5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Sammy Davis Jr.

On Dec 8, 1925, entertainer and member of the rat pack, Sammy Davis Jr., was born in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. Find out five things you didn’t know about Sammy Davis, Jr.


He Performed One Of The Most Famous Kisses On TV In 1972, the Rat Packer helped create one of TV’s most legendary moments — an on-screen kiss that appeared on the television show All in the Family. The episode featured Davis (as himself) visiting the Bunker household after accidentally leaving his briefcase in Archie’s taxi cab. On his way out the door, he planted a kiss on Archie’s cheek. It was one of the show’s most famous episodes and went on to be nominated for two Emmys. In real life, Davis and Carroll O'Connor were good friends, and the idea for the kiss on television was O’Connor’s, who was a staunch liberal.

He Lost His Eye in a Car Accident On November 19, 1954, Davis was driving from Las Vegas to record a movie soundtrack in Los Angeles when he was involved in a horrible car accident. He sustained massive injuries to his face, including a broken nose and damage to his left eye so severe that it had to be replaced with a plastic one. A consummate professional, he was back on stage only two months later.


He Converted To Judaism After The Accident While in the hospital, his friend and entertainer Eddie Cantor enlightened him on the similarities between the Jewish and black cultures. He felt Jews and Black people shared a similar history of oppression. He  converted to Judaism after reading Paul Johnson's A History of the Jews in the hospital. One paragraph about the ultimate endurance of the Jewish people intrigued him in particular: "The Jews would not die. Three centuries of prophetic teaching had given them an unwavering spirit of resignation and had created in them a will to live which no disaster could crush."

He Had A Close Bond With Fellow Rat Packer Frank Sinatra Davis and Sinatra became friends from the moment they met in 1941 at the Michigan Theatre in Detroit when he stepped in as an opening act for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and Sinatra. Sinatra was like a big brother to Sammy. In one instance, Sinatra tore up his contract when a theater barred Davis because of his race. After Sammy Davis Jr. had his car accident, the famous crooner paid the medical bills. For Sammy, the admiration was mutual: “I wanted to be like him, I wanted to dress like him, I wanted to look like him, I took my hair and had it all done up, Sinatra style, with the little curl here and all.”

He Was Snubbed by JFK Not even Sinatra's friendship could get SDJ into John F. Kennedy's inauguration. When Davis married the glamorous blonde Swedish actress May Britt in 1960, it not only made headlines, it inspired death threats. Although Sammy had campaigned tirelessly alongside Frank Sinatra to help get Kennedy elected, JFK asked the entertainer not to participate in the 1961 Presidential inauguration. He felt the sight of the black entertainer alongside his white wife would potentially anger southerners. Being shunned by the president was a sore spot for Davis, but those feelings were somewhat smoothed in 1987 when he was honored by the Kennedy Center.