In 1957, before the Cult of Political Correctness took hold, Harry Cohn, tyrannical head of Columbia Pictures, used decisive action to head off a major scandal at his studio. Kim Novak, Columbia’s biggest star was found to be having a series of trysts with Sammy Davis Jr. Immediately upon hearing the news, Cohn flew from New York back to LA. Cohn was so upset, he suffered two mild heart attacks en route.
Back in LA, Harry Cohn made use of his contacts in the Jewish Mafia–probably the top guy himself, Mickey Cohen–and a delegation went to see Davis personally. He was told to cease and desist. To illustrate the point, his drawers were dropped, barbed wire place around privates and he was the asked how hard should they yank. Davis got the point and the affair was over.
Later, on the golf course with Jack Benny, Davis was asked what his handicap was. Sammy replied: “I’m a one-eyed Negro Jew.”
A head-liner at the Frontier Hotel in Vegas, Davis was not allowed to stay in the casino. Arrangements were made for him to stay at a rooming house on the west side of Las Vegas. He had no dressing room and he had to wait by the swimming pool between acts. Nor was he allowed in the bar or on the casino floor. Nevada’s conservative Democratic congressman called himself a ‘States Rights Democrats’ and UNLV’s sports teams were nick-named ‘the Runnin’ Rebels’, rebel in the Southern sense.
Such was the tenor of the times.
And Harry Cohn? In 1958, re-reading clippings from the scandal, he had had another heart attack and died.