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Altovise Davis dies at 65; widow of Sammy Davis Jr.

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Altovise Davis, the widow of Rat Pack singer and dancer Sammy Davis Jr., died Saturday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center of complications from a stroke, her business partner, Barrett LaRoda, said. She was 65.

Davis was surrounded at the Los Angeles hospital by friends and family, including her son, Manny Davis.

Trained as an actor and dancer, Altovise Davis met the legendary showman in the mid-1960s, when they were both appearing in Broadway musicals, he in the lead of "Golden Boy" and she in the chorus line of "High Spirits."

She successfully auditioned for a London stage production of "Golden Boy," and after its run she joined his nightclub act as a dancer.

They married at a Philadelphia courthouse in May 1970 and were together 20 years, adopting their son in 1989. Her husband died of throat cancer at age 64 on May 16, 1990, five days after their 20th wedding anniversary.

Altovise Davis had a difficult time after her husband's death. He owed a reported $7 million in income tax, and to satisfy the Internal Revenue Service, his mansion on Summit Drive in Beverly Hills was sold. Jewelry, memorabilia and other personal items were auctioned.

She struggled with alcoholism, moved to Pennsylvania and went through an alcohol treatment program, she told Essence magazine in 2004.

Once the tax liability was settled in 1997, Davis set about restoring her husband's legacy. She helped organize a musical touring show called "Mr. Bojangles: The Ultimate Entertainer" in 2006.

She was born Altovise Gore on Aug. 30, 1943, grew up in Brooklyn and attended New York's High School of Performing Arts.

When she met Sammy Davis, his career had reached its peak. A vaudeville performer as a child, he had become a consummate entertainer, singing, dancing and acting on stage, in film and on TV. With Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford, he was part of the Rat Pack, the raucous group of nightclub entertainers that electrified Las Vegas during the filming of 1960's "Ocean's Eleven."

His first two marriages, to dancer Loray White and Swedish actress May Britt, ended in divorce.

After Sammy and Altovise married, she became active with several philanthropic organizations in Los Angeles. She performed at many benefit programs, particularly for SHARE Inc., a nonprofit group that raises money for developmentally disabled, abused and neglected children.

She had occasional guest appearances on such TV shows as "CHiPs" and "Charlie's Angels" and had minor roles in films, including "Can't Stop the Music" (1980).

claire.noland@latimes.com

Times staff writer Anna Gorman contributed to this report.

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