Don Rickles


Comedian
Don Rickles

About

Also Known As
Donald Jay Rickles
Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
Born
May 08, 1926
Died
April 06, 2017

Biography

The Merchant of Venom. The Master of Insults. Mr. Warmth. These were just a few of the labels given to actor and comedian Don Rickles, who in the course of a decades-long career on stage, film and television came to define the tone and persona of the insult comic. But despite his withering barrage of put-downs, Rickles remained a favorite of celebrities and audiences alike, thanks to bot...

Photos & Videos

Kelly's Heroes - Movie Poster Art
Beach Blanket Bingo - Movie Poster
Bikini Beach - Movie Poster

Family & Companions

Barbara Rickles
Wife
Secretary. Married on March 14, 1965.

Notes

"I've been hot, I've been lukewarm, I've been freezing, but I've always been a headliner. The young comedians always ask me, what's the secret for staying around. I tell them, there is no secret--just stay around. Longevity is the most important thing." --Don Rickles in New York Post, November 27, 1995.

"Someone said to me that these two movies ["Toy Story" and "Casino"] were a good career move. What career? I'm 69 years old. My only career is staying alive. Anything else is a bonus at this point." --Rickles to New York Post, November 27, 1995.

Biography

The Merchant of Venom. The Master of Insults. Mr. Warmth. These were just a few of the labels given to actor and comedian Don Rickles, who in the course of a decades-long career on stage, film and television came to define the tone and persona of the insult comic. But despite his withering barrage of put-downs, Rickles remained a favorite of celebrities and audiences alike, thanks to both an unflaggingly quick wit and a genuine affection for his targets. Those qualities where always on display in one form or another, but never so hilariously than when he was a regular fixture on the celebrity roast circuit in the 1960s and 1970s. Meanwhile, Rickles went from the comic stage to film with roles in "The Rat Race" (1960) and "Muscle Beach Party" (1964), and later had a co-starring turn as a hustling supply sergeant in "Kelly's Heroes" (1970). While largely absent from the big screen over the next two decades in order to focus on television, which included numerous appearances on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" (NBC, 1962-1992), Rickles made something of a comeback with a high profile role in "Casino" (1995) while voicing Mr. Potato Head in the "Toy Story" franchise. In the next century, he remained active in stand-up comedy and was the subject of the documentary "Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project" (HBO, 2007), which went behind the scenes to reveal Rickles as an engaging personality who was indeed filled with warmth, humor and humanity. That love for the comic, from fans and peers (such as lifelong best friend Bob Newhart) alike, came through when news broke of his death at the age of 90 on April 6, 2017.

Born Donald Jay Rickles in New York City, NY on May 8, 1926, he was a shy child who took inspiration from the way his father, Max, endeared himself to people through humor. Turns in school plays eventually led to work as a radio announcer and later in nightclub engagements, where he worked initially as a joke-slinging stand-up comic. But he discovered that audiences truly responded to the off-the-cuff insults he fired back at hecklers, and gradually, he made this part of his act. His early style was compared to another acerbic comic, Jack E. Leonard, who occasionally mentioned that Rickles had "borrowed" his act.

Rickles served in the United States Navy during World War II and was honorably discharged in 1946, after which he returned to his stand-up career and studied drama at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, before making his film debut opposite Burt Lancaster and Clark Gable in Robert Wise's military drama "Run Silent, Run Deep" in 1958. The film was a substantial hit, and Rickles soon found himself in demand by producers for both his comic and acting chops. While his subsequent film roles were few and far between during the '60s - he turned up in four of American International Pictures' "beach party" movies, including "Muscle Beach Party" (1964) and "Beach Blanket Bingo" (1965), gave an agreeable dramatic turn as a shady carnival worker in Roger Corman's creepy "X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes" (1963), and had a notable dramatic cameo in Carl Reiner's "Enter Laughing" (1969) - he could be found more frequently as a guest star on all manner of television series. These ranged from "The Twilight Zone" (CBS, 1959-1964) and "Burke's Law" (ABC, 1963-66) to "The Munsters" (CBS, 1964-66) and "The Wild, Wild West" (CBS, 1965-69). Rickles also co-starred with Ernest Borgnine in a 1967 stage production of "The Odd Couple" on the West Coast, which was met with critical acclaim.

During this period, several significant incidents helped elevate Rickles from stand-up comic to star status. In 1957, Frank Sinatra caught his act at a small Hollywood nightclub, and Rickles spared him no quarter in terms of insults. Sinatra found his routine hilarious, and quickly helped to spread word of mouth about his act. Rickles booked his first Las Vegas date two years later at the Sahara, which boosted his visibility even further.

In 1965, Rickles booked his first appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" (NBC, 1962-1992) - he would subsequently return 99 more times - and his freewheeling banter with the host helped sell him to talk show producers as an entertaining guest (prior to this, most chat shows were worried that his brand of humor might turn off viewers). Two years later, he earned an even bigger viewership, thanks to a string of guest shots on "The Dean Martin Show" (NBC, 1965-1974) during which producers invited a host of celebrity guests - including Bob Hope, Don Adams and many others - to sit in the audience and take the full brunt of Rickles' barbs. His routines paid off in huge ratings. Rickles also scored in the world of comedy records with his 1968 live debut, Hello, Dummy! He followed this with Don Rickles Speaks a few years later.

The success of his guest shots and albums inspired ABC to give Rickles his own series in 1968, but the program was short-lived and set the template for nearly all of Rickles' subsequent forays as the lead on his own series. In 1971, "The Don Rickles Show" (CBS) lasted just one season, but he quickly redeemed himself with a quartet of exceptionally popular specials between 1972 and 1975 for CBS and NBC.

Rickles returned to feature films in 1970 opposite Clint Eastwood in the tongue-in-cheek World War II action comedy, "Kelly's Heroes," but continued to devote most of his time to stand-up, mostly in Las Vegas where he was signed to the Riviera and then Sahara, as well as TV. "C.P.O. Sharkey" (NBC, 1976-78), which cast Rickles as a sardonic Naval officer, had a two-season run, while he enjoyed solid ratings in a string of specials, including 1982's "Two Top Bananas" with Don Adams, and an improvised 1986 Showtime special, "Rickles On the Loose." Rickles also served as the host of "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) in 1984, and a 1980 co-hosting gig with Steve Lawrence on NBC's "The Big Show" variety program led to the pair touring together and co-hosting ABC's blooper program "Foul-Ups, Bleeps and Blunders" (1984-85). Rickles also performed at the White House in 1984 and tossed barbs at the Reagan Administration with typical fervor.

Rickles focused on his stage career for most of the mid-'80s and early '90s, but by 1992, he saw a resurgence in his long-dormant film career. Critics lauded his appearances as a mobster-turned-vampire in the John Landis film, "Innocent Blood" (1992), and he soon found himself in front of the camera in a number of other projects. A brief return to network TV in the glum sitcom "Daddy Dearest" (Fox, 1993) preceded an impressive supporting turn as a veteran casino pit boss in Martin Scorsese's "Casino" and the role that gave Rickles his broadest audience to date - the voice of the sweetly harried Mr. Potato Head in the Disney/Pixar animated feature "Toy Story" (1995) and its 1999 sequel.

In 2000, Rickles received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, as he continued to contribute to numerous film and television projects, ranging from the bittersweet TNT TV-movie "The Wool Cap" (2004), which earned him more critical acclaim, to the hilarious documentary "The Aristocrats" (2005), in which he expounded on the history of a particularly infamous dirty joke. One of the oldest comics in the line-up, he more than hilariously held his own against the younger likes of Bob Saget, Whoopi Goldberg and Sarah Silverman.

A rarity in the business, Rickles was married for over 40 years to the former Barbara Sklar, with whom he had two children, Mindy and Larry. Ironically, he and Sklar were best friends with fellow actor-comic Bob Newhart and his wife, paving the way for hilarious stories of their vacations together being a frequent source of laughter in his many talk show appearances. And if personal happiness and over 50 years in the business was not enough, Rickles was honored with an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program for "Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project" (HBO), a documentary made with love by director John Landis, that paid homage to the beloved comic. The special also took home the Emmy for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special. After reprising Mr. Potato Head for "Toy Story 3" (2010), Rickles had a guest appearance in 2011 as the presumed dead husband of Elka (Betty White) on an episode of "Hot in Cleveland" (TV Land, 2010-15). Rickles continued performing standup into his 90th year despite recurrent health issues. Don Rickles died of kidney failure at his home in Beverly Hills on April 6, 2017. He was 90 years old. Rickles had already recorded his lines for "Toy Story 4" (2019) at the time of his death.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Toy Story 4 (2019)
Voice
Zookeeper (2011)
Voice
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010)
Himself
Toy Story 3 (2010)
Voice
Baby-O (2007)
The Aristocrats (2005)
Himself
The Wool Cap (2005)
Ira
Toy Story 2 (1999)
Quest for Camelot (1998)
Voice
Dennis the Menace Strikes Again (1998)
Dirty Work (1998)
Hamilton
Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen's (1996)
Himself
Toy Story (1995)
Casino (1995)
Innocent Blood (1992)
Keaton's Cop (1990)
For the Love of It (1980)
The Love Machine (1971)
Announcer
Kelly's Heroes (1970)
Crapgame
Where It's At (1969)
Willie
The Money Jungle (1968)
Harry Darkwater
Enter Laughing (1967)
Harry Hamburger
Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)
Big Drop
Bikini Beach (1964)
Big Drag
Muscle Beach Party (1964)
Jack Fanny
X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963)
Crane
The Rat Race (1960)
Nelson Miller
The Rabbit Trap (1959)
Run Silent Run Deep (1958)
Petty officer 1st class Ruby

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010)
Other
The Aristocrats (2005)
Other
Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen's (1996)
Other

Cast (Special)

Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project (2007)
100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time (2004)
Las Vegas Live! (2004)
Interviewee
100 Years of Hope and Humor (2003)
The Nightclub Years (2001)
Interviewee
Bob Newhart: The Last Sane Man (2001)
Interviewee
The Great American History Quiz: Pursuit of Happiness (2000)
The 2000 MTV Movie Awards (2000)
Performer
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (2000)
Performer
Monty Hall (1999)
Interiewee
The 1999 Essence Awards (1999)
Performer
The American Film Institute Salute to Martin Scorsese (1997)
Performer
American Film Institute Salute to Clint Eastwood (1996)
Performer
Hollywood Hockey Cup (1996)
All-Star TV Censored Mega Bloopers (1996)
Comic Relief's 10th Anniversary (1996)
Sinatra: 80 Years My Way (1995)
More of the Best of the Hollywood Palace (1993)
The Return of TV's Censored Bloopers 2 (1993)
Showtime Comedy Club All-Stars VI (1992)
Host
Comic Relief V (1992)
The Horror Hall of Fame II (1991)
Performer
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: 28th Anniversary Special (1990)
The Ventriloquist's Dummy (1990)
The 75th Anniversary of Beverly Hills (1989)
Las Vegas: An All Star 75th Anniversary (1987)
Bob Hope's All-Star Super Bowl Party (1986)
George Burns' 90th Birthday Special (1986)
Rickles on the Loose (1986)
All Star Party for Clint Eastwood (1986)
The 50th Presidential Inaugural Gala (1985)
The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast (1984)
The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast (1984)
Guest
The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast (1984)
Guest
Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope's All-Star Super Bowl Party (1983)
Guest
George Burns Celebrates 80 Years in Show Business (1983)
Hollywood's Private Home Movies (1983)
Guest
The All-Star Salute to Mother's Day (1981)
Ladies and Gentleman... Bob Newhart Part 2 (1981)
Sinatra: The First 40 Years (1980)
George Burns' 100th Birthday Party (1979)
A Tribute to "Mr. Television," Milton Berle (1978)
Bob Hope Special: Happy Birthday, Bob! (1978)
Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope's World of Comedy (1976)
The Don Rickles Show (1975)
Rickles (1975)
Jack Benny's Second Farewell Show (1974)
A Couple of Dons (1973)
A Show Business Salute to Milton Berle (1973)
Don Rickles -- Alive and Kicking (1972)
A Last Laugh at the 60's (1970)
Murder At NBC (1966)

Life Events

1958

Made feature film debut in the submarine drama "Run Silent, Run Deep"

1964

Appeared in the popular "Beach Party" film series with Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon in the 1960s

1965

Made his first appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" (NBC)

1967

Made frequent appearances on "The Dean Martin Show" (NBC) and became a fixture on Martin's roast specials

1968

Released the live comedy album <i>Hello, Dummy!</i>

1968

Starred in his own variety show "The Don Rickles Show" (ABC) with Pat McCormick as his sidekick

1970

Had a notable role as the con man Sgt. Crapgame in the hit film "Kelly's Heroes"

1972

Starred in the CBS sitcom "The Don Rickles Show"

1976

Played title role on NBC sitcom "C.P.O. Sharkey"

1983

Co-hosted (with Steve Lawrence) the short-lived ABC series "Foul-Ups, Bleeps & Blunders"

1985

Performed with Frank Sinatra at Ronald Reagan's Second Inaugural Ball

1992

Received critical praise for his dramatic role in John Landis' "Innocent Blood"

1993

Starred in another short-lived sitcom "Daddy Dearest" (Fox) with comedian Richard Lewis

1995

Lent his voice to the character of Mr. Potato Head in the Pixar film "Toy Story"

1995

Returned to features as Robert De Niro's trusted colleague in Martin Scorsese's "Casino"

1996

First appearance at NYC's Carnegie Hall

1999

Once again voiced the character of Mr. Potato Head for "Toy Story 2"

2000

Received star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (October 17)

2004

Cast opposite William H. Macy in the TNT special "The Wool Cap" as an elderly tenant

2007

Published memoir <i>Rickles' Book</i>

2007

Received first Emmy for HBO documentary "Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project," directed by John Landis

2010

Reprised the voice of Mr. Potato Head in the animated feature "Toy Story 3"

2011

Played small supporting role on TV series "Hot in Cleveland"

2011

Reprised Mr. Potato Head voice on several Toy Story shorts including "Hawaiian Vacation," "Partysaurus Rex," "Toy Story of Terror," and "Toy Story That Time Forgot"

2016

Recorded his final go as Mr. Potato Head for the not-yet-released "Toy Story 4"

Photo Collections

Kelly's Heroes - Movie Poster Art
Here is the original art from the Kelly's Heroes (1970) movie poster, drawn by noted illustrator Jack Davis.
Beach Blanket Bingo - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Beach Blanket Bingo (1965). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Bikini Beach - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Bikini Beach (1964). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Kelly's Heroes (1970) - What's In It For Me? With Allied forces in France after Normandy, Clint Eastwood (title character), who's learned of a giant German gold stash, drops in on cranky quartermaster "Crapgame" (Don Rickles), who grows interested, early in director Brian G. Hutton's Kelly's Heroes, 1970.
Casino (1995) - The Hustler's Code Robert De Niro narrates as Ace Rothstein, who will later marry Las Vegas hustler Ginger (Sharon Stone), script by director Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi, introducing James Woods as sleazy Lester, then covering Nicky (Joe Pesci, with sidekick Frank Vincent) and wife (Melissa Prophet) coming to town, in Casino, 1995.
Casino (1995) - Street Guys Like Us Opening with the narration that continues throughout the film, Robert De Niro as Sam “Ace” Rothstein, from the script by director Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi, who wrote the underlying book Casino: Love And Honor In Las Vegas, from Casino, 1995, co-starring Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone.
Casino (1995) - Like A Morality Car Wash Continuing Robert De Niro’s narration as Las Vegas casino boss Ace Rothstein, referring to his past as a Midwestern bookie, with Don Rickles as his colleague, with director Martin Scorsese’s examination of the “count room,” and Joe Pesci as profane crook Nicky taking over, in Casino, 1995.
Casino (1995) - I Told You I Was Hot Further narration about Las Vegas, focusing this time on cheaters, from Robert De Niro as casino manager Ace Rothstein, Joe Pesci as Nicky at his side, with Don Rickles, and director Martin Scorsese’s introduction of Academy Award nominee Sharon Stone, as scam artist Ginger, in Casino, 1995.
Muscle Beach Party (1963) - I Would Keep That Quiet Italian zillionaire-ess Julie (Luciana Paluzzi) choppers in from her yacht, Buddy Hackett her assistant, hunting the hunkiest body builder (Peter Lupus, here billed as Rock Stevens) at Don Rickles’ gym, Frankie (Avalon) and Dee Dee (Annette Funicello) observing, in the second “Beach Party” feature, Muscle Beach Party, 1963.
X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes -- (1963) - What Are You Dick Tracy? Don Rickles is the insult comic carnival barker, whom we meet after researcher Xavier (Ray Milland) has gone underground, having inexplicably murdered a colleague, and discovered that his experimental vision enhancement is permanent, in Roger Corman's X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes, 1963, and the heckler is Dick Miller, star of A Bucket Of Blood, 1959.

Trailer

Family

Max Rickles
Father
Insurance salesman.
Etta Rickles
Mother
Deceased.
Mindy Beth Rickles
Daughter
Born in June 1966; married executive Edward Mann in 1997; has two children.
Lawrence Corey Rickles
Son
Born on May 12, 1970.

Companions

Barbara Rickles
Wife
Secretary. Married on March 14, 1965.

Bibliography

Notes

"I've been hot, I've been lukewarm, I've been freezing, but I've always been a headliner. The young comedians always ask me, what's the secret for staying around. I tell them, there is no secret--just stay around. Longevity is the most important thing." --Don Rickles in New York Post, November 27, 1995.

"Someone said to me that these two movies ["Toy Story" and "Casino"] were a good career move. What career? I'm 69 years old. My only career is staying alive. Anything else is a bonus at this point." --Rickles to New York Post, November 27, 1995.