Don Rickles, one of the world’s most original and best comedians, died last week. His career stretched 55 years. In terms of U.S. presidents, he worked through the terms of Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, Obama and Trump.
Rickles was doing a stand-up in Miami Beach in the 1960’s when in came Frank Sinatra. As the story goes, the two did not know each other yet, but the ad-lib launched by Rickles that night launched his career: “Make yourself at home, Frank. Hit somebody.”
In 2014, Spike TV hosted an all-star tribute to Don Rickles featuring Jerry Seinfeld, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Jon Stewart, Tracy Morgan, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Jimmy Kimmel, Bob Newhart, Regis Philbin, and David Letterman. You can see clips here.
At Sinatra’s request, Rickles appeared at Ronald Reagan’s second inaugural gala in 1985. He also played a bit part in the 1995 Martin Scorsese film “Casino,” which used a wonderful but obscure tune from 1956 called “Ain’t Got No Home” by Clarence Henry. The entire song is here and you’ll hear a slice of it as the logos roll.
Among ten thousand other gigs, he also provided the voice to Mr. Potato Head in the original Toy Story film.
Today’s 50 Second Theater pulls from the Apollo, the Reagan Inaugural Gala, and Toy Story.