View Poll Results: Billy C as Sammy D: racist or not?
Yes, it was in poor taste 5 2.91%
I wasn't offended but understand why some might be 18 10.47%
No, it wasn't racist 113 65.70%
Sammy Davis, Jr., has been dead more than 20 years- get some new material 36 20.93%
Voters: 172. You may not vote on this poll

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 02-27-2012, 09:46 PM
Sampiro is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 36,260

Billy Crystal as Sammy Davis, Jr.: Offensive or No?


Apparently many were offended enough to stand up and... tweet... when Billy Crystal dusted off his Sammy Davis, Jr. impression at the Oscars last night. It was referred to as black face and mistrel show flashback and other such things in various blog entries and tweets. Hollywood Reporter article.

I remember when it was a standard part of his SNL days, and IIRC he even performed it with Sammy Davis, Jr., back in the 1980s (along with Muhammad Ali). He's even done it at the Oscars before (when he impersonated Sammy D. interspliced with the "do you wanna go to a real party?" scene of Titanic). Personally it didn't even occur to me to consider it racist, though I did think:

1. Man, he's gotten a lot fuller in the face since the last time he did Sammy.

2. I wonder if Justin Bieber has any clue who Sammy Davis, Jr., was. (He died before Bieber was born.)

3. Was Neil Patrick Harris unavailable or too expensive?

4. At least he's not doing "ancient Jewish guy stock character 7" (which of course he later did)

And this from somebody who's still p.o.d at Crystal's portrayal of homosexuals in SOAP. (I dont' have a beef with Crystal- he was an actor looking for a break and it was a paying gig- and I liked the show itself- but it was a nadir for gay visibility on TV to conflate them with transvestites and transsexuals and then show that they can become straight if they really want to.)

So, do you think it was racist? Poll or comment, whichevah, you're old enough to choose...

Last edited by Sampiro; 02-27-2012 at 09:48 PM.
  #2  
Old 02-27-2012, 09:51 PM
bienville is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 6,027
A Sammy impression is a Sammy impression. It's not an impression of "Black People". The make-up is just make-up for the part- "Black Face" is about more than just the make-up. Nothing black face or minstrel about it, baby.

Last edited by bienville; 02-27-2012 at 09:52 PM. Reason: added "baby" in honor of Sammy.
  #3  
Old 02-27-2012, 09:55 PM
Sampiro is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 36,260
Quote:
Originally Posted by bienville View Post
A Sammy impression is a Sammy impression. It's not an impression of "Black People". The make-up is just make-up for the part- "Black Face" is about more than just the make-up. Nothing black face or minstrel about it, baby.
It would actually have seemed rather silly if he hadn't darkened his face a bit. Plus he didn't go full on Sammy dark. (Billy v. Sammy)
  #4  
Old 02-27-2012, 11:08 PM
Enderw24 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: KC. MO -094 35.3 39 4.9
Posts: 10,604
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sampiro View Post
It would actually have seemed rather silly if he hadn't darkened his face a bit. Plus he didn't go full on Sammy dark. (Billy v. Sammy)
You went full dark, man. Never go full dark. You don't buy that? Ask Ted Danson "I Am Whoopi." Remember? Went full dark, went home empty handed...
  #5  
Old 02-27-2012, 11:10 PM
Gary T is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: KCMO
Posts: 11,404
Quote:
Originally Posted by bienville View Post
A Sammy impression is a Sammy impression. It's not an impression of "Black People". The make-up is just make-up for the part- "Black Face" is about more than just the make-up. Nothing black face or minstrel about it, baby.
X2. Just because something has a racial component doesn't mean it's necessarily racist.
  #6  
Old 02-27-2012, 11:11 PM
aceplace57 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: CentralArkansas
Posts: 26,654
Billy has been doing Sammy for over thirty years. IIRC their was even a moment on Sat Night Live when he and Sammy appeared together. I wouldn't swear to my memory because Sammy guested on so much stuff its hard to recall for sure.
  #7  
Old 02-27-2012, 11:21 PM
bienville is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 6,027
Was it Sammy or Billy who kissed Archie Bunker on the mouth?
  #8  
Old 02-27-2012, 11:37 PM
Kamino Neko's Avatar
Kamino Neko is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Alternate 230
Posts: 15,557
He made a valiant, though failed, attempt to make himself look like Davis. He didn't have googly eyes, a big white patch around his mouth. He did an impression of Davis's voice and mannerisms (I assume, I actually can't remember ever seeing Crystal's Sammy Davis jr impression).

Not blackface, though I'm shocked nobody involved in the whole thing ever stopped and thought 'this is a terrible idea, because it is going to be misinterpreted'. Only slightly less so if they did, but they never convinced everyone else.
  #9  
Old 02-27-2012, 11:40 PM
Koxinga is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Zeelandia
Posts: 9,652
Quote:
Originally Posted by Enderw24 View Post
You went full dark, man. Never go full dark. You don't buy that? Ask Ted Danson "I Am Whoopi." Remember? Went full dark, went home empty handed...
Considering the movie that's quoted from, that's actually kind of meta, or something.

Also: golf clap.

Last edited by Koxinga; 02-27-2012 at 11:40 PM.
  #10  
Old 02-27-2012, 11:55 PM
SeaDragonTattoo is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Chicago, Far Northsider
Posts: 7,813
I'm guessing it must be just the Bieber crowd that was offended, who don't even know who Billy Crystal is, really.
  #11  
Old 02-28-2012, 12:04 AM
Koxinga is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Zeelandia
Posts: 9,652
Nor Sammy Davis Jr. for that matter.
  #12  
Old 02-28-2012, 12:12 AM
dropzone's Avatar
dropzone is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Bedlam
Posts: 30,407
You mean that Willie (Crystal) and Frankie (Christopher Guest) weren't available?

I hate when that happens.
  #13  
Old 02-28-2012, 01:17 AM
The Second Stone is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Antioch
Posts: 11,459
It wasn't offensive to me, I got that he was doing a specific impression he had in his bag of tricks for years. It was better when he was younger and could break dance, but even then, it wasn't very entertaining, just another impression. It was not entertaining for this audience.

I don't think every actor in black face is offensive. Robert Downey Jr in Tropic Thunder did a great send up of arrogant actors using blackface that was on balance a lot funnier than it was offensive because of the attitudes it mocked.
  #14  
Old 02-28-2012, 01:51 AM
Marley23 is offline
I Am the One Who Bans
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Brooklyn
Posts: 78,234
It's dated and unfunny and the Princess Bride reference seemed kind of desperate, but it's not racist.
  #15  
Old 02-28-2012, 09:19 AM
PunditLisa is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: 'burbs of Cincinnati, OH
Posts: 14,123
Sammy impersonation didn't offend me, though I did think it (and many of the skits/set-ups) was pretty lame because Sammy's been dead for so long.

What I did think was somewhat offensive was his comment that he wanted to get a black person's perspective after viewing "The Help," but he was in Beverly Hills and there weren't any around.

Now, that may have been true 25 years ago, but surely there are affluent blacks that live in Beverly Hills today. No?
  #16  
Old 02-28-2012, 09:26 AM
Crotalus's Avatar
Crotalus is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Chillicothe, Ohio
Posts: 6,118
Quote:
Originally Posted by PunditLisa View Post
Sammy impersonation didn't offend me, though I did think it (and many of the skits/set-ups) was pretty lame because Sammy's been dead for so long.

What I did think was somewhat offensive was his comment that he wanted to get a black person's perspective after viewing "The Help," but he was in Beverly Hills and there weren't any around.

Now, that may have been true 25 years ago, but surely there are affluent blacks that live in Beverly Hills today. No?
In 2010, 746 blacks lived in Beverly Hills. That's 2.2%. Wikipedia link.
  #17  
Old 02-28-2012, 09:28 AM
Loach's Avatar
Loach is offline
The Central Scrutinizer
Moderator
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Pork Roll/Taylor Ham
Posts: 26,008
I don't like the fact that you can't pick more than one in your poll. It was not racist and its way too dated.
  #18  
Old 02-28-2012, 09:40 AM
randwill is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: In the Minority
Posts: 3,498
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crotalus View Post
In 2010, 746 blacks lived in Beverly Hills. That's 2.2%. Wikipedia link.
The joke didn't have a basis in truth in that there are (probably - I have no cite) black maids working in Beverly Hills.
  #19  
Old 02-28-2012, 09:49 AM
Spoke is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Pit of the Peach State
Posts: 17,914
But in Beverly Hills they don't degrade black maids.

They degrade Mexican maids.
  #20  
Old 02-28-2012, 11:34 AM
MovieMogul is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Posts: 15,962
Quote:
Originally Posted by Koxinga View Post
Considering the movie that's quoted from, that's actually kind of meta, or something.
Especially since Stiller, Downey, Jr. and Cruise were presenters and Nick Nolte was a nominee that night.
  #21  
Old 02-28-2012, 11:48 AM
Skammer's Avatar
Skammer is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Music City USA
Posts: 14,213
Is Fred Armisen being racist when he portrays Obama on SNL? No, and neither is Crystal as Davis. Like someone already said, they're portraying a person, not a racial stereotype.
  #22  
Old 02-28-2012, 12:02 PM
Marley23 is offline
I Am the One Who Bans
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Brooklyn
Posts: 78,234
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skammer View Post
Is Fred Armisen being racist when he portrays Obama on SNL? No, and neither is Crystal as Davis. Like someone already said, they're portraying a person, not a racial stereotype.
I'll admit to being uncomfortable that SNL didn't cast a black actor to play Obama and to feeling better about it when someone here told me that Armisen is a mixed-race guy like Obama is - although not because I felt Armisen was doing a blackface character. I acknowledge that that wasn't really rational in the first place.
  #23  
Old 02-28-2012, 02:00 PM
jayjay is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Central Pennsylvania
Posts: 37,220
Why would it be racist? Crystal's Jewish himself, isn't he?
  #24  
Old 02-28-2012, 02:04 PM
Sampiro is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 36,260
Quote:
Originally Posted by jayjay View Post
Why would it be racist? Crystal's Jewish himself, isn't he?
Yes, but he's got two eyes.
  #25  
Old 02-28-2012, 02:08 PM
jayjay is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Central Pennsylvania
Posts: 37,220
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sampiro View Post
Yes, but he's got two eyes.
Ahhh...now I see understand.
  #26  
Old 02-28-2012, 02:52 PM
madmonk28 is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 12,703
The whole thing was so creaky, out of touch and embarrasingly bad that being racist was the least of it's problems. I think the NY Times called the show an AARP pep rally.
  #27  
Old 02-28-2012, 03:44 PM
Kimballkid is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2011
Posts: 5,890
Quote:
Originally Posted by bienville View Post
Was it Sammy or Billy who kissed Archie Bunker on the mouth?
It was Sammy and it was on the cheek, not the mouth.
  #28  
Old 02-28-2012, 03:48 PM
Larry Mudd is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Ass end of Alberta
Posts: 17,897
Sammy Davis Jr. is so far from any black stereotype that I am aware of that I can't imagine finding a SDJ impression racist.

I can see how it might be awkward if he blacked up to try out his new 50 Cent impression - but Sammy?
  #29  
Old 02-28-2012, 05:16 PM
Sampiro is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 36,260
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimballkid View Post
It was Sammy and it was on the cheek, not the mouth.
Trivia: In an episode of Archie Bunker's Place Sammy revisited Archie about 10 years after the original episode. That episode ended with
SPOILER:
Archie kissing Sammy
  #30  
Old 02-28-2012, 06:14 PM
Two Many Cats is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Chicago
Posts: 5,296
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sampiro View Post
And this from somebody who's still p.o.d at Crystal's portrayal of homosexuals in SOAP. (I dont' have a beef with Crystal- he was an actor looking for a break and it was a paying gig- and I liked the show itself- but it was a nadir for gay visibility on TV to conflate them with transvestites and transsexuals and then show that they can become straight if they really want to.)
Actually, it wasn't a nadir for gay visibility on TV since there wasn't regularly featured acknowledged gay characters on TV back then. Soap faced outrage and boycotts for having an out and out (so to speak) gay character on the show. Yes, at first, Jodie Dallas was played as a stereotyped crossdressing transexual, who gave up on that idea when his boyfriend left him, but as the show progressed, Jodie was one of the more likeable and sympathetic characters on the show. If anything, Jodie Dallas made it easier for television to portray gays on TV.
  #31  
Old 02-28-2012, 06:20 PM
Fear Itself is offline
Cecil's Inner Circle
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Flavortown
Posts: 36,150
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sampiro View Post
3. Was Neil Patrick Harris unavailable or too expensive?
Thank god.
  #32  
Old 02-28-2012, 06:47 PM
Sampiro is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 36,260
Quote:
Originally Posted by Two Many Cats
Yes, at first, Jodie Dallas was played as a stereotyped crossdressing transexual, who gave up on that idea when his boyfriend left him, but as the show progressed, Jodie was one of the more likeable and sympathetic characters on the show.
In the last season he fell in love with a woman. Then he got stuck in "ancient Jewish guy stock character 7" during a past life regression to learn why he was gay to begin with. Admittedly, it was
1- The early 1980s
2- A show that had a (funny) space alien abduction plot
so nadir is probably too strong a word, but I'd give it at best a 'neutral' score for gay visibility.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fear Itself
Thank god.
Yeah, I like NPH but have to admit he's getting overexposed (must have the same agent as Betty White) and his retro kitschy singing/dancing isn't all that.

Last edited by Sampiro; 02-28-2012 at 06:47 PM.
  #33  
Old 02-28-2012, 08:30 PM
Two Many Cats is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Chicago
Posts: 5,296
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sampiro View Post
so nadir is probably too strong a word, but I'd give it at best a 'neutral' score for gay visibility.


Suit yourself. But that's sort of like saying you give Jackie Robinson a 'neutral' score for breaking the color line in baseball because he wasn't as good a player as Willie Mays.
  #34  
Old 02-29-2012, 07:02 AM
Tibby's Avatar
Tibby is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 2,771
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tengu View Post
He made a valiant, though failed, attempt to make himself look like Davis. He didn't have googly eyes, a big white patch around his mouth.<snip>
(bolding mine)

Which can be quite disconcerting when a former presidential candidate does it.
  #35  
Old 02-29-2012, 08:53 AM
madmonk28 is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 12,703
I wonder if younger viewers even knew he was supposed to be Sammy Davis Jr, or that Crystal played this character on SNL 30+ years ago? Also, did anyone else think that Crystal looks like an old woman now?
  #36  
Old 02-29-2012, 09:24 AM
Lamia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 13,350
Quote:
Originally Posted by madmonk28 View Post
I wonder if younger viewers even knew he was supposed to be Sammy Davis Jr, or that Crystal played this character on SNL 30+ years ago? Also, did anyone else think that Crystal looks like an old woman now?
FWIW I'm in my early 30s, so not all that young, and while I figured out that Billy Crystal was supposed to be Sammy Davis, Jr., I had no idea why he was supposed to be Sammy David, Jr. As best as I can tell from Google, Crystal hadn't played this character on TV since the mid 1980s, when I was in elementary school and not watching "grown up" comedy shows.

I would guess that few people under 40 got this bit, and now that I know what it was in reference to it still doesn't seem very funny.
  #37  
Old 02-29-2012, 09:29 AM
Skammer's Avatar
Skammer is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Music City USA
Posts: 14,213
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lamia View Post
FWIW I'm in my early 30s, so not all that young, and while I figured out that Billy Crystal was supposed to be Sammy Davis, Jr., I had no idea why he was supposed to be Sammy David, Jr. As best as I can tell from Google, Crystal hadn't played this character on TV since the mid 1980s, when I was in elementary school and not watching "grown up" comedy shows.

I would guess that few people under 40 got this bit, and now that I know what it was in reference to it still doesn't seem very funny.
Eh, in context it didn't make much sense even for those of us who recognized him.
  #38  
Old 02-29-2012, 09:34 AM
madmonk28 is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 12,703
Yeah, the whole thing was this sad, borscht-belt vibe, like when Rich Little hosted the WH correspondents' dinner the year after Colbert and did a bunch of Jimmy Carter jokes.

favorite tweet from the night was after the actress from The Help won an Oscar: "we've come a long way in race relations since Billy Crystal dressed up in blackface earlier in the evening."
  #39  
Old 02-29-2012, 10:30 AM
That Don Guy's Avatar
That Don Guy is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 4,839
Sammy Davis Jr. was one of Billy's "regular" characters (especially in his one Saturday Night Live season), so I didn't see it as a problem - but that was almost 30 years ago (1984-85, I think, because I remember Billy being on the night before the first WrestleMania in early 1985), so some people might not realize this.

The only problem I had with it is, at the end of the bit, Billy "thanked" Sammy (as if it was really him).
  #40  
Old 12-02-2018, 08:11 PM
DRDMovieMusings is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2018
Posts: 2
Quote:
Originally Posted by Enderw24 View Post
You went full dark, man. Never go full dark. You don't buy that? Ask Ted Danson "I Am Whoopi." Remember? Went full dark, went home empty handed...
I see what you did there, quoting "Kirk Lazarus" from Tropic Thunder. Well played!
  #41  
Old 12-02-2018, 08:15 PM
DRDMovieMusings is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2018
Posts: 2
Quote:
Originally Posted by bienville View Post
A Sammy impression is a Sammy impression. It's not an impression of "Black People". The make-up is just make-up for the part- "Black Face" is about more than just the make-up. Nothing black face or minstrel about it, baby.
I agree, FWIW.
  #42  
Old 12-02-2018, 11:46 PM
E-DUB's Avatar
E-DUB is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 4,982
How about Daryl Hammond doing Jesse Jackson?
  #43  
Old 02-13-2020, 12:48 PM
Saint Cad is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: N of Denver & S of Sanity
Posts: 13,850
Quote:
Originally Posted by That Don Guy View Post
Sammy Davis Jr. was one of Billy's "regular" characters (especially in his one Saturday Night Live season), so I didn't see it as a problem - but that was almost 30 years ago (1984-85, I think, because I remember Billy being on the night before the first WrestleMania in early 1985), so some people might not realize this.
Didn't he play Prince doing a solo version of "We are the World" as the cold opening that night?
  #44  
Old 02-13-2020, 01:30 PM
Annie-Xmas is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 59,263
See? You let a guy play a homosexual transgender character and next thing you know, he's doing racist impersonations.
  #45  
Old 02-13-2020, 10:20 PM
jtur88 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Cebu, Philippines
Posts: 14,695
Racism's ability to do harm resides in its intent to do harm. It comes from the heart of the racist..
  #46  
Old 02-13-2020, 10:22 PM
pool is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Inside
Posts: 4,822
It's offensive in the sense that Billy Crystal is the unfunniest Jew that ever lived.
__________________
"You can do anything you set your mind to...But money helps"
  #47  
Old 02-13-2020, 10:23 PM
cochrane is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: The Nekkid Pueblo
Posts: 22,856
Sweet zombie Sammy Davis, Jr.!
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 10:01 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright 2019 STM Reader, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017