Don Rickles, comedy legend, dead at 90
Comedy legend and actor Don Rickles died Thursday morning of kidney failure, Fox News has confirmed. He was 90 years old.
“Emmy-award winning iconic comedian Don Rickles passed away at his home Los Angeles this morning (Thursday) as a result of kidney failure,” his rep said in a statement. “Rickles would have turned 91 on May 8.”
His funeral will be private.
Born in New York City, Rickles served in the U.S. Navy for two years during World War II before he found fame.
He got his big break when his insult comedy began getting him some attention from the “Chairman of the Board,” Frank Sinatra. He connected with Sinatra by chiding him during a show and eventually became the go-to comic of the Rat Pack stars.
“Make yourself at home Frank. Hit somebody,” Rickles reportedly said during the show.
His career took off when he began making appearances on the late-night shows. He was a frequent guest on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and “Late Show with David Letterman.”
For more than half a century, “Mr. Warmth” headlined casinos and nightclubs from Las Vegas to Atlantic City. N.J.
Despite jokes that from other comics might have inspired boycotts, he was one of the most beloved people in show business, idolized by everyone from Joan Rivers and Louis CK to Chris Rock and Sarah Silverman.
“I think the reason that (my act) caught on and gave me a wonderful career is that I was never mean-spirited,” he once said. “Not that you had to like it, but you had to be under a rock somewhere not to get it.”
Carl Reiner would say he knew he had made it in Hollywood when Rickles made fun of him. James Caan once said that Rickles helped inspire the blustering Sonny Corleone of “The Godfather.”
Rickles also found success as an actor an author. He appeared in shows like “Gilligan’s Island” and “The Munsters” after he made his acting debut in the film “Run Silent, Run Deep.”
He also had a notable role as Sgt. Crapgame in the 1970 film “Kelly’s Heroes” that also starred Clint Eastwood. He continued to star in a series of variety television specials in the ’70s.
His most recent film work included a voice-over role as the grumpy Mr. Potato Head in the “Toy Story” films and shorts.
In February, he told Closer Weekly he had no plans to slow down.
“Honestly, I didn’t realize it — all of a sudden I was 90,” said the comedian on his 60-plus-year. “The years skipped by quickly. When it happened, I said, ‘Where did the time go?’”
“At 90, I’m still going pretty damn good,” he said. “And it’s nice because I have no plans to slow down.”
Rickles is survived by his wife Barbara, daughter and two grandchildren.
The statement from his rep noted: “In lieu of flowers, it is suggested that donations be made to the Larry Rickles Endowment Fund at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.”
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.