What Made Sammy Run?

What Made Sammy Run?
December 28, 2003
The New York Times

Is it possible for an entertainer who achieved the pinnacles of success — wealth, fame, power, a critical and collegial regard verging on awe, at least during the long climb to the top — to be remembered primarily as a cultural martyr? In the case of Sammy Davis Jr., a qualified ”yes” seems reasonable. Unlike Frank Sinatra, whose music will ultimately obliterate the man’s boorish qualities, Davis has virtually disappeared from the cultural landscape while his immense, long-lived celebrity clouds the minds of those who endured it. To many of us born in the 1940’s and 1950’s, he has become a joke: a bejeweled, Nehru jacket-wearing, women-and-stimulants-pursuing, faux-hipster caricature who cackled at racially stupid jokes that were designed to show how progressively good-natured the tellers and their victim-buddy were.

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