Sammy Davis socks it to 'em
HANAU, Germany — It was pure soul.
The show could have taken place in a swanky Las Vegas nightclub, a night spot in New York or in one of the clubs in a plush Miami Beach hotel. But it was Fliegerhorst Casern gymnasium here Monday night.
And it was Sammy Davis Jr.
"You're gonna look, and you re gonna take pictures, 'cause this is me."
The big-band sound blasted through the gym as Davis socked it to 5,500 soldiers in uniform. He belted out soul, pop, rock and blues. He played drums and the vibes. He tap-danced and gave impersonations for the roaring crowd, putting on a two-and-a-half-hour show.
"Man, nobody should work this hard," he said, wiping his perspiring forehead.
But Davis was working that hard and doing it for nothing.
"I asked if I could do this show for my American brothers," he said. "When I was in service, I always wondered why there weren't any colored performers. I'd ask myself. 'Don't my people care about us?'
"I couldn't go into another country knowing that some of my brothers are here without trying to do something for them.
"I wanted to give the exact same show that 10,000 people saw in Berlin. It was a gas."
Davis brought with him singers Lola Falana and John Bisett and the Lester Wilson dancers.
Miss Falana — sultry, slinky, sexy and pure soul — has been working with Davis for the past five years.
"I've been trying to teach Lola all the things I learned in vaudeville and through the years," Davis said. "She's very good."
She certainly was. She glided on stage with a sexy grace that kept the audience hanging on each note and each swing of her hips.
When she left the stage, Davis said, "Now that's black power."
Bisett, a blues singer, sang the "down-home beat." An Augusta, Ga., native, he sang the blues like grits and fatback. ''I sing the blues the way I feel 'em today — now."
The Lester Wilson dancers performed a dance that looked like a combination of bugaloo and ballet. The girls snaked and writhed between delicate spins and graceful glides.
Davis returned to the stage with a cowboy hat and a six-gun. He demonstrated a few fast-draw tricks and some fancy spinning.
"I was the first black cat that ever got on a horse on American TV," he said.
In the last half-hour, Davis jumped from the mike to a drum solo to the vibes, to tap-dancing. During his final song, all 5,500 people were on their feet clapping. When Davis finished there was an ear-splitting roar of appreciation.
Later, Davis said, "To quote an old cliche, 'It is our country right or wrong.' I don't believe in war or violence of any kind. Our country isn't straight yet, but after traveling around the world, I found that it is the best we've got.
"In the service, a black man has a better chance than he does in civilian life. It ain't straight yet either, but it has made giant strides."