To many of you, especially in this golden age of ageism, the only acceptable form of prejudice left in the world, his death is insignificant." So what? Another old fart croaked. What's on Netflix?" But since the majority of you have no sense of history beyond five minutes ago, you have no idea that there has been a major shift in the timeline as the end of an era has occurred.
But who cares. right? Time passes. So does wind.
The bottom line is that Don Rickles made me laugh longer and harder than anyone for my entire life. It's rare to find someone, especially in comedy, that you found funny when you were young that could still have the same effect years later. Look at Jerry Lewis. I was a rabid fan as a kid, but now, not so much. Maybe if I was French. The same holds true of Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges and well, the Peekaboo Game.
But Rickles fractured and slayed me every time. His appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson or The Joey Bishop Show were major events that I anticipated with as much excitement as I would if The Beatles showed up on Ed Sullivan. (the show, not the man) Years later, he was just as hilarious on Letterman, Leno or Kimmel. Sure, he was slower, but his mind hit more cylinders than you and I will ever have. His insulting shtick was spontaneous and in the moment, relying more on improv than set material.
With Rickles gone, so too is the age of Show Biz Classic, a performer that wears a tuxedo un-ironically and gives 100% to an audience each and every time. Some of it came with a layer of schmaltz, but that was to soften whatever ill will that be be conceived from his act. The man had a work ethic that wouldn't quit, right up until the very end, just like the late Joan Rivers. Rickles has a talk show series in the can, did voice work for the next Toy Story and had bookings in Vegas as well as across the country he won't be able make, but would if he could. Now THAT's old school.
Don Rickles represented show business how I always wanted it to be, though I know full well the reality is a lot starker beyond the lights, tinsel and gloss. But so what? It kept the fantasy alive and the laughs right on a-comin'. And for me, that meant everything.
So long, ya hockey puck.
For more about Don Rickles, check out the Emmy winning documentary directed by John Landis,
Mr. Warmth: The Don Ricles Project
and the fantastic book, The Comedians: Drunks, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy by Kliph Nesteroff