Pacific Tides
My name is Thomas Sturm and I'm a programmer, photographer and writer.

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Sammy Davis Jr. at Brooks Cameras

About a month ago, Brooks Cameras in San Francisco closed its doors. I was a customer there for several years and already miss the store a lot.

The store often had portraits of stars of the 1960s in their window, usually without much of an explanation, other than the obvious implication of "we've been here for a while". One of the frequent stars to appear in the window was Sammy Davis Jr.

As it turns out, he actually personally visited Brooks Cameras on a regular basis in the late 60s and through the 1970s. As one of the staff explained it to me, Sammy was a friend of the owner of the store (which at the time must have been Mr. Brooks Jr. Julius Bloch)

In 1976, Sammy seems to have come to the store on one memorable day to shoot a TV ad for Brooks Cameras, probably as a favor for his friend. And a photographer, Jerry Valente, took what looks like a dozen rolls of films on that day in the store and later presented a rough collection of the clipped photos to Mr. Brooks - it is signed on the back "Love, Jerry Valente, 1976". The board with the photos then probably hung on a wall in the back of the shop for many years and resurfaced on the day when the store finally closed after being in business for more than 70 years.

I bought the board during the final sale, and here it is (link opens 360K jpg):

Here's a couple more details of this rather unique collage:

Sammy attracting a crowd in the store during filming...

Deep in thought with Mr. Brooks Jr. Joe Dee, contemplating cameras under the counter...

Sammy with a camera. The oversized button on his jacket says "Brooks - SAMMY - May I Help You?"

Sammy in control...

He seemed to be enjoying himself on that day...

Update May 2008: Changed names of store owner and manager as identified by comments & emails...

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