On Thursday, April 6th, legendary actor/comedian Don Rickles passed away from kidney failure at the age of 90 (one month shy of his 91st birthday) at his Los Angeles home according to his publicist, Paul Shefrin.
Born in the Queens borough of New York City on May 8th, 1926, Rickles went from high school to the U.S. Navy. Two years after his service in World War II, he studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts intending to become a dramatic actor. Due to a lack of work, he soon began performing stand-up comedy and became known as an insult comedian due to his responses to hecklers. The audience seemed to enjoy these insults more than the prepared material so he incorporated them into his act.
The first time I can remember seeing Don Rickles was a few years ago when I started watching The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts and TV show. I had no idea who this small, seemingly-angry, bald man was but, man, was he funny. As a child, I grew up watching Pixar’s Toy Story but had no idea who the man behind the voice of the grumpy Mr. Potato Head was.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to see Don Rickles perform live at Potowatomi Casino. I went with my dad and had to bail on plans with a friend but have no regrets to this day. I wanted to see a comedy legend before it was too late and I’m glad I got to share that performance with my dad. I was enamored as I watched this precious, frail-looking, little man who was a relic from times past sit on a tiny stool and deal out insults to audience members. The same kind of insults he said to Sinatra, Martin, and several other celebrities passed while roasting them.
His career spanned six decades and the honorary Rat Pack member kept performing up until the end. His legacy will live on and new generations of young fans will know and love him as the spunky spud from Toy Story. They couldn’t have chosen a better man to bring that toy to life and give him an unforgettable voice.
Rest easy, Bullethead.