Don Rickles passes away...
Comic Don Rickles Dead at Age 90
April 06, 2017 — Don Rickles, the master insult comic who created laughs with ridicule and sarcasm in a decades-long career that earned him the facetious nickname "Mr. Warmth," died on Thursday at his Los Angeles home from kidney failure, his publicist said. He was 90.
Rickles, who said he developed his brand of mockery humor because he was no good at telling traditional jokes, had recently postponed some performances, including a show set for May in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that was pushed back to November just this week. His death was confirmed by his spokesman, Paul Shefrin, who said Rickles is survived by his wife of 52 years, Barbara, as well as their daughter, Mindy Mann, and two grandchildren. He would have turned 91 on May 8. The New York-born Rickles had an intense, often-ad libbed, rapid-fire delivery and a wide, impish grin. He delighted nightclub audiences, Hollywood royalty and politicians by hurling invective at them, all in good fun.
Don Rickles appears onstage at The 2012 Comedy Awards in New York, April 28, 2012.
Encountering Frank Sinatra for the first time during a stand-up act in 1957, Rickles greeted the mercurial singer as Sinatra walked in with a retinue of tough guys by saying, "Make yourself at home, Frank - hit somebody." Luckily for Rickles, the line amused Sinatra, who became one of his biggest boosters and took to calling the short, bald Rickles "Bullethead." Performing decades later at the second inaugural gala of U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1985, Rickles did not hesitate to zing the commander-in-chief, asking, "Is this too fast for you, Ronnie?"
Comedian Henny Youngman, second from right, clowns with celebrities, left to right, Don Rickles, Sugar Ray, Milton Berle and Jack Albertson in the Beverly Hills, California Hilton, Nov. 17, 1978.
But the most frequent targets of the "Merchant of Venom" were the fans who packed his performances for a chance to be belittled as a "dummy," a "hockey puck" or worse. Celebrities often showed up just for the honor of being mocked by Rickles, and no minority or ethnic group was immune to a Rickles tongue-lashing. "He was called 'The Merchant of Venom' but in truth, he was one of the kindest, caring and most sensitive human beings we have ever known," actor-comedian Bob Newhart and his wife, Ginnie, said in a statement. Comic actor Jim Carrey tweeted: "Don once begged me for a couple of bucks, then told me to twist myself into a pretzel. Ego slayer! Comic Everest!" Oscar winner Tom Hanks also tweeted a tribute to his "Toy Story" co-star, saying, "A God died today. Don Rickles, we did not want to ever lose you. Never."
Comedian Don Rickles (left) laughs with actor Kirk Douglas at Douglas' 100th birthday party at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Dec. 9. 2016, in Beverly Hills, California.
Rickles also mocked himself and shied away from describing himself as an "insult comic," insisting that his humor was not intended to be mean-spirited but was built on making wild exaggerations for the sake of laughs. Much of Rickles' material played on racial and ethnic stereotypes that did not always keep up with cultural evolution. He came under fire in 2012 for a joke that characterized President Barack Obama as a janitor. His spokesman defended the line as just "a joke, as were the other comments Don made that night." "Anyone who knows him knows he's not a racist," the spokesman told Politico then.
Heckling the Hecklers
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