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Entertainment Earth

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"Why don't you drop your pants and set off a rocket?"

- Don Rickles

DON RICKLES

In 1970, Don Rickles had a notable role as the con man Sgt. Crapgame in the hit film Kelly's Heroes with Clint Eastwood.

Don Rickles is an American stand-up comedian and actor and was born May 8th, 1926 in the New York City and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II on the USS Cyrene (AGP-13) as a seaman first class.

Honorably discharged in 1946 he would go on to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and found some work playing bit parts on early television programs. His classmates included Grace Kelly, Anne Bancroft and Jason Robards. Frustrated by a lack of acting work, Rickles began doing stand-up comedy performing in hotels in the Catskill Mountains in New York.

He became known as an insult comedian by responding to his hecklers. The audience enjoyed these insults more than his prepared material, and he incorporated them into his act, calling ill-mannered members of the audience "hockey pucks".

While working in a Miami Beach nightclub known as "Murray Franklin's" early in his career, he spotted Frank Sinatra and remarked to him, "I just saw your movie, The Pride and the Passion and I want to tell you, the cannon's acting was great." He added, "Make yourself at home, Frank. Hit somebody!" Sinatra, whose pet name for Rickles was "bullet-head," enjoyed Rickles so much that he encouraged other celebrities to see Rickles' act and be insulted by him. Sinatra's support helped Rickles become a popular headline performer in Las Vegas earning him the nicknames "The Merchant of Venom" and "Mr. Warmth".

In 1958, Rickles made his film debut in a serious part in Run Silent, Run Deep with Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster. Rickles also appeared in the popular Beach Party film series. Rickles' agent, Jack Gilardi, was married to Annette Funicello.

During the 1960s, Rickles made guest appearances on The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Munsters, The Addams Family, The Mothers-in-Law, Get Smart, Gilligan's Island, The Wild Wild West, The Andy Griffith Show and I Dream of Jeannie (seen above with Barbra Eden).

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.

Rickles 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.

In 1972, he starred in the sitcom The Don Rickles Show which lasted for only 13 episodes. In 1976, he was back on TV with the sitcom C.P.O. Sharkey (left), which lasted two seasons. The show 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" that Rickles broke his cigarette box while he chatted with close friend Bob Newhart (who was sitting in for Carson as the guest host of the 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 show. In 1993, Rickles starred in yet another short-lived sitcom, Daddy Dearest, with comedian Richard Lewis.

Rickles also made frequent appearances on The Dean Martin Show and became a fixture on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast specials which continued until 1984.

In 1995, he made a return to film in two high-profile projects: a dramatic role as Robert De Niro's trusted colleague in Martin Scorsese's Casino (above) and as the voice of Mr. Potato Head in the Pixar computer-animated film Toy Story, which he later reprised in Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3. According to Don Rickles' memoir, his grandchildren are much more impressed by his role as "Mr. Potato Head" than by any of his other achievements.

Rickles married Barbara Sklar, a native of Philadelphia, in 1965. The couple had two children: a daughter, Mindy, and a son, Emmy Award winning producer Larry Rickles, who died of complications of pneumonia in 2011, at the age of 41. Larry Rickles was also a writer for the popular CBS-TV program Murphy Brown.

Although a lifelong Democrat, he performed at the inaugurations of Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush with his friend Frank Sinatra. Well into his eighties Rickles continues to work, in stand up, television and film.

    Don Rickles links

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