Thursday, April 06, 2017

Don Rickles

I always say, when you're onstage you can't please everybody.
I'm sure there are people who may not take to what I do, but that's okay.
Thank God the majority are in my corner
-Don Rickles
Donald Jay "DonRicklesMay 8, 1926 – April 6, 2017

Don Rickles died of kidney failure today, at his home in Beverly Hills, California; he was 90 years old.
He intended to be a dramatic actor and studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and then played bit parts on television. Frustrated by a lack of acting work, Rickles began performing stand-up comedy in clubs in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles. He became known as an insult comedian when he responded to his hecklers. The audience enjoyed these insults more than his prepared material, so he incorporated them into his act.

Throughout the 1960s, he often appeared on television in sitcoms and dramatic series. Rickles guest-starred in Get Smart as Sid, an old war buddy of Max who comes to stay with him. In an episode of the 1960s drama series Run for Your Life, Rickles played a distressed comedian whose act culminates when he strangles a patron while imploring the patron to "Laugh!" Rickles took a dramatic turn in the low-budget Roger Corman film X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes as a carnival barker out to exploit the title character (played by Ray Milland).
Rickles appeared in the popular Beach Party film series. He recalled in his 2007 memoir that at a White House dinner, Barbara Bush teased him about his decision to appear in those films. Rickles' agent, Jack Gilardi, was married to Annette Funicello when Rickles was cast in the Beach Party films. He subsequently began appearing more frequently on television talk shows, first appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1965.

He became a frequent guest and guest host, appearing more than 100 times on The Tonight Show during Carson's era. An early Carson-Rickles Tonight highlight occurred in 1968 when, while two Japanese women treated Carson to a bath and massage by foot, Rickles walked onto the set. Rickles also made frequent appearances on The Dean Martin Show and became a fixture on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast specials.
In 1968, Rickles released a live comedy album, Hello, Dummy!, which reached #54 on The Billboard 200 album chart. 

The same year he starred in his own variety show on ABC, The Don Rickles Show, with comedy writer Pat McCormick as his sidekick. The show lasted one season. During the 1960s, Rickles made guest appearances on The Dick Van Dyke ShowThe MunstersThe Addams FamilyThe Mothers-in-LawGilligan's IslandGet SmartThe Andy Griffith Show and I Dream of Jeannie.

In 1972, he starred in The Don Rickles Show, which lasted for 13 episodes. He also starred in a series of television specials. In his memoir, Rickles acknowledged a scripted sitcom was not well-suited to his ad-lib style of performing.
Starting in 1973, Rickles became a popular comedian appearing on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast specials. In 1976–1978, he starred in C.P.O. Sharkey, which lasted two seasons. 

The series is primarily remembered for the cigarette box incident when Johnny Carson did an impromptu surprise visit during an episode's taping because he was "incensed" Rickles broke his cigarette box while he chatted with Bob Newhart (who was sitting in for Carson as the guest host of The Tonight Show) on the previous night's show. The incident was often replayed in Tonight Show retrospectives and was considered a highlight of the 1970s era of the series.
In the early 1980s, Rickles began performing with Steve Lawrence in concerts in Las Vegas. In 1983, the duo co-hosted Foul-Ups, Bleeps & Blunders, an imitation of TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes

In 1985, when Frank Sinatra was asked to perform at Ronald Reagan's Second Inaugural Ball, he stipulated he would not perform unless Rickles was allowed to perform with him. Rickles considered this performance the highlight of his career. 

In 1990, he appeared in the second season of Tales from the Crypt in the episode "The Ventriloquist's Dummy". In 1992, he was cast in Innocent Blood, directed by John Landis. In his memoir, Rickles wrote that he recalled that Landis was once a "Production Assistant" to Brian G. Hutton during the filming of Kelly's Heroes. During the filming of Innocent Blood, Rickles would kid Landis by ordering him to get coffee or to run other errands befitting his one-time "gofer" status. 

In 1993, Rickles starred in another short-lived sitcom Daddy Dearest, with Richard Lewis. In 1995, he played Billy Sherbert in Casino, and voiced Mr. Potato Head in Toy Story (1995) and reprised his role in Toy Story 2 (1999). Rickles starred as George Wilson in 1998's Dennis the Menace Strikes Again. In 1998, he portrayed a film theater manager in Dirty Work and voiced Cornwall, one of the heads of a two-headed dragon, in Quest for Camelot.
In February 2007, Rickles made a cameo appearance as himself in a strange, recurring dream sequence woven through an episode titled "Sub Conscious" of the CBS dramatic seriesThe Unit. Rickles' memoir, titled Rickles' Book, was released on May 8, 2007, by Simon & Schuster



Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project, a documentary about Rickles directed by John Landis, made its debut on HBO on December 2, 2007. Rickles won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program, besting a number of notable comics, including David LettermanJon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert. To this Rickles remarked, "Stephen Colbert's a funny man, but he's too young. He has got plenty of time to win awards, but this may be my last year and I think that I made it count. On second thought it was probably just a mercy award for an old man." Rickles reprised his role of Mr. Potato Head for Toy Story Midway Mania! attraction at Disney California Adventure ParkDisney's Hollywood Studios and Toy Story 3.
In 2009, Rickles appeared on Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List and met Griffin's mother, Maggie, to fulfill one item on Maggie's "bucket list". In 2010, he appeared in a commercial during Super Bowl XLIV as a talking rose and appeared on the 37th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards on CBS TV on June 27, 2010. 

In 2011, Rickles reunited with his Casino co-star Joe Pesci in a Snickers advertisement highlighting the actors known for their "short fuses." 

Rickles also played the late husband of Elka (Betty White) on the TV Land original comedy Hot in Cleveland— a "surprise" because his character was thought to be dead.

On May 28, 2014, Rickles was honored by Spike TV's "One Night Only: An All-Star Comedy Tribute to Don Rickles". Recorded live at New York City's Apollo Theater, Jerry Seinfeld was the master of ceremonies for the two-hour special, with live monologues by Johnny DeppMartin ScorseseRobert De NiroJon StewartDavid LettermanTracy MorganBrian WilliamsRegis PhilbinAmy Poehler and Tina Fey. Recorded segments included bits from Bob NewhartBill CosbyJimmy Kimmel and Eddie Murphy.

Good Night Mr.Warmth
The angels are playing La Macarena (The Bullfighter's Song) tonight.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa


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