||Tracey tells of her strained relationship with her famous father and their reconciliation in her forthcoming book.
Tracey Davis, daughter of Sammy Davis Jr and his second wife, Swedish actress May Britt, was born to controversy. Such was the level of prejudice in America, her parents wedding was delayed because their multi-racial marriage might endanger the election of John F Kennedy, for whom Sammy campaigned. Later, they were attacked by neo-Natzis in America and England.
The couple split up when Tracey was eight years old and she bitterly resented his virtual abscence from her life. But as she reveals in her book Sammy Davis Jr: My Father , after a dynamic confrontation, she healed their long standing rift in 1986 and he lived to meet his namesake, Traceys firstborn, before dying from throat cancer in 1990.
Now 35, Tracey is the first of Sammys children to speak publicly since his death. She lives near Los Angeles with her husband of ten years, Guy Garner, 37 year old Sam and daughter Montana, two. She is close to her mother, who lives nearby with husband Leonard Rinquist, a film executive. Also nearby are Traceys brothers, Mark 37, and Jeff 30, who were adopted as babies by Sammy and May.
Tracey, what made your relationship with your father so painful?
I didnt feel like my father gave a damn. I know he did, but it was like:Put your money where your mouth is. Come home, spend time with us, get to know us. And that he didnt do.
What are your early memories of him?
I have good memories of him, but not as a father. I think of me, my brothers and my mom being all together, and my Dad is a kind of transient. I longed for him to be a plumber so I could come home and say: Hey Dad, heres what happened today. Thats what I wanted as a kid.
Hows your relationship with your mother?
Its great. My Mom is a saint because shes the one who kept the lines of communication open. If she hadnt, I dont think I could have put my relationship with my father back together.
On what occasions did you see your father?
We went on trips with Dad, but he was working. Hed be up all night and asleep all day. We couldnt really go out with him because people would mob us. When we did go out, I felt that I was a phot opportunity. It was like: Oh look at our happy family, arent we wonderful ? Our relationship was superficial. He was more an acquaintance than a father.
Was writing the book a way of getting even?
I didnt want to be petty, but I had to be honest. I did get very angry with him at times. I remember one time screaming: If you didnt want us, why did you have us? He did want us, but he had no idea what being a father entails. He was never a kid himself - he started working at the age of three - so he didnt understand children. His dad was a good dad, but not in a traditional way. So for him to sit down and try to relate to his children wasnt going to happen.
How were you reconciled?
When I was 26, I went to see him and said: I love you but Ive never really liked you. The minute I said it, all my anger was gone because Id finally got to speak to him on my terms. Then, for the first time, he telephoned me. We started talking, chit-chatting. If we hadnt, I couldnt have sat with him all those days when he was dying. I consider it a gift from Dad that we became such good friends. His friendship is the best thing I ever got from him.
Personality-wise, were you much alike?
Heck, yeah. Both stubborn, both pig-headed, both wanting our own way. And both tough, but goofy with a good sense of humour. And a good heart, crying at the drop of a hat. I admire the way that if he wanted something he damn well would get it-his determination and his drive.
Your son Sam was born just three weeks before your fathers death?
Yes. The doctors sat me down and told me Dad wouldnt live to see him. And Dad said: Im not going anywhere till I see my grandson!.
Why did you attempt suicide after he died?
All through my pregnancy my dad was dying. I was exhausted and emotionally drained. After he died, I was terrified something would happen to my mother and Id be left alone. I wasnt working. I was a new mom and then Guy left me - all within a year. I just couldnt cope.
When Guy told me he didnt love me anymore, I just thought: Thats it, I dont want to live. WEd been married four years and had lived together for seven. One night I grabbed a knife and started to slit my wrists. As I did I heard my dad scream out: No! Dont do it! Id been looking for a sign and just when I needed it most, I heard him. I thought: What am I doing? Ive got a son! Ive got a life! And I put the knife away.
The next day I called Guy and said: Im losing my mind and Im very scared. I wiped my eyes on my sweatshirt and smelled Aramis-which my dad always used to wear. I thought I must be ready for the looney bin! From that time on, though, I got my strength back. Ive never felt that way since.
How long were you separated from Guy?
About a year. It was tough. I dont know how I got through it. I felt her close to the edge.
How did your dads drug abuse affect you?
It didnt. I know he did drugs but he never did them in front of us. He told me that he was into cocaine. I think he did it out of boredom. He did it to experiment, not because he was depressed.
What memories do you have of him with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin?
They were like they were on stage, a bunch of clowns. If I had a toy laying around, Id have to fight to get them off it. They were having fun and they happened to be great entertainers. What could be better than to do what you love the most, be the best in the world at it and have your best pals hanging out with you.
It was Frank who said: Hey you doin drugs, get out of here! I dont want to have anything to do with you. I think that it probably saved dads life. I dont think he would have overdosed, but I think Frank made him examine what he was doing.
He and Frank later reconciled, but did the various Rat Pack tifs upset Sammy?
I think so, and I think he was really mad at Frank for cutting him off. But I also think he later realised that Frank was doing it as a pal.
Didnt you ever want a career in showbusiness?
No, I was too much of a coward. I didnt think I could take the ridicule if I wasnt good enough. Now I dont care. I promised dad on his deathbed id get up the courage and do it right. Im a good singer-if my dad wasnt Sammy Davis Jr, Id say i was great. But I dont need to go down that road. Im very happy to be working with Quincy Jones producing my dads life story for Broadway. I also have a great job in production and work on a TV show. But Id definitely be willing to get infront of the camera know-if theyd have me...