Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Rat Pack Rarity: Sammy Davis Jr.’s 10 Commandments Money Clip

Feb. 17, 2009
Posted by Noah

We’re coming up on this weekend’s Music & Entertainment Auction, Feb. 21-22, which I’ve pointed to in other posts about Chet Atkins’ guitars and the amazing Eddie Kovacs and Edie Adams Archive in the auction. I like to spend a bit of time going through each catalog when it comes online, and this was no different. It’s no stretch the say that the M&E auction is deep, and features many a tasty treat for most any level of collector, but as I did last week with “The Reign of Superman” in the Comics auction, I wanted to point out a particularly special and intriguing lot in this weekend’s M&E festivities: Sammy Davis Jr.’s Ten Commandments money clip, lot 49053.

From the catalog description:

“An ornate 14k gold money clip featuring a Star of David over a menorah, with a total of eight settings of small diamonds, mounted over a pair of scrolls representing the Torah. The scrolls open on hinges to reveal the Ten Commandments underneath. The back side of the clip is engraved: "To -- Sammy Davis Jr. Good Luck Always/Jack Entratter/1957."

As you can see for yourself in the picture above, it’s a gorgeous piece of jewelry and a superb piece of Judaica, but wait! That’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as this thing goes. If I had somewhere between $6,000 and $12,000 I would go to town on this thing. It’s got the aforementioned gold and Jewish angle – Sammy converted to Judaism in 1954, after the car crash that left him with one eye – but more important is its connection to Davis himself, the Rat Pack in Vegas in the 1950s and 1960s and the various characters who populated the city in those crucial few decades. Most notably the man who gave the clip to Davis, Jack Entratter.

Entratter was a notorious Vegas booster and philanthropist, with decided mob ties, who ran The Sands Resort. He was and is a towering figure in the history of the town. It is also the stuff of Hollywood legend that he was able to “persuade” Columbia Studios honcho Harry Cohn to cast Frank Sinatra in From Here to Eternity, for which ol’ Frankie won an Oscar. Think Don Corleone, Johnny Fontaine and Producer Jack Woltz from The Godfather and you know just what I’m talking about. You factor in the Entratter connection, the Rat Pack Connection and the Mid-Century Vegas connections and you’re about one degree away from every single entertainer of the Golden Age of both Hollywood and Vegas.

It does also need to be said that the Sammy Davis, Jr. memorabilia in this auction is pretty amazing stuff, including one of his beloved cameras – the man was an accomplished photographer – though not much of it touches on the role he was most proud of: Civil Rights Crusader. Davis was almost singularly responsible for helping America integrate its club and theater policies regarding integration in the racially charged 1960s. Who would think twice of seeing Davis, were he still alive, playing an all white room these days? This money clip, for my bet, is the sleeper of the auction.