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Deconstructing Sammy

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3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  146 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
Equal parts cultural history, celebrity biography, and brilliant investigative journalism, Deconstructing Sammy by Matt Birkbeck is a behind-the-scenes look at the disastrous fall of one of the brightest stars of Hollywood and Las Vegas: Sammy Davis, Jr. A member of the infamous Rat Pack, a compatriot of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and one of the most popular performers ...more
Audio, Abridged
Published September 16th 2008 by HarperAudio
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Community Reviews

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Lynell Baker
Jul 03, 2010 Lynell Baker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: SDJ Fans
I admit I was taken for a loop with the continuing saga of Sonny Murray and the Hillside Resort but quickly grasped to the importance of the mention in this gripping tale of the 'Altovise Davis Syndrome' so to speak. Many emotions arise inside me enduring the fact of my love and admiration for Sammy Davis but also now coping with the reality of this man's actual life and history. This book allows many informative facts and statistical references which keep me asking this question: "Why Sammy, wh ...more
Jim
Jan 07, 2009 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting read. The take-aways:

-Pay your taxes
-Avoid working with the mob
-NEVER hug an unpopular republican president
-Partake of cocaine, booze, and loose women in MODERATION
-If you ever become an international star, make sure you own the rights to your work
Sharon
May 28, 2010 Sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book. Sad what fame can do to people.
Dixie Theriault
Sep 16, 2009 Dixie Theriault rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was eager to read this book. I find that one of the most fascinating facts of our celebrity culture has always been their ability to continue earning long after they have left us.
They cease to be individuals and in fact, become corporations and icons, their names and likenesses a logo, with every part of their existence licensed and trademarked.

According to Forbes, Elvis Presley was the top earner in 2008 for the 2nd year in a row, pulling in an impressive $52 million dollars...(which is incid
...more
Christine (booktumbling)
Deconstructing Sammy: Music, Money, and Madness is not an actual biography in the traditional sense. Author Matt Birkbeck shares the stories and memories of those that were closest to the iconic entertainer as well as the findings of Sonny Murray, whose investigation into Sammy’s debts encompasses the bulk of the book. This is not a glamorous portrait of a man who was, and still is, a loved entertainer. This is a look at a man who wanted fame and fortune at almost all costs. He spent without res ...more
GoldGato
Jan 17, 2012 GoldGato rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whoa. Talk about finding out more than you wanted to know via a biography...at least more than you could possibly imagine. Unlike many celebrity bios, this well-researched book doesn't sell sensationalism. That's because it doesn't need to, as Sammy Davis Jr.'s life wasn't something that could even be expanded any further. After reading this book, I promptly found a yellow pages (thought they were obsolete) and started scouring for tax attorneys, even though I don't have any tax issues. If nothi ...more
Richard
Jan 05, 2009 Richard rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a decent book if you're at all interested in Sammy Davis, Jr. and the Rat Pack. Contrary to the title, the book's main character in this non-fiction story is not SDJ, but the lawyer Sonny Murray, who tried to sort out the estate of SDJ after his death for his beleaguered widow Altovise (who besides being an alcoholic Hollywood wife basket case was also an ingrate) and salvage his legacy of one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th Century. It's a pretty sad story. Sammy blew millions ...more
Linda
Jan 19, 2013 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating story of a lawyer who represented Davis's wife in regaining control of Sammy's estate after his death. This story unravels all the intricacies and problems that the Davis's complete mismanagement of their lives caused with the IRS, family members, and life-time friends. This is a sad commentary on the racial double standard that existed in the entertainment industry throughout Sammy's life. The private Sammy Davis, Jr. was a far different person from the one whom the publicists portr ...more
Melissa
This book focuses on the trials and tribulations that Sammy's family and his estate faced following his death. Although Birkbeck does not provide a thorough biography of Davis, he provides insightful Davis anecdotes and paints an intimate portrait of Altovise Davis, his wife.
Tonya
Oct 05, 2009 Tonya rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm reading the ebook version of this book. The writing is informative and succinct enough to keep you interested in completing the book even though the story of Sammy and Altovise Davis is pretty sad and, yes, frustrating. It seems as if these people never learned from mistakes.
Kay
Mar 22, 2010 Kay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredible talent, sad story.
Frances
Dec 19, 2014 Frances rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So much talent and yet life is so difficult for some of these people. The book is a lesson for up and coming stars to make sure they have the right people around them.
Karen
Feb 20, 2017 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was in the $2.99 and under category on B&N's website. I was mildly interested in reading a biography on Sammy Davis, Jr., and with it being such a low price, I decided to first download a sample. The sample was 44 pages long and I told myself I would just read the sample. However, I was hooked on the book and it took me only 2 days to complete . It's a very sad story of exploitation, extortion, ignorance and the squandering of a great entertainer's talent and legacy.
Straker
Quick read, reasonably entertaining. Sammy was always known as a man who lived beyond his means so nothing here is really a revelation.
Glen Hannah
I was very keen to read a biography of entertainer Sammy Davis Jr after taking a renewed interest in his music and career and this book just happened to come along. However, Deconstructing Sammy isn't a conventional biography. It approaches its subject from a certain angle in that it focuses on the events after his death.
You see, Sammy died leaving an estate in utter turmoil. He owed the IRS so much in back taxes that they owned his name. His wife was an alcoholic who struggled to keep her life
...more
Patrick
A book about the estate of Sammy Davis, Jr. I had heard about this book since is was published, around 2008 or so. I was intrigued by the lurid stories. I came across it at a used bookstore and picked it up.

It is poorly written, but interesting in spite of itself. It's also very sad, a glimpse into the universe that exists to make money off of stars. Not the star making machinery, but all the vultures that you know are out there but don't know much about, or at least I didn't.

Sammy's financial l
...more
Rochonne
Sep 15, 2010 Rochonne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Deconstructing Sammy by Matt Birkbeck provided me with an inside view of Sammy Davis Jr.'s life. From the first page this would not be a light, fun-filled, flattering book. By chapter two, my jaw continued to drop right to the end of the book. I could not believe that this "Mega" entertainer died broke, making me often times confused who he really was and why he allowed so many "users" to be in his entourage. But I had to remember not everyone in your entrourage is your friend which was a mistak ...more
Steve
Oct 01, 2008 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Funny title; it refers to a more literal story of the deconstruction of Sammy's life in a real sense than a metaphorical one. Sammy made a mess of his emotional and financial life, and it deteriorated after he died. Due to tax and family problems control of his meager estate and more substantial legacy was contested forever and essentially squandered. Pretty fascinating, if pretty grim, story.

One thing that's notable about this book is the poor copyediting, expecially from a name publisher like
...more
Maame
Apr 12, 2016 Maame rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow....Wow....As I was reading this book that is all I could say. It is definitely a lot to take in. It took me a little longer to read because it started off a little slow but as I kept reading I couldn't put the book down. It got better. I have a lot of respect for Sonny allowing Matt Birkbeck to have him share his story about his investment in resuscitating Sammy Davis Jr's legacy. It is truly one of the most controversial legacy's and estates to date. Overall this book was very educational a ...more
Ron Day
Sep 04, 2008 Ron Day rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredibly compelling, shocking and tragic story, and one that I never expected. This is NOT a Sammy Davis Jr biography. It's a very well written, page turner that focuses on his affairs after his death, ostensibly the efforts to resolve his estate (he died $50 million in debt!) and restore his legacy, which apparently went down the tubes. All the while the author, Matt Birkbeck, takes us back in time to see Sammy in so many different situations. Some are highly entertaining, some sad, some d ...more
Nina Norstrom
Oct 14, 2015 Nina Norstrom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book brings you into the life of Sammy. And its title fits the journey. I was so surprised to discover the deconstructing life that was led by Sammy. It was a bit depressing as well to read all that occurred during and after the life of this artist. I would have loved it, thou, if the author dove a little deeper into this artist’s biography. Personally, I was looking to read more about his accident among other things; but it just wasn’t there. Now, for those that are Sammy Davis, Jr.fans, y ...more
Walter
Mar 19, 2009 Walter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A devastating portrait of a show business legend and icon. It was hard to read this strong portrait as it totally laid bare a lifelong hero of mine. Yet, I couldn't put it down because it is a story well told. I can quibble a little with it - for example, my guess is that, due to the fact that Sammy's wife Altovise is still living, the author is very obtuse in certain spots and his implication isn't necessarily clear (as there are several possible options). Otherwise, though, I recommend it high ...more
Rhi
Jun 30, 2012 Rhi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up as it was on sale, I had no real interest in reading it otherwise, however I'm very glad I did.
Sometimes biographies can be boring and written so matter of fact that its hard to get through.
This book is not like that at all, it's written so well and flows so smoothly its easy to forget your reading a biography.
Reading about Sammy's life I had empathy for all those involved and afterwards found myself with a sense of knowledge and respect mixed with pity for him. I enjoyed t
...more
Daniel Ziegelbauer
This was a well researched and presented body of work on a natural born and disciplined entertainer. One of the best despite a vulnerability if not indifferent attitude towards basic standards of a responsible lifestyle and perhaps judgement. A lifetime of lessons for the reader as well as a very enjoyable read of this often overlooked member of the Rat Pack who gave so much to his fellow entertainers, friends and his audience that will always overshadow any faults which live in us all.
Jack
Feb 15, 2010 Jack rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As others have said, less a dissection of the late Sammy Davis' troubled final decade, than a dry recitation of events involving an attorney's efforts to salvage Mr. Davis' ruined estate.

As a forensic procedural, it's an involving read. Those looking for an examination of Mr. Davis' life and career should go elsewhere.
Andy
Jun 15, 2008 Andy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Very entertaining. Not really a bio of Sammy but more a history of what happened to his money and the effect it had on the people around him. Not as shocking as I thought it was going to be but still interesting. Also interesting is the continuing hulabaloo going on concerning the lost cash and the rights to his name.
Malkan78
Nov 13, 2009 Malkan78 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thought it was put together well and gave some insight into the dynamic of SDJ. I always wondered why you hear so much about Sinatra and Dean, but not so much of Sammy. With an estate in disrepair it all makes more sense.
Peter
Jan 12, 2010 Peter rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The beginning is definitively very slow...
Nklsweets
Jul 12, 2011 Nklsweets rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
I was a little disappointed in this book. I thought it would be more about Sammy Davis Jr. and his life but it was more focused on his financial troubles and how his estate was left after his death.
Chris Greene
May 16, 2010 Chris Greene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A cautionary tale to anyone in the arts.
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Matt Birkbeck is an award-winning investigative journalist and critically acclaimed author. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Reader's Digest, Boston Magazine and the Philadelphia Inquirer. He is the author of "The Quiet Don," the best-selling book on Mafia boss Russell Bufalino. He also authored
"Deconstructing Sammy," the 2008 page-turner on the life and death of Sammy
...more
More about Matt Birkbeck...

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