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
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".
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.
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.