Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Death of Sam Cooke

Rat Pack Hangout

Elisa Boyer
Elisa Boyer

Her name was Elisa Boyer, an enigmatic 22-year-old with a British father and a Chinese mother.

She told Cooke she was a model and aspiring singer. She lived in a cheap hotel not far from Martoni's and had a reputation as a party girl along Sunset Strip.

Sam Cooke, raised in the church, was not a blustery braggart.  Neither was he the sort of man who shied away from using his star status to inveigle a sweet young stranger at a bar.

Without question, Boyer soon understood that she was in the presence of Sam Cooke — the Sam Cooke.

Yet people at Martoni's that night said Boyer did not seem to be star-struck. The two acted liked dear old friends, a cozy couple, as they found their own booth for howdy-dos and whatnot.

After several drinks, they left together in Cooke's Ferrari and drove a couple of miles west on Sunset, then south a few blocks to PJ's, the Rat Pack hangout on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Cooke was a regular late-nighter at the club, which featured live music.

After ordering drinks, he left Boyer sitting alone at the bar while he made the rounds, greeting familiar faces in the big Thursday night crowd. At some point, the singer realized that in his absence another man was bird-dogging Boyer.

Cooke returned to the bar and challenged the interloper to a fight. Barflies who witnessed the tiff said it was obvious the singer was drunk. The disagreement was deflated after a few cusswords and idle threats.

At about 2 a.m., not long after the dustup, Cooke and Boyer got back into the Ferrari.

She later said he drove fast and recklessly — like a drunk.

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