No ifs or
buts about it, Sammy Davis Jr. was simply the greatest entertainer ever. He
could do it all, and did, starting at the age of 3, until his death in 1990 at the
age of 64 – sing, dance, act, comedy, a master impressionist, played several musical instruments, and was literally one of fastest gun draws ever recorded.
And that’s on top of his countless appearances on concert stages around the
world, as well as on Broadway, in Las Vegas, in features films and TV shows. He was one singular
But like so
many famous people, he also had his share of controversies, such as his conversion to Judaism in 1954, after a near fatal accident (in which he lost an
eye), and his marriage in 1960 to the very white and very blonde Swedish actress
Mai Britt, after a secret torrid affair with actress Kim Novak.
There was his
membership in the swinging group of hard drinking hedonistic entertainers, along
with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, known as The Rat Pack; as well as his legendary hard
partying, his out of control spending (someone once said that Davis was the
only performer in Vegas to do a three week stint at the Sands in Vegas for
$250,000 a week, and yet leave town after the gig, $100,000 in the hole), his battles
with drugs, his involvement with Satanism, his support – and that infamous hug – of
Whoa! Wait a minute…what did I say? Sammy was
a Satanist? Yes I did.
making that up. Davis was a card carrying member of the Church of Satan, founded
by the notorious occultist, musician, Satanist and evil-eyed, bald-headed beast ,Anton LeVay (He was a regular on late night syndicated talk shows back during
the 60’s and 70’s). Davis had been dabbling in Satanism for some time, and, in
1973, officially became a member of the Church, as well as a close friend of LeVay and
his associate and senior member of the Church, Michael Aquino.
was involved in all the trappings of the Church, including satanic rites and rituals, and even orgies (on second thought, where
do I sign up?). There was even, at the time, unsubstantiated rumors that the Church
was actually involved in human sacrifices; but like I said those are rumors. And it’s only fair to say that Davis
was far from being the only Hollywood celebrity to be involved with Satanism – then
the general public didn’t know about his involvement, it was pretty much an open
secret, and Davis never really tried to make any effort to hide his association
with the Church or LeVay. There are even several pictures of both of them
together (Just Google their names to see them). And, believe it or not, in 1974, Davis recorded an album called, “Satan Swings Baby,” with him singing his own versions
of devil-themed songs, such as the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil,” and he even did a duet with LeVay on the song “Devil in Disguise,” with LeVay playing
the organ on the track as well.
So all this
leads up to what was considered one of the worst TV movies ever made, “Poor Devil” for the ABC Network, starring Davis,
who is basically playing himself, as a lowly
worker in hell, working in the furnace room, shoveling coal, who wants to move up
the ladder. His boss, Lucifer (in what must be perfect casting, played by
Christopher Lee), makes a deal with Davis that he can get a promotion if he can
convince a schlubby accountant played jack Klugman), to sell his soul.
In fact. “Poor Devil” was conceived as a potential pilot for a possible regular TV series
starring Davis, on which, every week, he would try to convince some poor victim
to sell their soul, and of course, failing at the last minute. With a premise
like that, it’s no wonder that the TV movie was a complete flop, and, after one
broadcast of “Poor Devil,” the network dropped the idea.
the TV movie was made and broadcast the same year that Davis joined the Church of
Satan in 1973. Whether one had something to do with the other, is left up to
anyone’s interpretation. Was it a secret plan by the Church and network execs to
subvert the minds of TV viewers, and embrace the
Prince of Darkness, Beelzebub himself?
The show though has lived on, developing a small cult following by those who love really bad TV shows. And now,
if your curiosity is piqued, you have a chance to watch the entire
75 minute movie, embedded below. Though I must warn you that it’s not of great quality – obviously a bad dub from some old video copy of the film).
As for Davis
and the Church (which is still very much active today), he eventually got
tired of it, and left it altogether, and moved on, considering it as some
experimental phase he was going through. But, at least, we have “Poor Devil” to
thank for it.