The Rat Pack‘s bond was just as strong off the screen as it was on.
Dean Martin was invited to attend the 1961 inauguration of John F. Kennedy; however, not all members of the famed entertainment quintette were asked to come, director Tom Donahue and Martin’s daughter Deana Martin told Fox News.
Sammy Davis Jr. wasn’t invited because he had just married the white Swedish actress May Britt just a year prior, the pair explained, and JFK was worried at the time that the interracial couple’s presence on the big day would upset Southerners.
However, when the “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” singer heard the news that Davis would not be at the inauguration, he had a strong reaction.
“Sammy Davis Jr. helped to get JFK elected and then JFK and his campaign decided to pay Sammy back by not allowing him to go to the inauguration because he was part of an interracial marriage,” Donahue said.
The filmmaker continued: “It was Dean Martin who stood up for his friend and said, ‘I’m not going to be part of the inauguration if Sammy isn’t going.’ That really impressed me. He had a sense of honor. The more I got to know Dean Martin the man, the more I grew to truly love and admire him.”
Deana, 73, chimed in that her father was “just astounded” when he heard the news. “He was my uncle Sammy,” she said.
“He came to our house. He was family. So it was pretty remarkable. My dad was going to take a stand because it was the right thing to do. It didn’t matter what JFK or anyone else was going to think of him,” she added. “This is Sammy Davis Jr. and that was his friend. And for family to not be invited for those reasons made my father very upset. He just said, ‘It’s not right. I’m not going.’ And that was it. He wouldn’t think about it anymore.”
The documentary will take an in-depth look into Martin’s career, death and being a family man to his eight kids — Craig, Dean, Ricci, Gina, Claudia, Gail, Deana and Sasha.
“Dean Martin: King of Cool” debuts Nov. 19 at 8 p.m. on TCM.
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