Racism is still very much an issue today, but in the 1940s, the world was a much different place. Davis Jr. was turned away from staying in the same hotels as his performing band, due to his skin color.
But throughout it all, Sinatra was right there by his side, sticking with him through thick and thin and helping him pick himself up and dust himself off when things went sideways – like when he got into a car accident, and his mentor paid the hospital bills for him.
White, mainly Southern, soldiers would relentlessly abuse Davis, due simply to his skin color and their ignorance. Because of their inability to control themselves, Davis admitted that he was in a “knockdown, drag-out fight every two days.”
Finally, he was transferred to the Special Services branch of the Army and got to put on performances for the troops. And, during at least one of those shows, he had to perform for the soldiers who had abused him.
Opening for The Legendary Frank Sinatra
Sammy Davis Jr. actually first met Sinatra when he was a teenager. He was opening for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (and Sinatra) and the two hit it off. A budding friendship and mentorship began, and from then out, Davis Jr. was like a little brother to him.
Tommy Dorsey’s band had an impressive 286 Billboard chart hits, and Sammy Davis Jr. was on his rise to fame, thanks to his new friend, Frank Sinatra.
No Autographs, Please
Sammy Davis Jr. was never a big reader during his childhood. In fact, he couldn’t read anything but comic books until after going off to join the service. Since he lacked formal education in his childhood, he never learned to write, either.
You can imagine how uncomfortable it must have been for him to get asked for an autograph and feel as though he wouldn’t be able to sign it without feeling embarrassed. So, just to play it safe, he would only sign his name – nothing more, nothing less.
Early in the morning on one day in late November 1954, Davis Jr. accidentally crashed his car into another that was waiting to make a turn. It was a moment that would forever change the life of the 28-year old. Two women were in the other car, and both were injured but lived.
Unfortunately for the entertainer, the accident would claim one of his eyes, which resulted in him wearing a glass eye for the remainder of his years.