Passings: Don Rickles (1926 - 2917)

by VVN Music

No, he wasn't a singer but Don Rickles did record his comedy and released it on albums back in the 60's.

Rickles, also known as Mr. Warmth and The Merchant of Venom for his biting comedy, died on Thursday (April 6) morning at his home in Los Angeles from kidney failure. He was 90.

He was born in Queens, NY in 1926. Originally planning on being a dramatic actor, Rickles grew tired of the lack of work and started doing stand-up comedy in the beginning of the 50's. While he started with standard patter, he was quick with comebacks to hecklers and found that his retorts got the bigger laughs, so he incorporated insults into his act.

While he still went after some dramatic roles (Run Silent, Run Deep (1958)), his fame continued to grow across the country, especially after he began appearing regularly on variety and talk shows. While his act might be considered racist in some aspects today, it was usually received in good fun by the audience and the person at the receiving end of the barbs.

In 1968, Rickles released his first comedy album, Hello, Dummy!, which went to number 54 on the Billboard 200. He only released one other album, 1969's Don Rickles Speaks!

Throughout the rest of his career, Rickles became a regular on such popular programs as The Dean Martin Roasts and The Hollywood Squares although a comedy series failed after thirteen weeks. His film roles included a number of the early-60's "Beach Movies", Kelly's Heroes, Casino and the three Toy Story films where he voices Mr. Potato Head.

A number of tributes were quickly posted on Thursday afternoon including from his long-time best friend Bob Newhart and his wife Ginnie:

He was called 'The Merchant of Venom,' but in truth, he was one of the kindest, caring and most sensitive human beings we have ever known. We are devastated and our world will never be the same. We were totally unprepared for this.

From Jimmy Kimmel:

Ninety years with Don Rickles weren't enough. One of the sweetest and most lovely people I had the pleasure of knowing. We miss you already.

Rickles is survived by his wife of 52 years, Barbara, two children and two grandchildren.

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