Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Sammy Davis Jr. a hit in hotpants and songs

Cleveland Press July 6, 1971

Sammy Davis Jr. opened last night at Musicarnival in black hotpants, stockings (panty hose?), gray boots with patent leather toes, and flowing yellow shirt with billowing sleeves, ruffled collar and open front.

Sammy Davis Jr., it should be noted, is an entertainer who needs no gimmicks and as soon as he started belting out songs the costume was forgotten -- well, almost.

So pardon the fashion note, but you can hardly ignore an outfit like that, one that he obviously is wearing for laughs.

He is the second half of the show, coming on at 9:45 p.m. and not going off until about 11:05 and working hard in between. His is a non-stop sort of performance and you wonder whether he'll make it -- neither the extensive activity nor the ever-present cigarette being conducive to long distance running without faltering.

DAVIS IS A PRO, However, with a distinctive song style. He did the favorites that his audience expected, opening big with "Once in a Lifetime," "Impossible Dream," "Didn't We" and "What Kind of Fool Am I?" He closed with one of his openers but it was the number just before that which stopped the show.

At 11 p.m. he revived a song not heard much anymore and which few singers can do as well -- "The Birth of the Blues." It was one of those wild, perfect show business moments with Davis doing everything right and then some, and with the Musicarnival orchestra brass never sounding better. The standing ovation was spontaneous and utterly genuine.

The singer also is a onetime hoofer and includes a dance step or two in most of his numbers and more than a couple in "Mister Bojangles" where they couldn't be better.

IN BETWEEN numbers he quips with his audience - referring frequently to his Jewishness ("I've been Jewish for 15 years") and his blackness ("I've been black for five years, before that I was colored") and even manages to mention his one eye in a song Iyric. He takes a bourbon break part way through the show and encourages the photographers in the audience to shoot away, even posing for them occasionally.

With all he's got going for him, does he really need hot pants?

The first half of the show is not really needed. This consists of a girl singer, Blinky Williams, and a comic, Timmie Rogers. Miss Williams sings with a horse voice that she directs right into the microphone for the loudest possible effect. She was on fairly safe ground with a gospel song but when she went into a medley of Billie Holliday songs she was beyond her depth.

ROGERS IS a good enough comic who would be better if he got off sooner. He did several minutes of Sammy Davis jokes, several homosexual jokes and then launched into inflation and taxes. Several times he seemed to be finished, but he came back. He came back three times too many.

The entire show, good parts and bad, are beautifully backed by the arrangements of conductor George Rhodes.