14 May 2011

In Memoriam

1986 portrait by Allan Warren

On May 16, 1990 I cried for someone I had never met.  It was the one and only time I ever cried over a celebrity.  You've had stories about growing up on the fringes of entertainment and how there are rarely stars in my eyes over stars other than being grateful for the joy they bring.  There was one exception.  He had been part of my consciousness from before the dawn of rock and roll with variety shows featuring "My Daddy, My Uncle and Me"; the earliest hit songs such as "Hey There"; as a member of the Rat Pack and the ring a ding ding of the Vegas years.  Most of all he was my birthday present.  Every year at least once a year, come hell or high water, sometime in the Spring my seat was planted in an Orchestra Seat to see Sammy Davis, Jr. live.  With my unending admiration for the very few geniuses of unbelievable gifts that we get to see in life, I adored this man I never knew or met except under an "Up In One" and whose talent I still miss more than two decades later.

He appeared in more than 35 movies:  dramas, comedies, and musicals between 1933 and 1990.  He was nominated for three Grammy's and posthumously was given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 2001 with induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002.  He was nominated for five Emmy's and won once for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy for Sammy Davis, Jr.'s 60th Anniversary Celebration.  He was nominated for a Tony for "Golden Boy" and also starred on Broadway and toured in the revival of "Stop The World I Want to Get Off."  He has stars on The Hollywood Walk of Fame, and on Las Vegas Boulevard.  Then there was the little trinket hung around his neck in 1987 as an Honoree of the Kennedy Center Honors.  The other awards as both performer and humanitarian consume pages but most of all he just entertained all the time, every time.  You could hear all the jokes and impressions over and over and every time you laughed because he laughed and made you believe it was the first time you had heard the same ol' story.  It was a love affair between a man and his audience best seen in this recently remastered HD version of what became his signature song:   Mr. Bojangles.  And now I'm tearing up a bit again.

Thank goodness for the videos that make it possible for Sammy to come back and dance.


Mike Golch said...

I miss him as well.

Travis Cody said...

He had said that he resisted performing Mr Bojangles because of his fear of becoming the old man in the song. I'm glad he finally took on the song, because his performance took away the "sad sack" image of the character and made him a vital link to the joy a song and dance man can bring.

Sammy Davis Jr, Song and Dance man extraordinaire. I miss him too.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bojangles is one of many good memories this vital human being shared with us all.