Earlier today, we reportedly the sad news that Hollywood has lost another legend, with comedian Don Rickles passing away at the age of 90. His publicist confirmed that the iconic insult comic passed in his Los Angeles home, from kidney failure. As word of his passing spread, Hollywood icons left and right paid tribute to the late comedian through social media, to honor this late legend.
While most sent out their tributes through Twitter, others released lengthier tributes elsewhere. Rolling Stone caught up with Gilbert Gottfried, who summed up the the late comedian's legacy with a heartfelt statement that explained why Rickles will go down in history as one of the best comedians ever. Here's what Gilbert Gottfried had to say.
"Don Rickles was never politically correct, and he would never apologize for any of it. He was totally unapologetic about his comedy. So I admired that and looked at him as a hero in that way. And as someone, like myself, who's done so many roasts, I really admired Rickles at the roasts. There are so many things he said at those over the years that made me laugh. I remember one Rickles quote where he said whenever he goes onstage, he has a nagging fear that he's not going to offend anybody. I never thought he crossed the line. He made a joke at the American Film Institute's tribute to Shirley MacLaine, "I don't want to insult President Obama. He's a friend of mine. He was over at the house last night, but then his mop broke," and they cut it out of the broadcast, because nowadays that's way too racist. And yet, I couldn't help but thinking, Obama himself probably would have laughed at that. And I heard one time Don Rickles was sitting in a restaurant and Morgan Freeman walked by, and Rickles yelled out, "Hey Morgan, get back to the kitchen." I don't know if Morgan laughed at that, but he probably laughed. And everybody else was scared to say anything around Frank Sinatra, and he was constantly insulting Sinatra and Sinatra would laugh. When I think of Rickles, I remember one time there was some event honoring Clint Eastwood, and Rickles went over to Eastwood's wife and said, "Cheer up, honey. You'll be coming into a lot of money soon." And Charles Bronson was in the audience, and he goes, "Charlie, make yourself at home. Shoot somebody." I was at home when I found out today that he had died. A friend of mine, who is an equal Don Rickles fanatic called me, and he told me. Rickles wasn't a young man, but it was still shocking that he died. 'Til the very end, he was still sharp when he'd go out on TV or perform anywhere. He's one of those people who remained great. Even when, physically, he looked very weak, he was still totally sharp and totally funny. He wasn't one of those performers that people applauded because they were still alive; he was one of those people he applauded and laughed because he was just so funny all the time. His legacy to me will always be that he didn't care who he insulted, he didn't care who he offended. If it got a laugh, it was great."
Our report from earlier today revealed that funeral services will be private, and that donations can be made in the late comedian's name to his son's organization, the Larry Rickles Endowment Fund at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Don Rickles got his start in the entertainment business by performing as a stand-up comedian for several years. While he was generally perceived as a traditional stand-up comic, an encounter with Frank Sinatra during a 1957 show turned his career around. When the comedian noticed that Frank Sinatra was watching his show, Don Rickles told the legendary performer, "Make yourself at home, Frank. Hit somebody." While Sinatra normally did not take kindly to such heckling, he roared with laughter. A year later, the late actor made his feature film debut in the 1958 classic Run Silent, Run Deep, alongside Clark Gable, Burt Lancaster and Jack Warden. In 1959, he also signed on for his first Las Vegas appearance, performing his newly-perfected brand of insult comedy at the Hotel Sahara, which lead to gigs at Vegas mainstays such as the Riviera, the Golden Nugget, the Desert Inn and the Sahara. Here's what Don Rickles' longtime friend Bob Newhart had to say about Don Rickles' passing.
"He was called 'The Merchant of Venom,' but in truth, he was one of the kindest, caring and most sensitive human beings we have ever known. We are devastated and our world will never be the same. We were totally unprepared for this."
He became a regular guest on The Tonight Show, becoming one of Johnny Carson's most frequent guests, and more recently, he would often appear on CBS' Late Show with David Letterman, before the talk show host retired in 2015. His brand of insult comedy found the perfect home with the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts TV specials which aired throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, where he would skewer celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Kirk Douglas, Sammy Davis Jr. and Mr. T. While he never ascended to "leading man" status on the big screen, the beloved comedian appeared in a slew of movies and TV shows while perfecting his comedy routines, such as Rat Race, a number of Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello beach movies entitled Muscle Beach Party, Bikini Beach and Beach Blanket Bingo and Kelly's Heroes. Here's what comedian Robert Klein, who appears with Don Rickles in Marshall Fine's documentary Robert Klein Still Can't Stop His Leg, currently airing on Starz, had to say about Don Rickles' passing in a statement.
"Don Rickles was a brilliant improvisational comedian as well as an excellent actor. What many people do not realize is that for someone so widely known as an insult comedian, Don Rickles was also, genuinely, a very kind man."
Among his other film credits was a role in the 1995 classic Casino, where he starred alongside Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone, with Martin Scorsese at the helm. Martin Scorsese also released a statement after learning of Don Rickles' passing. Here's what the filmmaker had to say.
"Don Rickles was a giant, a legend...and I can hear his voice now, skewering me for being so lofty. I had the honor of working with him on my picture Casino.He was a professional. He kept me doubled over with laughter every day on the set, yet he was a complete pro. We became friends over the years and I had the honor of being roasted by him more than once, sometimes when I didn't expect it. He just started showing up at places and insulting me. Experiencing Don, and tuning into his mind, I witnessed the evolution of his comedy. It was like listening to a great jazz musician wail. Nobody else did what he did. He made comedy into an art form. And like all geniuses, comic or otherwise, he's irreplaceable. He was much loved. I'm really missing this man."
Younger fans will most likely know Don Rickles best for voicing Mr. Potato Head in Pixar's Toy Story. He would go on to reprise that role in 1999's Toy Story 2, 2010's Toy Story 3 and short films such as Toy Story Midway Mania, Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation, Toy Story Toons: Small Fry, Toy Story Toons: Partysaurus Rex, Toy Story of Terror and Toy Story That Time Forgot. He was currently working on the upcoming theatrical sequel Toy Story 4, which is slated for release in 2019. The actor and comedian is survived by his wife Virginia, his daughter Mindy and his grandchildren Ethan and Harrison. Take a look at the social media tributes to Don Rickles that have started pouring in today.