Our friend, Don Rickles, passed away yesterday, April 6, 2017. This was a hard hit for me because I knew Don pretty well. I was driving on a steep canyon road, way up in the hills above southern California when I received news of Don’s passing. A flood of memories came rushing in. I had to pull over to process the impact of what he meant, not only to me, but to the world. Don and my father knew one another from various show biz events over the years. I was very young, maybe six or seven when I first met Don at an awards show in the early seventies. Many years passed, and ironically, in 1993 I ended up working for Don on a TV sitcom called Daddy Dearest. The show aired for one season on Fox. It starred Don Rickles along with Richard Lewis. I was a production assistant on that show. I lived in Malibu in those days, and Don had a second home there, a beach house in The Colony. I was asked by the folks running the show, on occasion, if I could pick Don up on my way to work, and drop him off at the set. I was a huge fan of Mr. Rickles, and I couldn’t believe that I was asked, well, really, I was being entrusted to drive him. Don was great. He was the exact opposite of what you think you know about Don Rickles. Really, he was a very nice, very quiet private person. Smart, quick on his feet, but extremely down to earth. He knew my father was Howie. He expressed a great admiration for my pops work. When I arrived at his house in Malibu, he was always ready to leave at that exact moment. That’s the way my father was, and the way of true professional stage actors. The good ones know exactly when they need to hit their stage marks. In fact, all appointment times in their lives become their stage marks! Of course, Don was no exception to that rule. The drive to the studio took roughly an hour, which meant that we had quite a bit of time to pass. Malibu traffic on Pacific Coast Highway was a bear sometimes, let alone using side streets to negotiate around the jams. One thing you do not do when in the company of a legend, is attempt to get them to talk. Especially a known super guided insult-missile like Don. You better just just let it be. If they want to chat, great. If not, that’s great, too. There were brief quiet moments, but Don would open up and fill them. It was probably a good distraction from his having to learn lines. We talked about many things, including his family. He was very proud of and greatly loved his son Larry and daughter Mindy. Larry, was also a friend of mine from that show. One day before our first meeting, I was working on the stage. Somebody from production came to me to tell me that Don’s son, a guy named Larry, was going to work as a set PA along with myself and the other PAs. He had never worked on a show before and we were to show him the ropes. Almost instantly, Larry and I became friends. Larry was very special. He was very funny, had a wonderful laugh. At one point, he arranged, with his dad, tickets for us to see Don perform at his show at the Desert Inn in Vegas. Myself and a few other production friends from the show flew out from Burbank. I think we stayed two nights. Don was brilliant. He pointed us out during his show and insulted us. We had an absolutely terrific time. Soon after our return from Vegas, Daddy Dearest got the axe from Fox. It was cancelled after just one season. It was a let down, like a family breaking apart. Life for each of us moved on. I started a small production company that was located just a few doors down from where Larry bought his first condo, near Westwood. I would sometimes visit him in Malibu, or at his folks house in Beverly Hills. His sister, Mindy, was also hanging around. She was great. I stayed in touch with Larry for a few years. Eventually, things changed and we lost touch. The reason I am also reflecting on Larry is because both Larry and his father are no longer with us. Larry passed away in 2011 at the age of 41. I’m sure Don, his wife Barbara and sister Mindy, suffered tremendously by the loss of Larry. To wrap up a long post, I was fortunate to get to know some of the Rickles family. I was also fortunate, as others have expressed, regarding Don and his pin-pointed laser-focused insults. In 1993, while on the set of Daddy Dearest, this lowly production assistant, me, suddenly found myself pray to a public Don Rickles insult. It was harsh, everyone laughed, but I won’t get in to the details here. However, it was very funny and I loved it. Don, I’ll hang on to that moment forever.
Hey Dave…..Another great one gone in Don R……America loses when these great performers pass…..I watch The Andy Griffith Show every night at dinner time. We love it when Earnest T shows up….He carried the show when on…..Anyway, sorry about your personal loss…..It hits home when you know them up close…..Ever thought about going to Mayberry Days in Mt. Airy??? I believe your pops showed up one year and did the “gasoline can song”….He stole the show I understand….Take Care…..Jim S.
Thank you, Jim! You are correct, Howard did appear at Mayberry Days, at least a couple times. He did perform, gas can and all. He had some good times with the fans. I made a couple trips to Mayberry Days as well. It’s great! I’ll visit again at some point.
I was a big fan of Don Rickles. He was an equal opportunity insulter! God bless him & his family.
I Love The Great Line From Don when playing the part of Newton, a traveling salesmen on The Andy Griffith Show,
“I’m not Inept
RIP Mr Rickles, Thanks for all the laughter!