Don Rickles has passed at the age of 90. I had the pleasure of seeing him perform standup a few times. What an icon. And what a life:
Donald Jay Rickles was born in Manhattan and studied acting at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York after serving in the Navy during WWII. He began appearing in nightclubs during the ’50s but didn’t really break through until his first appearance on “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson” in 1965.
In the meantime, he worked in movies. After his debut in WWII submarine drama “Run Silent, Run Deep” (1958), he appeared in the Tony Curtis-Debbie Reynolds romantic comedy “The Rat Race” and various AIP beach movies with Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon.
After the Carson appearance, he achieved headliner status in Vegas, Reno and Lake Tahoe, and he was frequently seen in the company of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack.
He took to the stage in the L.A. production of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” playing Felix. Later he took “The Don Rickles Show” on tour around the country. He also made more movies, including Carl Reiner’s “Enter Laughing” and WWII heist comedy “Kelly’s Heroes.”…
During the late ’70s and a good part of the ’80s, Rickles’ humor was out of fashion, and while he continued appearing at casinos, the luster of his star had faded. Then, things turned around again, and a new generation of comedians that he had influenced came into favor. Rickles was once again in vogue.
Rickles’ humor, while enjoyed better in person, also landed on record with albums such as “Hello Dummy!” and “Don Rickles Speaks.”
Here’s a great segment on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson”, from 1976, where Rickles suddenly appears during a Frank Sinatra segment:
Here’s Rickles’ cameo, totally improvised, from the Norm MacDonald movie Dirty Work (1998):
And here’s Rickles’ classic comedy album Hello Dummy! (1968):