Don Rickles, aggressively caustic comedian dubbed ‘Mr. Warmth,’ dies at 90 – Los Angeles Times

Don Rickles was just another little known comic working a small club in Miami Beach in the 1950s when Frank Sinatra came in with his entourage.

“Make yourself comfortable, Frank — hit somebody,” said Rickles as the notoriously moody singer paused, and then broke into laughter.

Without missing a beat, Rickles hit the accelerator. “Frank, believe me, I’m telling you this as a friend: Your voice is gone.”

Using insult as his weapon of choice and a quick, knowing smirk as his defense, Rickles delighted audiences from sold-out Vegas showrooms to late-night TV to Hollywood roasts with a brand of aggressively caustic humor that targeted everyone from unknown “hockey pucks” to big-name celebrities.

After serving in the Navy in the Philippines, Rickles failed in his attempts to be a salesman — he briefly sold insurance and air conditioners and peddled women’s cosmetics door-to-door. He was delivering meat and mopping the floor of a butcher shop when he settled on a new ambition: The one-time president of his high school drama society decided to go to acting school.

To his surprise, he was accepted into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where his classmates included Jason Robards, Tom Poston, Don Murray, Grace Kelly and Anne Bancroft.

But after graduating from the academy and failing to land roles in Broadway productions, Rickles changed career paths: In 1951, he found an agent who got him a job as a comic for $25 a night at a third-rate club in New Jersey. Other small clubs, including a fair number of strip joints, followed.

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