Make us your home page
Instagram

Every hockey puck wishes Don Rickles a happy 90th birthday

“What I do is different, and different took me a long way,” says Don Rickles, who is 89 for a little while longer. (He will turn 90 on May 8.)

Getty Images (2011)

“What I do is different, and different took me a long way,” says Don Rickles, who is 89 for a little while longer. (He will turn 90 on May 8.)

At an age when most folks are retired or dead, Don Rickles celebrates his 90th birthday the way a comedy legend should: on the road performing, with a kid (relatively) named Regis Philbin opening for Mr. Warmth, the Merchant of Venom, take your nickname pick.

Cue the insult comic's toreador theme song. Someone's getting gored, as good-naturedly as it gets.

How does Rickles still do it? How has he outlived nearly all of his comedy peers and celebrity targets since the Rat Pack era?

The answer may be found in an anecdote Rickles dropped at the end of our telephone interview:

"My mother, rest her soul, I was very close with," Rickles said from his Beverly Hills home. "She was about 84 and she was in the hospital, in bad shape. I'm an only child and I went over to the bed, said, 'Doctor, can I talk to her?' He said absolutely.

"I said, 'Mom, you're 84 years old, God's been good, keep your chin up.' She looked at me and said, 'I can't be 85?' "

A wistful laugh, then: "I'll never forget that."

Rickles hasn't stopped working like that, either. In addition to his birthday tour, there's another Toy Story gig as Mr. Potato Head coming, and two new outlets for his humor on Twitter and an iTunes app.

"Well, you do everything for money unless you're a dummy," Rickles said, perhaps his second-favorite term of endearment after "hockey puck."

Fearless yet cautious about whom he skewers, Rickles has heckled show biz and White House royalty for decades, through countless concerts and television appearances.

His pugnacious manner is just an act, of course. Rickles kids because he loves. Being roasted by "Bullethead," as Sinatra called him, is a badge of honor. Nothing personal, and only aimed at those Rickles knows can take it. Rickles was politically incorrect long before that was cool.

"Thank you for saying that, I appreciate it," Rickles said. "What I do is different, and different took me a long way.

"Mine is an attitude and my attitude is always fun. You can always tell that. I exaggerate, and sometimes when some other people try to do that, as you say, it comes across as rude or unkind.

"I know I can't please the world, but for the majority I never had that complaint. There's always somebody who may not find the humor in something. I realize sometimes somebody walks out of the theater and they're maybe not crazy about me. They're entitled."

Anyone leaving a Don Rickles show dissatisfied must be a hockey puck. The man is a comedy icon, deserving every stop and standing ovation on his birthday tour. Just don't congratulate him on turning 90 too soon.

"It's not till May, so don't rush me," Rickles said. "I've got a little time yet."

Hopefully a lot more.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

>>If you go

Don Rickles' 90th Birthday Celebration

The celebration with guest star Regis Philbin starts at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. Tickets are $50.25 and up. rutheckerdhall.com or (727) 791-7400.

Every hockey puck wishes Don Rickles a happy 90th birthday 03/17/16 [Last modified: Thursday, March 17, 2016 11:00am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Blake High grad Taylor Trensch lands lead role in 'Dear Evan Hansen' on Broadway

    Stage

    For those who saw Taylor Trensch grow up in Tampa, his rise from promising student to star is heartwarming and entirely predictable. In January, Trensch, 28, will be moving into the title role of Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway, one of the hottest tickets in theater.

    Taylor Trensch, a 2007 Blake High graduate, will play the title role in Broadway's Dear Evan Hansen. Courtesy of Frank Trensch.
  2. A scene from "Epiphany."
  3. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Oct. 22

    Events

    Clearwater Jazz Holiday: The Avett Brothers: The Avett Brothers, with their blend of folk, bluegrass and rock, lead the lineup. 1:30 p.m., Coachman Park, 301 Drew St., Clearwater. $16 per day, $45 reserved, $170 VIP. (727) 461-5200.

    AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 15:  (L-R)  Joe Kwon, Bob Crawford, Seth Avett, and Scott Avett of The Avett Brothers pose for a portrait at the "May It Last: A Portrait Of The Avett Brothers" Premiere - 2017 SXSW Conference and Festivals on March 15, 2017 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SXSW)
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Oct. 21

    Events

    Conor Oberst: The Bright Eyes mastermind will be joined by opener, the Felice Brothers. 8 p.m., Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater. $30.50-$36. (727) 791-7400.

    Handout photo of Conor Oberst, performing Oct. 21 at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg. Credit: Grandstand Media
  5. McDonald's soft serve in Florida is made with handshakes and happy cows

    Consumer

    Floridians licked nine million McDonald's vanilla cones last year.

    Calves play with a rubber toy at the Milking R Dairy in Okeechobee, FL. Owners Sutton Rucks, Jr., and his wife Kris Rucks sell their milk to SouthEast Dairies cooperative, Edward Coryn of Dairy Mix in St. Petersburg buys it, transforms it into soft-serve ice cream base, and sells it to all the McDonald's. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times