Friday, August 21, 2009

Deconstructing Sammy: Music, Money, & Madness

I wanted to post the press release about the upcoming publication of Deconstructing Sammy: Music, Money, and Madness by Matt Birbeck in paperback. I hope you will get your hands on a copy if you want to learn about the Sammy Davis Jr., one of the greatest entertainers of all time.

Deconstructing_pb_c

AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK SEPTEMBER 2009

DECONSTRUCTING SAMMY:

Music, Money, and Madness

By Matt Birkbeck

“Birkbeck has killer leads, gripping kickers and sensational descriptions. This cinematic book reads more like a detective story than a traditional ‘life of.”
— New York Times Book Review

“Tremendous. . . Birkbeck tells the epic of Sammy Davis Jr... from his Harlem boyhood to his wrenching deathbed (he died of cancer in 1990) in his Beverly Hills mansion, where various hangers-on, seeing the circling vultures, stripped his corpse even before it was a corpse.”
— Los Angeles Times Book Review

“A piece of investigative journalism that unravels what happened to Davis’ estate, and reveals more about the man...Birkbeck spoke to people that have never spoken before—and the portrait of Sammy that emerges is difficult, demanding, and ultimately tragic.”
NPR's Talk of the Nation

If we learn nothing else from Michael Jackson’s death we know that an entertainment legend’s estate can increase dramatically posthumously, resolving debts that would haunt the living. Tragically, another legendary entertainer, Sammy Davis Jr., who like Jackson began his career as a child, would also die deeply in debt. But 20 years after his death, Sammy’s estate remains in ruins and the great entertainer is but a footnote to history. The story of how Sammy Davis Jr. made and lost tens of millions of dollars and died insolvent forms the basis of this “gripping” and “sensational” (New York Times Book Review) work of reportage.

In the explosive biography, DECONSTRUCTING SAMMY: Music, Money, and Madness (Harper Paperbacks; On sale: September 1, 2009; $15.99), author (A Beautiful Child) and award-winning investigative journalist Matt Birkbeck delivers a stunning work of reportage that is equal parts cultural history, celebrity biography, and ultimately, a shocking behind-the-scenes look at the world of Sammy Davis, Jr.

When Sammy died nearly 20 years ago at age 64 of throat cancer, he was $15 million in debt—with more than half of that owed to the IRS for investments in bogus tax shelters—which forced Altovise Davis, his widow, to sell their possessions and later live in poverty in Pennsylvania. With few options at her disposal, Altovise turned to Albert “Sonny Murray” in a last-ditch effort to resolve Sammy’s debts and clear his name. For seven years Murray - a former federal prosecutor who gained fame in the 1980’s for his prosecution of E.F. Hutton - probed Sammy’s life on every level and uncovered a brilliant entertainer and complex and tragic man who had achieved everything – and then lost it.

A page-turning expose chock-full of shocking details and quotes from family, close friends, and access to the records of the Sammy Davis Jr. estate, DECONSTRUCTING SAMMY is a riveting portrait of a brilliant yet tragic figure in American history. Some of the revelations in the book include:

    *Frank Sinatra’s ties to organized crime, and his denials, have been well-documented but Birkbeck describes how Sinatra and his pal Sammy were considered two of the mobs biggest earners and most important assets. Their drawing power in Las Vegas contributed greatly to the mob’s skimming operations and brought in millions in revenues.

    *The FBI knew about Sammy’s close relationship with the mob and that for years Sammy served as a “front” for various mob-controlled investment schemes and fraudulent enterprises whose sole purpose was to defraud its investors. It was those relationships that left Sammy near bankruptcy when he died.

    *When Sammy died in 1990, his name and likeness were valued at only $500 by the IRS despite the fact he had earned over $50 million during his lifetime. His home and possessions were sold at auction.

    *Following his divorce from May Britt in 1968, Sammy was pressured to marry a black woman. He married Altovise Gore in 1970, but involved her for years in orgies. Sammy also encouraged her to “service” many of his friends and acquaintances. Included among the many men Altovise befriended was Donald Rumsfeld, the former U.S. Secretary of Defense, whom Sammy met in the 1970s when Rumsfeld worked for the Nixon Administration. Rumsfeld remained friendly with Altovise, even after Sammy’s death, meeting her at a Los Angeles hotel.

    *When Sammy’s good friend and long-time conductor George Rhodes died in 1985, Sammy asked another good friend, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, to perform the eulogy. Jackson agreed, but for a price: He demanded $5,000 in cash, four first-class plane tickets and two suites at the Four Seasons. Sammy, who was broke, turned to bodyguard Brian Dellow, who took an advance off his credit card to pay Jackson’s fee.

    *Sammy didn’t have to die. Upon hearing the cancer diagnosis in August 1989, doctors recommended surgery on Sammy’s throat, which offered an 80 percent chance of survival. Sammy opted instead for radiation, which had a slim 30 percent survival rate. Sammy made his decision based on his dismal finances. If he couldn’t sing, he reasoned, he couldn’t make money. Terminally ill, Sammy’s home was looted by his employees and his wife Altovise. He died nine months later, in May 1990. Before he was buried, Altovise took his glass eye.

    *Sammy’s estate remains a shambles nearly 20 years after his death. Despite a 1997 agreement with the IRS to resolve the $7 million tax debt, his widow Altovise reneged on the deal. Because of the tax debt, Sammy continues to remain a footnote to history, his great legacy and contributions to civil rights all but forgotten. Altovise died in March 2009, and the remnants of Sammy’s estate are currently being fought over in federal court in Texas.

Author Matt Birkbeck, Sammy’s daughter Tracey Davis and Albert “Sonny” Murray will be available for interviews regarding DECONSTRUCTING SAMMY.

# # #

DECONSTRUCTING SAMMY:

Music, Money, and Madness

By Matt Birkbeck

Harper Paperbacks

On Sale: September 1, 2009

$15.99 / 304 pages

ISBN: 978-0-06145-067-9

Contact: Kateri Benjamin, HarperCollins Publicity

212-207-7708 / kateri.benjamin@harpercollins.com




46 comments:

Nancy Sinatra Fan said...

Thank you for sharing that press release with us. I'll have to get a copy of this book. It sounds quite intriguing.

Keith said...

Hey Phoebe. You are very welcome. Hope you get a chance to check it out. Cheers!

Gingeyginge said...

Thanks for the post, theres a dark side to all of us i'm afraid.....

Etrapar said...

I don't know why money are so important...people like them should be very happy because they've worked a lot for us ^.^
kisses

Maria Jensen said...

I never knew that much about Sammy, i always concentrated on Dean and Frank.. But i think i will buy this book! His hole life seems to be tragic all the way :/ it seems to me that the more power, money success and talent a person has the more tragic life he /she will have.. Just at Elvis, Dean Martin..

janettaylor said...

Hi Keith,

Thanks for sharing... and this photo is coool...

XoXo

Keith said...

Hey Gingey. Oh yeah. I agree. We all have a dark side.

Keith said...

Hey Sonia. I know what you mean. Money does a lot of things to me. Most of us crave it whether we have none or a lot.

Keith said...

Hey Maria. Sammy is my second favorite member of the Rat Pack. There's still so much I don't know about him. He did definitely live a tragic life. Money and all the other trappings can really impact a person's life, not always in a positive manner either.

Keith said...

Hey Janet. Thanks. Glad you enjoyed the post. Cheers!

KIRAFASHION said...

Frank Sinatra is so NYC for me and I always love that!

Thanks so much for your so sweet comments! I do love them!!

Kisses and wishes of a great weekend!

Kira

Erika said...

I quite love biographies like this. I will be sure to check it out! :)

Keith said...

Hey Kira. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate it. I enjoy your blog. Enjoy your weekend. Cheers!

Keith said...

Hey Erika. Thanks. I hope you enjoy it. Cheers!

Couture Carrie said...

Excellent synopsis of what seems to be a quite revealing tome!

xoxox,
CC

Keith said...

Hey Carrie. Thanks. I hope you get a chance to read it. Cheers!

Planet Mondo said...

Wow - there's one for the Christmas list..

Keith said...

Definitely so, Dave.

Steve Langton said...

This will be an absolutely fascinating read, I'm sure. Thanks for the shout

Keith said...

Hey Steve. You are very welcome. I definitely hope you get a chance to read it.

Couture Millinery Atelier. said...

Thank you for the great tip. I will be looking forward to getting this book. I think that something should be said about findning brilliance even in the darkest places.Wishing you a great weekend. Anya

Keith said...

Hey Anya. Thanks for commenting. I hope you will get a chance to read this book. Yeah, I think the darker times in our life often inspire us creatively and otherwise.

Nancy Sinatra Fan said...

Have you ever seen this clip before?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5voM2HExV_Q

Keith said...

Thanks Phoebe. I've not seen that one. I'll watch it before I head to work.

Some Like it Vintage said...

I had no idea he was in such debt! Such a shame, a great voice and person gone too early and because of the stress of money. Wow.

Have a wonderful weekend Keith! xoxo

Scott (gotankgo) said...

Thanks for the heads up on what looks a rather interesting read.

clarewbrown said...

Oh wow! This sounds like a must read. A peek inside the life of an American Icon

La Couturier said...

I'd love it just for the cover (: Sounds amazing, quite enthralling & interesting!

bisous,
La C.

Nancy Sinatra Fan said...

I wasn't sure if you would have seen it or not. I knew I hadn't. Maybe you can use it in a post in the future.

Keith said...

Hey Veronica. Thanks for commenting. Sammy definitely had his share of trials and tribulations. It's really so sad how his life turned out.

Keith said...

Hey Scott. You are very welcome. I hope you get a chance to get a copy.

Keith said...

Hey Clare. I do hope you get a chance to read this book. Sammy's definitely an icon. One of the best entertainers ever.

Keith said...

Hey La C. Thanks. It does sound great. I love the cover myself.

Keith said...

Hey Phoebe. Yeah, I would love to use it in a post at some point. Thanks again for sending it to me.

Carlotta said...

Have a great weekend!!!

Keith said...

Thanks Carlotta. You too.

Terence Sambo said...

wld be a great read :o]

Jessica Cangiano said...

Sounds highly interesting, thank you very much for alerting us to this book, Keith. It's getting added to my Amazon wish list at once.

I hope you're having a fantastic weekend, my friend!
♥ Jessica

Keith said...

Thanks Terence.

Keith said...

Hey Jessica. You are very welcome. I do hope you get a chance to read it. I'm sure you'll like it. I'm having a wonderful weekend. I hope you are too. Cheers!

Mrs. M. said...

thanks for sharing Keith. I'm definitely going to be be picking this one up. At first I thought the cover looked cool and hip, but after reading about Sammy's financial hardships all i see is the sadness. I would have never guess he died in debt. at least he left his fans rich with plenty of fond memories and mediums to enjoy forever. he'll always be one of my childhood favorites. (I also loved Paula Abdul-two great tap dancers, two very different styles!)

Keith said...

Hey Mrs. M, Thanks. Yeah, I do this cover. It is cool and hip, but also sad. Sammy has a lot of highs in his life, but he also had a lot of lows. It is sad how things ended for him. He is a true legend and icon. He's one of the greatest entertainers of all time.

Cocktail Nation said...

Fantastic book, read it a few months ago. Shocking to see the way his wife treated him and the estate.
Kooper
www.cocktailnation.net

Keith said...

Hey Kooper. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate you offering your take on the book. Cheers!

JFK Jean said...

Man, that's extremely horrible what happened to him because of his financial troubles. I'm going to pick up this book asap.

Keith said...

Hey JFK. I hope you get a chance to read it. It is terrible all the things that Sammy went through. My heart goes out to him.