Hang your heads, for the Merchant of Venom is no more.
One of the last surviving legends of golden age Las Vegas, comedian Don Rickles passed away Thursday morning at the age of 90. Born in Queens, Rickles struggled to make it as an actor in New York City before turning to standup. Rickles found his finest comedic inspiration in those who attempted to heckle him and made his name as an insult comic.
Rickles’ career really took off when Frank Sinatra walked into a Miami comedy club and found himself on the receiving end of a barrage of Rickles putdowns. A few years later, in 1959, Rickles made his Las Vegas debut in the lounge at the Sahara and became a fixture of Las Vegas stages for the next six decades, playing showrooms at the Desert Inn, the Stardust, the Riviera, the Golden Nugget and the Orleans. He even had a gig at the Smith Center scheduled for next year.
Rickles also had roles in a number of movies and television shows, even having his own sitcom, C.P.O. Sharkey for two seasons in the 1970s. He was a regular fixture of television talk shows from Johnny Carson to Jimmy Kimmel. The highlight of Rickles’ big screen career was his role in Martin Scorsese’s Casino, in which he played Robert DeNiro’s right hand man.
Don Rickles once said, “When you stand alone and sell yourself, you can’t please everyone. But when you’re different, you can last.” Different he was and last he did. Raise a glass to “Mr. Warmth.”