As opener Robert Davi sang “I’ve Got the World on a String” and the big band swelled behind him, the years fell away until Old Vegas was new again. With his black suit, red pocket square, Eddie Munster hairline, Italian-American accent and pinky ring, Davi’s odes to Frank Sinatra were so authentic they bordered on ghostly. “I don’t know what the hell ‘twerking’ is,” Davi told an audience that likely didn’t know what it was either, “but it won’t be here 60 years from now like Don Rickles is.”
If Davi was all about a retiring comfort—convincing the audience that the Old Way was still alive and well somewhere, if only on this showroom stage—Rickles showed that time and age were inconsequential. Sure the 87-year-old comedian danced with a hunched shuffle, but, hell, he was dancing. And singing. And bopping the bandleader in the “spider” with his microphone. And leading two jarringly anachronistic audience members in a WWII-era reenactment of a Japanese soldier’s hara-kiri. And describing hilariously outrageous sex games with his wife of 48 years with his vigorous, booming delivery (one that lasted 90 minutes on the second night of performing before any hint of hoarseness).
“I started in this town 60 years ago in the Sahara,” Rickles reminisced in a rare quiet moment. And it seemed that many of his jokes came from that era … or before. “We have a note?” Rickles received a scrap of paper from the bandleader, read it and quipped, “They found the Lindbergh kid.” It brought down the house. In case the reference was before your time, and it almost certainly was, the Lindbergh kid was kidnapped and found dead in 1932. Still, the joke felt new. Credit a lifetime of perfected delivery. Also, Rickles kept it fresh by interspersing classic material with unrelenting taunts against his band and audience, especially mocking the underdressed fans. “I came here when it was just dirt and wise guys—now I have you.” When a female fan yelled out, “I love you, Don!” he replied charmingly, “Thank you, sweetheart,” and then deadpanned, “An old hooker. Find out where she’s sitting and shoot her.”
“Screw you people, I’m a funny son of a bitch,” declared Mr. Warmth. And he most certainly was entertaining. The Sahara may be gone, but this fixture from the Rat Pack era is still alive and joking. ★★★★★