Altovise Gore Davis talks to BroadwayWorld.com about her late husband, Sammy Davis Jr. and "Mr. Bojangles, The Ultimate Entertainer", which has its World Premiere at Mohegan Sun's Cabaret on February 22, 2006. This tribute to Sammy Davis, Jr. showcases the musical genius and explores the heartbreak and triumph of one of the world's greatest entertainers.
Altovise Gore Davis spoke to BroadwayWorld.com writer, Randy Rice on February 16, 2006:
Randy Rice: Mrs. Davis, thanks for taking the time to talk with me. As we begin I would like to tell you that I saw Sammy perform. I was 19 years old in 1988 when he toured with Liza and Frank.
Altovise Davis: You were 19? Really?
RR: Yeah. It was the Worcester Centrum. I was way up in the nosebleed section. But it was an incredible show. It lived up to its title "The Ultimate Event".
AD: Sammy was at his vocal peak during that tour. He loved touring with Frank and Dean. When Dean dropped out of the tour after his son died, Sammy went and got Liza to do it. I loved how he sang "Music of the Night" from "Phantom of the Opera". It was very theatrical. He also did a great version of Robert Preston's "Trouble" from "The Music Man".
RR: So... tell me about the show that you are producing, "Mr. Bojangles: The Ultimate Entertainer".
AD: Well, it has been in the works for years. After Sammy died I had to work very hard to get things in order. I now own and manage my husband's name and image and I am making sure that the legacy of Sammy Davis Jr. will continue. There is a great group of folks involved in the show including two great actors Ted Levy and Darrell Grand Moultrie. You see, it takes two men to hit the right notes and pay tribute to one Sammy. The songs are split between the two of them, one take the high ones and one the low ones. There is also a lot of footage of Sammy through the years. I don't want to give everything away.
RR: I read somewhere that Ted was on Broadway with "Black and Blue" and "Jelly's Last Jam".
AD: Yes. Both he and Darrell are really terrific.
RR: And the name "Mr. Bojangles"?
AD: Well, I thought about it for a long time, and thought it was right. Sammy was uncomfortable singing the song "Mr. Bojangles" for years, because he was afraid that he would end up that way, frayed sleeves and such. I think the song really fit who Sammy was, a survivor.
RR: Sammy didn't have any formal schooling, did he?
AD: None. But my husband was so smart. He loved to read and read constantly. He was always reading the newspaper in bed. He once asked me "Hey, who was the 22nd President of the United States?" and I said "I don't know." He replied, "What do you mean you don't know?" " You went to school".
RR: Sammy was very politically aware and active.
AD: He was always trying to make a difference. He was friends the Kennedy brothers, who were both civil rights pioneers. He marched with Dr. King. Sammy felt things deeply. He was a "huggy-feely" kind of guy, which sometimes got him in trouble. He thought that if you loved someone, you should let them know it. Sammy and Jimmy (James) Dean were great friends. They used to have lunch or dinner about once a week. It always bothered Sammy that the last time he saw Jimmy that he just said "See you next week" and didn't let Jimmy know how much he loved him and valued their friendship.