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Deconstructing Sammy: Music, Money, Madness and the Mob by Matt Birkbeck

October 30, 2008

Deconstructing Sammy: Music, Money, Madness, and the Mob
Web site for Matt Birkbeck
Amistad; 1st edition, September ’08
288 pages

I knew next to nothing about Sammy Davis, Jr. before reading this book. I was aware of him in a peripheral way, as a very talented individual who died a sad death. This book reveals what a twisted, wretched life he lived surrounded by people who used him and stole from him, betraying his trust. He also ‘lived large’ as we say today and this contributed greatly to his downfall. Unfortunately there were more low lights than highlights for this man. He died deeply in debt with a career that was non-existent and a family in tatters.

He life is unraveled as an attorney fights to save his estate and secure the rights to his identity from the IRS and bring back some semblance of dignity. Albert ‘Sonny’ Murry, Jr. is hired by Sammy’s widow, Altovise, to clear the largest debt ever owed by a single individual, over $7.2 million, and reclaim the rights to Sammy’s name. As Mr. Murry digs into Sammy’s life through court documents, legal filings, contact with family, friends and known associates Sammy’s dark past is brought to light. The numerous affairs and sexual going-ons, the drugs, the gambling, the parties. A man who fought inner demons that drove this morally corrupt lifestyle. Married to troubled woman he didn’t love and children he wanted nothing to do with.

What gets lost in all the darkness is the tremendous talent this man possessed. He was the most gifted all around entertainer this country has ever had the privilege of watching. We failed to realize what unique talent we were witness to. And now due to continuing legal battles and family in-fighting we may never get another opportunity pay proper tribute to Mr. Davis, Jr. We’re deprived of once again watching a true performer.

This book is like watching a horrible accident, the one you know you should look away from and can’t. It keeps drawing you back. Fascinating yet hard to take as you watch a man with the inability to save himself.

  1. October 31, 2008 5:31 am

    Wow! My mom would love this one – she loves to read bios of movie stars.
    It’s yours. I’ll put it in the mail next week.

  2. October 31, 2008 2:45 pm

    ‘ Married to troubled woman he didn’t love and children he wanted nothing to do with.’

    Wow I never knew this…great review…you piqued my interest and make me want to pick this one up.
    This book is full of facts that I’ll bet a lot of people aren’t aware of. The author did a creditable job of writing Sammy’s story.

  3. DoubleD permalink
    November 11, 2008 2:43 pm

    Great book. Read it in one sitting. Couldn’t put it down. Still can’t stop thinking about it. And this is written as a mystery that unfolds as you go along. Highly recomended.

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