An interview with Mr. Warmth prior to his New Year's Eve gig at Harrah's Resort in Atlantic City.
There was no mistaking the familiar voice on the other end of the line.
But for the first time in the more than three decades that I’ve known Don Rickles, I heard something different. It was something I’d never heard before from the comedy legend known as Mr. Warmth, the guy who gets his jollies and a big pay check by teasing and poking fun at people.
I heard the heavy and heartbreaking sounds of sadness. On Dec. 3, just two weeks before the phone call, Rickles suffered the most unthinkable of family tragedies.
His only son, Larry, 41, died of respiratory failure related to pneumonia. Larry Rickles was a writer who was once on the staff of the CBS sitcom Murphy Brown and who won a 2008 primetime Emmy Award as co-producer of an HBO documentary about his dad.
At 85, and having logged more than 50 years in show business, Rickles is as old-school as they come. So I never thought for a minute that he’d cancel his New Year’s Eve gig at Harrah’s Resort, because he’s cut from that show-must-go-on fabric.
What I did expect, though, was that he’d forego the usual media publicity tour he likes to do ahead of a show, hoping that the ink and airplay would ensure a capacity crowd for his last performance of 2011.
I immediately tried to withdraw my standing request to talk to Rickles before any of his gigs. But his publicist, Paul Shefrin, said Rickles insisted on doing just one phoner, and that it would be with me.
“He doesn’t know any of the other [reporters] who wanted to talk to him,” Shefrin explained. “He knows you and he said he’d only feel comfortable talking to you.”
The only ground rule for the call was that Rickles didn’t want to spend a long time talking about his son. “Just express your condolences and then see where [the conversation] goes,” Shefrin advised.
One week later, I was staring at the clock watching as the minute hand inched inexorably closer to my call to Rickles. For the first time in all the years I’ve known him and kibitzed with him backstage and gone drinking with him in a casino lounge after his show, I didn’t want to talk to Rickles. I was afraid it would be too awkward for both of us.
No matter how well I’d gotten to know Rickles over the years, I felt it would be very uncomfortable spending even a few minutes on the phone with a man who’d just lost his son.
I placed the call, and Rickles picked up on the second ring. I told him how sorry I was to hear about Larry, and asked how he and his wife, Barbara, and Larry’s sister Mindy were doing.
“How can we be doing? We’re hanging in there. It’s just hard to believe when something like this happens to you, but …” he said, his voice trailing off.
Although he’d canceled a gig in Florida about a week before his son’s death, killing the Harrah’s date on New Year’s Eve was never a consideration, he said.
"Can anything be more horrible? How about a game night at Ryan Seacrest’s house? Everyone will have to laugh at his lame jokes. No thank you. I don’t have a game night. I have a gay night, in which we gossip. I don’t care about their game nights.”
Lisa Lampanelli, who says her jabs at Chevy Chase during a recent roast of the comedian-actor helped her career immensely, may be one of today's greatest roasters, but if you've seen any of the Comedy Central roasts (Donald Trump, Charlie Sheen, Pam Anderson, etc.) over the past few years, you're probably aware ...
I must admit it. I own a KELLY Clarkson album. It was in the used bin at CD Exchange in Northfield several years back — her sophomore effort, Breakaway that is — and I picked it up because I had heard the song “Since U Been Gone” on the radio and could dig the passion in this young Idol winner’s voice. I wanted to hear the rest of the album. I still have the CD and although I haven’t popped it in the old player in a long while, I remember that I listened to it many times after buying it and, well, Kelly’s still OK in my book. Clarkson, who turned...
If Don Rickles decides to write a sequel to his 2007 easy-read autobiography Rickles' Book, an appropriate title might be Rickles' Vindication. Where to begin the book is easy. It should open with R...
After more than 30 years, seeing Don Rickles' name on a casino entertainment schedule is a foregone conclusion. The self-styled Merchant of Venom hasn't missed a year since the dice began rolling on ...
Whoopi Goldberg, pictured with the GM of The Palm, Paul Sandler, hung out at the Tropicana last Saturday, where she played some slots, dined at The Palm and took in Don Rickles' show. O...
Alice Cooper returned to Atlantic City, this time at the House of Blues, for a gig last Saturday, Oct. 8. Judas Priest, despite a reportedly sick Rob Halford, had fans banging their heads at the Borgata, last Sunday, Oct. 9. The band will begin working on a new album early next year. The John Mayer Trio at Borgata, Sat. Oct. 8. Legendary comedian Don Rickles made 'em laugh at Resorts last weekend during his three-night engagement. Mikey and Paul Teutul, of TV's American Chopper, appearing at the AC Convention Center last weekend for AC Chopperfest and digging last week's cover. Celebs taking in Chopperfest included (l. to r.) Schwag (Monster Garage), Dave Kaye (Detroit Brothers bike builder), Randy Couture (UFC Champion) and Suicide Jack (Suicide Jack Choppers)....
Auld acquaintance of 2011 may best be forgot for many — and how better to clear the cache and ring in a fresh slate of calendar dates than by partying like there’s no tomorrow? In Atlantic City the choices on New Year’s Eve are nearly endless.