Altovise Gore Davis, Sammy’s Widow, Dies
The third wife and widow of Rat Packer Sammy Davis, Jr., Altovise Joanne Gore was a dancer, singer, and actress in her own right when she married Davis in 1968. Altovise was 25; he was twenty years older. The Reverend Jesse Jackson officiated at their wedding. They had met during the Broadway runs of two separate musicals, Golden Boy for him, High Spirits for her.
Some people cracked wise that Sammy was “coming back to black” when he married Altovise; he had preferred and wanted to marry actress Kim Novak, and he had married Mai Britt. Both were white actresses; his liaisons with them had given his career–and theirs–a beating. Davis, however, wasn’t the kind of man to keep one hand tied behind his back. He was married and was intimate with Lola Falana about the same time that he was getting to know Altovise.
Upon her marriage, Ms. Davis became semi-retired, becoming active in charities. She made sporadic appearances on TV shows like Charlie’s Angels and particularly in the 1980 film, Can’t Stop the Music.
When Sammy Davis died in 1990 from throat cancer, he was in debt to the IRS to the tune of $7 million dollars. Ms. Davis barely kept her head above water. Tabloids alleged that during this time, Altovise swalllowed pills and alcohol in a suicide attempt that was foiled by a bodyguard. Valuable memorabilia and jewels were auctioned, and their Holmby Hills mansion was sold. It is also said that Frank Sinatra stepped in to help the widow of his old friend, and she became debt-free by 1997.
That wasn’t the last of Altovise’s problems. She battled alcoholism, and later checked into rehab in 2004. However, in 2006, she rallied to co-produce “Mr. Bojangles: The Ultimate Entertainer,” a show that toured throughout the country.
In a troubling development, in January 2008 the CBC reported that Ms. Davis was suing two former business partners, Barrett LaRoda and Anthony Francis, claiming that she was rooked into giving up the intellectual rights to her late husband’s estate, for one-third of the profits from Sammy Davis, Jr. Enterprises, Inc. She contended that LaRoda and Francis had exaggerated their credentials and hidden financial records from her. Further, according to MSNBC:
Things came to a head, according to the lawsuit, during negotiations with a studio that wanted to make a biopic about Davis. The movie was to be partly based on two books — “Yes I Can” and “Why Me?” — that Davis wrote with the help of friends Judy and Burt Boyar. Altovise Davis and the Boyars held copyright interest in the books.
[…] LaRoda and Francis killed the movie negotiations by demanding a “substantial” fee and credit as executive producers.
The Boyars company, Dallas-based Boyar Investments LLC, joined Altovise Davis in suing the men. The lawsuit was filed last month in state court but was moved to federal court in Dallas because of copyright issues.
In an e-mail to The Associated Press, LaRoda said he was trying only to get Mrs. Davis more money from the movie. Davis is “like a mother to me” but is being manipulated by Burt Boyar, LaRoda said.
Uhuh, right. It’s sad that this kind of thing had to permeate the last months of Altovise Davis’ life, with all her memories of those dark days after Sammy died. Control over one’s life and work is sometimes the only thing an entertainer and his family has to help pay for a comfortable old age, or to will to descendants.
The case was still pending at the time of Ms. Davis’ death.
Altovise Davis died from the effects of a stroke at Cedars-Sinai Hospital. She was 65. She is survived by her adopted son with Davis, Manny.
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