By Sam Elliot
Staff Writer & Reporter
LOS ANGELES, Ca. – Born out of the darkness and into the light, an insult comic to brighten up life, has passed away at the age of 90, will be forever missed, that is true, therefore Don this one’s for you.
Don Rickles was born an only child to the Jewish parents Max (an insurance salesman) and Etta (a housewife), on May 8, 1926 in New York City. He was a normal kid. He attended Newton High School and eventually enlisted in the navy during WWII after graduation. He was a motor torpedo boat tender on the USS Cyrene as a seaman first class for two years, until he was honorably discharged in 1946 (American Military News). Upon his return home, he began to indulge his aspirations of becoming a serious actor and enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. One of his classmates was thee Grace Kelly, otherwise known as Princess Grace of Monaco.
While looking for work as an actor, he sold cars, and life insurance. When the acting roles didn’t come, he turned to stand-up comedy. Most people he encountered during these early years were hostile towards him, heckling his performance; therefore, he began firing back at those hecklers. To his surprise those firebacks garnered the most laughs, causing him to find his staple as an “insult comic.” During one of his shows, Frank Sinatra’s mother was in attendance and urged her son to help the budding comedian out. By the end of the 1950’s, he was playing Las Vegas.
He made his TV debut in 1965 on The Tonight Show, starring Johnny Carson. From there his career was further launched, with his appearing on other shows like The Dean Martin Show, Gilligan’s Island, and Get Smart, as well as movies like Kelly’s Heroes, Toy Story, and Casino. He even knew Ronald Reagan, and was forced to perform at his inauguration by Sinatra. Rickles was a Democrat (USA Today).
Sinatra and Rickles became good friends. An example of this is whenever Rickles was out on a date and the girl he was with noticed that Sinatra had walked in. She couldn’t believe that he knew him. Rickles secretly went over to Sinatra and asked him to pop over and say “hello” to impress her. Whenever Sinatra came over to say hello, Rickles looked up at Sinatra and said, “Not now, Frank. Can’t you see I’m with somebody?” Sinatra fell down laughing.
In 1965, Rickles married Barbara Sklar and eventually had two children, Larry and Mindy. He loved his wife and children. Johnny Carson even gave him the nickname of Mr. Warmth for how loving of a person he was. He showed no signs of slowing down with age, even getting ready to reprise his role as Mr. Potato in the reported 2019 release of Toy Story 4. Unfortunately, Rickles never got a chance to record the audio for the role. Instead, he celebrated his 52 year wedding anniversary with his wife Barbara and sent out what would be his final tweet, a tribute to his wife. It read, “We are celebrating our 52nd Wedding Anniversary March 14th. Happy Anniversary my dear wife, Barbara. You are my life. ❤XO Pussycat (Me).” He died April 6, 2017 at his home as a result of kidney failure (Biography).
Thank you, Don, for all you’ve done. You will be forever missed.