RICKLES, DON (1926– ), U.S. comedian and actor. Born in New York, New York, the comedian started out as a shy child, but by the time he attended Newton High School in Elmhurst, Long Island, Rickles was performing in school plays. During World War ii, Rickles served with the U.S. Navy aboard the uss Cyrene. Rickles studied drama after his discharge in 1946, and two years later he started working stand-up routines in small clubs. His impressions and jokes were nothing remarkable, but the audience instantly connected with the off-the-cuff remarks he threw back at hecklers, which gave rise to his insult style of comedy. In 1957, Frank Sinatra walked into a Hollywood nightclub where Rickles was performing when the comedian famously told the crooner, "Make yourself at home Frank. Hit somebody." Sinatra found the comic hilarious, and by 1959 Rickles had signed to his first performance at the Sahara in Las Vegas; Rickles continued to headline in the city at different hotels for decades. In 1958, Rickles made his feature film debut with Run Silent Run Deep (1958), followed by such films as The Rat Race (1960) and Beach Blanket Bingo. On October 7, 1965, Rickles made his first of many appearances on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. He recorded his bestselling first album, titled Hello Dummy!, for 7 Arts Records in 1967; his follow-up album was titled Don Rickles Speaks. Rickles and actor Ernest Borgnine starred in West Coast performances of The Odd Couple in 1967, and in 1968 ABC debuted the short-lived variety program The Don Rickles Show. Rickles had a starring turn in the World War ii feature Kelly's Heroes (1970), and from 1971 to 1972 cbs ran a sitcom, the Don Rickles Show, which featured the comedian as an advertising executive. From 1977 to 1978 Rickles starred as a Navy chief petty officer in the nbc comedy C.P.O. Sharkey. On February 7, 1982, Sinai Temple in West Los Angeles, California, dedicated the Barbara and Don Rickles Gymnasium. In the 1990s, Rickles enjoyed a film comeback with parts in Innocent Blood (1992) and Casino (1995), and as the voice for Mr. Potato Head in the Disney/Pixar features Toy Story (1995) and Toy Story 2 (1999).
[Adam Wills (2nd ed.)]