September 5: Celebrity Dash — Stars in Cars Bagged on the Merritt Parkway

 

Every day, tens of thousands of commuters from Connecticut and neighboring states use the Merritt Parkway as an alternative to the often-congested Interstate 95 highway in an attempt get to their destinations faster — and every day, a number of them are ticketed for going a little too fast. Connecticut passed America’s very first speed limit law for automobiles in 1901, and safety-conscious officers have been cracking down on lead-footed drivers in the state ever since.

While some citizens have on occasion accused police officers of giving celebrities and VIPs special treatment when it comes to traffic offenses, that certainly wasn’t the case on September 5, 1955. On that day, not one, but two entertainment celebrities were ticketed on the Merritt Parkway for speeding. Around 7:00 in the morning, singer and actress Polly Bergen, known for her roles performing alongside Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, was pulled over in Trumbull for driving 65 miles per hour in a 55 m.p.h. zone and for lacking the proper documentation to drive her car, which was registered in her friend’s name. Bergen had to post a $42 bond before officers allowed her to continue on her way.

Not even four hours later, world-famous singer and Rat Pack member Sammy Davis Jr. was stopped on the Parkway while breezing through the town of Westport at a steady 70 miles per hour. Unlike Bergen, however, Davis wasn’t carrying the cash on hand that he needed to post bail, and was forced to call his friend, celebrity photographer Milton Greene, to spot him the $18 he needed. A different kind of ticket to stardom was given out — twice — on this day in Connecticut history.

Further Reading

Doe Boyle, “Merritt Parkway Creates Scenic Gateway to New England,” connecticuthistory.org