By: Ira Goldberg
I was sadden to hear this afternoon of the passing of comedian Don Rickles at the age of 90.
When you think of his humor the words rude or insulting may come to mind. I want to give you a first hand view of a Don Rickles many may not know.
In 1974 a small dinner theater in Nanuet New York a small comedy club about 30 miles north of New York City, was going out of business. The owners contacted their friend Frank Sinatra to help save them from closing down. Frank called on Don Rickles to appear their for a week and see if the Nanuet Dinner Theater can be saved.
I attended one of the shows as a member of the local newspaper. It was my job to review the show and the theater.
Rickles walked up and down the aisles selecting a black, an Italian, & an Irishman to join him on stage. He walked up to me and asked my name and when he found out I was Jewish he told me to sit down.
He returned to the stage and said how Italians use blacks to burn businesses down and maybe the Nanuet theater may be a good place to start. He said the Irish are usually the firemen. He asked the Italian guy if he ever hired a black to start a fire and the Irish guy coincidentally was a fireman.
Rickles had the audience laughing so loud it was almost hard to hear the lines. Rickles was at his best giving his all for this small town theater as he would if he was on stage in Vegas or Atlantic City. He was there to save the place from closing down and he gave 100 percent. He made fun of each nationality along with their accents.
At the end of his 2 hour act he told the men he invited on stage and their family join him for dinner and sit at his table and offered tickets to his current Atlantic City show
This rude insulting guy had a heart of gold a man who would tear you down and would build you back up before he left. I understood he did the shows for no money he wanted the profits to go directly to the theater's bottom line.
Don is one of the good guys and will be missed.