BY SAM KASHNER
Henri Soulé, the owner of Le Pavillon and La Côte Basque in New York, detested Cohn and considered him a déclassé Hollywood hood. At the time, Le Pavillon was one of the most famous restaurants in the world: Through its doors, at 5 East 55th Street, came the Vanderbilts, the Rockefellers, the Cabots, and the Windsors. When Cohn came in, however, the imperious Soulé seated him at the back, near the kitchen. Unfortunately for Soulé, Columbia owned the building, and Cohn retaliated by raising Le Pavilion’s rent.
With the Boyars, Davis ventured into New York establishments that had previously been closed to him. “Sammy said to me very tentatively, ‘When are you going to take me to El Morocco?’ I used to go there every night as part of my rounds, and I said, ‘Let’s go now.’” But when the Boyars strode into El Morocco with Davis they were surprised to find themselves led past the dance floor and the banquettes and seated on the wrong side of the room. “John Perona, the owner, was in the kitchen, staring out through the window of the swinging door, just staring at Sammy and the idea of this black man in his place. Every hooker was there, as was Bob Harrison, who published Confidential and was really just a pornographer. But Sammy Davis Jr. threw him completely. The great thing, though, was that the minute Sammy walked in, the orchestra began flirting with him, playing ‘Hey There,’ which was his first hit, and every song from Mr. Wonderful.”
Sinatra, in fact, wouldn’t let Davis miss his scheduled performances at the Sands to go see Novak, who was back home in Aurora, a suburb of Chicago, visiting her family for Christmas. Sinatra loved Davis and worshiped his talent; he had helped put his career back on track after the car crash. But there was always an undercurrent of indebtedness in their relationship. Sinatra would give him a part in the 1960 movie Ocean’s Eleven and pay him $100,000 for a few days’ work, but to earn his salary Davis had to play a singing garbageman. Could it be that Sinatra was sore over Davis’s dalliances with his former wife Ava Gardner? The Rat Pack camaraderie was overrated anyhow. “It was all kisses and hugs and it didn’t mean rat shit,” remembers Tony Curtis. “It was just the nature of the profession.”VANITY FAIR