“Birkbeck has killer leads, gripping kickers and sensational descriptions. This cinematic book reads more like a detective story than a traditional ‘life of.” (New York Times Book Review)
“Tremendous. . . Birkbeck tells the epic of Sammy Davis Jr... from his Harlem boyhood to his wrenching deathbed (he died of cancer in 1990) in his Beverly Hills mansion, where various hangers-on, seeing the circling vultures, stripped his corpse even before it was a corpse.” (Los Angeles Times Book Review)
“A piece of investigative journalism that unravels what happened to Davis’ estate, and reveals more about the man...Birkbeck spoke to people that have never spoken before -- and the portrait of Sammy that emerges is difficult, demanding, and ultimately tragic.” (NPR's Talk of the Nation)
“Exceptionally detailed…makes tax law sexy,” (Library Journal)
“With a journalist’s eye toward a great story, author Matt Birkbeck leads readers through a decades-long financial mess including cover-ups… mob connections, political friendships and snubbing.…Un-put-down-able…Stunning.” (TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER, NATIONAL BOOK REVIEWER)
“Davis’s remarkable life is certainly well-trod territory. Nevertheless, through interviews with close friends and confidants who had never spoken publicly before, Birkbeck digs up many startling details.” (MICHAEL RUBINKAM, ASSOCIATED PRESS)
From the Back Cover
Sammy Davis Jr. lived a storied life. Adored by millions over a six-decade-long career, he was considered an entertainment icon and a national treasure. But despite lifetime earnings that topped $50 million, Sammy died in 1990 near bankruptcy. His estate was declared insolvent, and there was no possibility of itever using Sammy's name or likeness again. It was as if Sammy had never existed.
Years later his wife, Altovise, a once-vivacious woman and heir to one of the greatest entertainment legacies of the twentieth century, was living in poverty, and with nowhere else to go, she turned to a former federal prosecutor, Albert "Sonny" Murray, to make one last attempt to resolve Sammy's debts, restore his estate, and revive his legacy. For seven years Sonny probed Sammy's life to understand how someone of great notoriety and wealth could have lost everything, and in the process he came to understand Sammy as a man whose complexity makes for a riveting work of celebrity biography as cultural history.
Matt Birkbeck's serious work of investigative journalism unveils the extraordinary story of an international celebrity at the center of a confluence of entertainment, politics, and organized crime, and shows how even Sammy's outsized talent couldn't save him from himself.