Don Rickles Dies at 90
Legendary funnyman Don Rickles has passed away at the ripe age of 90. Spokesman Paul Shefrin confirmed the tragic news on Thursday as he said that the comedian died of kidney failure in his Los Angeles home surrounded by family and friends.
Rickles perhaps pioneered insult comedy. His uncompromising style did not discriminate from presidents, women icons, Hollywood bigwigs, icons in the industry and ordinary people in his audience. In fact, one of his favorite people to insult was Frank Sinatra, particularly on his rumored connections to the mob.
It was made even funnier because Sinatra took Rickles under his wing when he was just a struggling comic and bouncing from one comedy club to the next. He became a constant hanger-on in the rat pack–with Sinatra himself, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford—in the late 1950s.
In an era of political correctness, Rickles stood out for refusing to tone down his insults. What sets him apart, however, is he’s not afraid to make fun of himself, and how he doesn’t comport to Hollywood’s obsession with good looks.
“I make fun of the world,” Rickles told Larry King once. “You know that. And if you know how to handle that and you treat people — and you make fun of yourself, hey, it’s not offensive.”
Rickles was born as an only child in Jackson Heights in Queens, New York. His father was an insurance salesman while his mother was a homemaker. He also tried to follow in his father’s footsteps after serving two years in the navy. But performing has always been his calling and so he enrolled in the American Academy of the Arts.
He became a constant fixture on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson who was charmed with Rickles’ abrasive comedy, and the rest is history. Rickles is survived by his wife, Barbara, and daughter Mindy. His only son, Lawrence, died in 2011 at just 46 years old.