sammy Davis Jr., the financial entanglement that ultimately drowned them both and drove them to thier various refuges of alcohol, drugs and sex, the frustration and pain of his previous wife Mae Britt and his children is just agonizing. The book is written in such a manner that you can’t put it down if you ever had any glimmer of admiration for Davis. Although it is entirely factual and seems well researched, it reads like whodunnit. If you dont care what happened to Davis well there is no surprise there either, given the impressions that were given of him to the public. You really would have to have a mind of your own to see past the crap he passed through, the deformation of his image, career and public reputation. In the end we cannot say he was a good man. He was denied even that. But he was a complete and utter victim of the criminal larceny of others. Particularly during this Christmas season in which every other song to be heard in my dentist’s office is Frank Sinatra, or somebody who sounds a lot like him (Sinatra Jr? Harry Connick?) whose management obstensibly led and set into motion the process that robbed Davis of the glory due him forever, for me it’s the perfect soundtrack since I never believed in Santa Claus anyway.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rochonne

    Deconstructing Sammy by Matt Birkbeck provided me with an inside view of Sammy Davis Jr.'s life. From the first page this would not be a light, fun-filled, flattering book. By chapter two, my jaw continued to drop right to the end of the book. I could not believe that this "Mega" entertainer died broke, making me often times confused who he really was and why he allowed so many "users" to be in his entourage. But I had to remember not everyone in your entrourage is your friend which was a mistak Deconstructing Sammy by Matt Birkbeck provided me with an inside view of Sammy Davis Jr.'s life. From the first page this would not be a light, fun-filled, flattering book. By chapter two, my jaw continued to drop right to the end of the book. I could not believe that this "Mega" entertainer died broke, making me often times confused who he really was and why he allowed so many "users" to be in his entourage. But I had to remember not everyone in your entrourage is your friend which was a mistake he and Altovise greatly misunderstood. Billie Holiday said it best...... When you got Money, you've got lots of friends Crowding round the door When you're gone, spending ends They don't come no more This book showed me the entertainment industry can coldly use and discard so-called stars who let themselves be distracted by partying and what they consider to be the glamourous life. Thus the distruction of Sammy. This book is a must read for anyone interested in being in "Show Business"

  21. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Funny title; it refers to a more literal story of the deconstruction of Sammy's life in a real sense than a metaphorical one. Sammy made a mess of his emotional and financial life, and it deteriorated after he died. Due to tax and family problems control of his meager estate and more substantial legacy was contested forever and essentially squandered. Pretty fascinating, if pretty grim, story. One thing that's notable about this book is the poor copyediting, expecially from a name publisher like Funny title; it refers to a more literal story of the deconstruction of Sammy's life in a real sense than a metaphorical one. Sammy made a mess of his emotional and financial life, and it deteriorated after he died. Due to tax and family problems control of his meager estate and more substantial legacy was contested forever and essentially squandered. Pretty fascinating, if pretty grim, story. One thing that's notable about this book is the poor copyediting, expecially from a name publisher like Harper. The author is especially allergic to the past perfect tense, and the result is many (a guess is around a dozen) cases where confusion results. A number of typos (especially one "severe" for "sever") also make for jarring reading. One expects more from a Harpe.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ron Day

    An incredibly compelling, shocking and tragic story, and one that I never expected. This is NOT a Sammy Davis Jr biography. It's a very well written, page turner that focuses on his affairs after his death, ostensibly the efforts to resolve his estate (he died $50 million in debt!) and restore his legacy, which apparently went down the tubes. All the while the author, Matt Birkbeck, takes us back in time to see Sammy in so many different situations. Some are highly entertaining, some sad, some d An incredibly compelling, shocking and tragic story, and one that I never expected. This is NOT a Sammy Davis Jr biography. It's a very well written, page turner that focuses on his affairs after his death, ostensibly the efforts to resolve his estate (he died $50 million in debt!) and restore his legacy, which apparently went down the tubes. All the while the author, Matt Birkbeck, takes us back in time to see Sammy in so many different situations. Some are highly entertaining, some sad, some downright unforgiveable (what did he do to his wife, Altovise!). I dont' want to give any more away. A haunting book, but a must read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Walter

    A devastating portrait of a show business legend and icon. It was hard to read this strong portrait as it totally laid bare a lifelong hero of mine. Yet, I couldn't put it down because it is a story well told. I can quibble a little with it - for example, my guess is that, due to the fact that Sammy's wife Altovise is still living, the author is very obtuse in certain spots and his implication isn't necessarily clear (as there are several possible options). Otherwise, though, I recommend it high A devastating portrait of a show business legend and icon. It was hard to read this strong portrait as it totally laid bare a lifelong hero of mine. Yet, I couldn't put it down because it is a story well told. I can quibble a little with it - for example, my guess is that, due to the fact that Sammy's wife Altovise is still living, the author is very obtuse in certain spots and his implication isn't necessarily clear (as there are several possible options). Otherwise, though, I recommend it highly - its tragedy so compellingly and comprehensively unfolds that you will be moved.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rhi

    I picked this book up as it was on sale, I had no real interest in reading it otherwise, however I'm very glad I did. Sometimes biographies can be boring and written so matter of fact that its hard to get through. This book is not like that at all, it's written so well and flows so smoothly its easy to forget your reading a biography. Reading about Sammy's life I had empathy for all those involved and afterwards found myself with a sense of knowledge and respect mixed with pity for him. I enjoyed t I picked this book up as it was on sale, I had no real interest in reading it otherwise, however I'm very glad I did. Sometimes biographies can be boring and written so matter of fact that its hard to get through. This book is not like that at all, it's written so well and flows so smoothly its easy to forget your reading a biography. Reading about Sammy's life I had empathy for all those involved and afterwards found myself with a sense of knowledge and respect mixed with pity for him. I enjoyed this read so much I'm now going read others by Matt Birkbeck.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nina Norstrom

    This book brings you into the life of Sammy. And its title fits the journey. I was so surprised to discover the deconstructing life that was led by Sammy. It was a bit depressing as well to read all that occurred during and after the life of this artist. I would have loved it, thou, if the author dove a little deeper into this artist’s biography. Personally, I was looking to read more about his accident among other things; but it just wasn’t there. Now, for those that are Sammy Davis, Jr.fans, y This book brings you into the life of Sammy. And its title fits the journey. I was so surprised to discover the deconstructing life that was led by Sammy. It was a bit depressing as well to read all that occurred during and after the life of this artist. I would have loved it, thou, if the author dove a little deeper into this artist’s biography. Personally, I was looking to read more about his accident among other things; but it just wasn’t there. Now, for those that are Sammy Davis, Jr.fans, you may appreciate the story much more.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Huleeta Smith

    Good read! This book is difficult to follow in the beginning as there are so many people mentioned and it seemed disjointed. However as it went on the people became more clear and important to the entire story. It's a shame that such a fascinating entertainer allowed his weaknesses and his desire for living only in the moment could have adversely affected so many lives. Great research and tenacity by Sonny stuck it out! Can't help but admire him. Do recommend this book as insight into the life of Good read! This book is difficult to follow in the beginning as there are so many people mentioned and it seemed disjointed. However as it went on the people became more clear and important to the entire story. It's a shame that such a fascinating entertainer allowed his weaknesses and his desire for living only in the moment could have adversely affected so many lives. Great research and tenacity by Sonny stuck it out! Can't help but admire him. Do recommend this book as insight into the life of Sammy Davis and family.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Ziegelbauer

    This was a well researched and presented body of work on a natural born and disciplined entertainer. One of the best despite a vulnerability if not indifferent attitude towards basic standards of a responsible lifestyle and perhaps judgement. A lifetime of lessons for the reader as well as a very enjoyable read of this often overlooked member of the Rat Pack who gave so much to his fellow entertainers, friends and his audience that will always overshadow any faults which live in us all.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    This book was in the $2.99 and under category on B&N's website. I was mildly interested in reading a biography on Sammy Davis, Jr., and with it being such a low price, I decided to first download a sample. The sample was 44 pages long and I told myself I would just read the sample. However, I was hooked on the book and it took me only 2 days to complete . It's a very sad story of exploitation, extortion, ignorance and the squandering of a great entertainer's talent and legacy. This book was in the $2.99 and under category on B&N's website. I was mildly interested in reading a biography on Sammy Davis, Jr., and with it being such a low price, I decided to first download a sample. The sample was 44 pages long and I told myself I would just read the sample. However, I was hooked on the book and it took me only 2 days to complete . It's a very sad story of exploitation, extortion, ignorance and the squandering of a great entertainer's talent and legacy.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    Very entertaining. Not really a bio of Sammy but more a history of what happened to his money and the effect it had on the people around him. Not as shocking as I thought it was going to be but still interesting. Also interesting is the continuing hulabaloo going on concerning the lost cash and the rights to his name.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    As others have said, less a dissection of the late Sammy Davis' troubled final decade, than a dry recitation of events involving an attorney's efforts to salvage Mr. Davis' ruined estate. As a forensic procedural, it's an involving read. Those looking for an examination of Mr. Davis' life and career should go elsewhere. As others have said, less a dissection of the late Sammy Davis' troubled final decade, than a dry recitation of events involving an attorney's efforts to salvage Mr. Davis' ruined estate. As a forensic procedural, it's an involving read. Those looking for an examination of Mr. Davis' life and career should go elsewhere.

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