Don Rickles is widely accepted as being one of the most gifted comedians in history. His career spanned an impressive 62 years, from 1955 to 2017. He reveres for his work in insult comedy as a stand-up comedian but also works as an actor and author.
Don Rickles was born on May 8th, 1926, in Queens to parents Max and Etta Rickles. After his graduation from high school, he enlisted in the army and served in World War II. He was honorably discharged in 1946 and decided to make something more of his life.
At first, Don Rickles aspired to be a dramatic actor and studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. For a while, he managed to scrape together a few parts on television, but never landed any major parts. Rickles grew more and more upset with his lack of success in acting. Unfortunately for many aspiring actors, the film and television industries aren’t nearly as glamorous as they seem. Only a lucky few go on to become A-list celebrities. Most actors are stuck playing extras or reciting a few measly lines in single episodes. Most young actors eventually give up and settle for a quieter life in various careers. Don Rickles, however, was determined to make it as an entertainer.
Realizing he may not have to be a dramatic actor, he starts performing as a stand-up comedian in various clubs. Most comedians learn to ignore their hecklers, but Don Rickles had a more direct approach. He responded to and humiliated his hecklers, earning him the reputation of being an insulted comedian. In fact, at one point in his career, he even managed to roast the legendary Frank Sinatra himself! Before long, audiences just couldn’t get enough of him. People all over the country realized that Don Rickles was a comedian with guts.
Don Rickles was a master of comedy and managed to entertain millions throughout his career. However, he also saw his fair share of tragedies throughout his life. He eventually lost his life in 2017, which left his wife of many decades, Barbara Rickles, absolutely devastated. More recently, Barbara Rickles has also tragically died.
In today’s video, we’re going to take a look at the life and legacy of Don Rickles, as well as the tragic death of both himself and his wife. Make sure you stick around, because we’re also going to take a look at how the couple dealt with a devastating and unexpected loss together.
Don and Barbara Rickles’ Beautiful Love Story
Many celebrities are notorious for marrying and divorcing several people, often due to affairs and various other kinds of drama. For Don Rickles, however, monogamy was extremely important to him. For a long time, he attempts to find a woman with whom he can spend the rest of his life. Throughout his 20s and 30s, he fails time and time again to find a woman he can make his wife.
When he was 38 years old, Don Rickles still hadn’t found anybody. Then, his agent hooked him up with a beautiful woman named Barbara Sklar. The two got to know each other, but Barbara didn’t quite understand his sense of humor. That was when Don Rickles knew he had fallen in love. The two married on March 14th, 1965, and stayed together for 52 years until Don Rickles’ death. They had a long and happy marriage, as well as two beautiful children.
The Tragic Death of Their Son
Together, Don and Barbara Rickles gave birth to two children: Mindy and Larry. They were quite proud of their children, and Larry Rickles even went on to become a producer and screenwriter. Later, Larry Rickles won a an Emmy Award for his work on a documentary about his father, titled Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project.
On December 3rd, 2011, however, tragedy struck. Larry Rickles was stricken with pneumonia and hospitalized. He passed away surrounded by his family and loved ones. Don, Barbara, and their daughter Mindy were all devastated. Larry Rickles was a successful young man who had a bright future ahead of him, and died too young at age 41. It’s immensely difficult for parents to watch their children die, especially for this family, which was particularly close to one another.
How Don Rickles Narrowly Avoided Death
In the 1970s, Don Rickles became friends with the infamous mobster, “Crazy” Joe Gallo. One night, “Crazy” Joe attended his set, and he was warned by many others not to poke fun at him. Don Rickles, however, was never one to shy away from danger, and decided to mercilessly roast the mobster during his performance. Crazily enough, Joe Gallo actually loved the ribbing, and the two sparked a friendship. Joe Gallo invited him to a restaurant called Umberto’s Clam House, but Rickles politely said no. It’s a good thing he did, because that very night, there was a shooting at the Clam House, and Joe Gallo was killed.
Had Don Rickes chosen to go to Umberto’s Clam House that night, he could have lost his life, but he thankfully managed to live much longer. However, while his eventual death did leave the whole world mourning the loss of a great comedian, it struck his beloved wife, Barbara Rickes, much harder. Make sure you stick around until the very end, because we’re going to reveal how she coped with the loss of her husband, as well as her own death later on. And if you’re enjoying this video so far, please take a moment to like this video, and don’t forget to subscribe to Facts Verse for more!
He Had a Lot of High Profile Friends
You’d think an insult comedian would have a difficult time making and maintaining friendships, but Don Rickles’ warm personality actually meant he had lots of friends, including many celebrities. Early in his career, Rickles became friends with the legendary Frank Sinatra, and the two even performed together at the inauguration of Ronald Reagan. Despite being a Democrat all his life, Rickles still considered that performance to be his crowning achievement.
Furthermore, Don Rickles also considered his best friend to be none other than fellow comedian Bob Newhart. The two spent a lot of time together, and their wives were also close friends with one another. Even though Rickles was merciless when it came to insulting people, it was all done in good faith. In fact, he seemed to inspire friendliness and warmth wherever he went, not in spite of, but because of his frequent teasing. After his death, the whole world stopped for a moment to grieve the loss of such a warm and bright person.
Don Rickles’ Death
Don Rickles lived a long and rich life. While he struggled to find work as an actor at first, he eventually found fame and success as a stand-up comedian. He made many close friendships along the way, and also had a beautiful family. Inspiring comedians all around the world with his signature style, as well as his bold tendency to roast anyone who crossed his path. He continued to work as an actor and comedian right up until the year he died.
On April 6th, 2017, Don Rickles died of kidney failure at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 90 years old. While he lived a long life, people all over the world were still devastated to hear the news. Celebrities all over mourned his loss and paid tribute to his death over social media and television. Many notable people, including Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Tom Hanks, Barbara Streisand, Whoopi Goldberg, and Jim Carrey all took a moment to pay their respects to the fallen legend. Even after his death, however, Don Rickles continues to be an icon and an inspiration to millions of people, particularly other comedians and actors.
Barbara Rickles’ Death
Barbara Rickles had been lovingly married to Don for 52 years, and was understandably devastated at the loss. However, she continued to persevere for several years until eventually dying on March 15th, 2021, from complications from non-Hodgkin’s’ lymphoma. She was 84, and died on the very same day that would be she and Don’s 56th anniversary.
Don Rickles often described Barbara as the light of his life, and was an incredibly good sport, due to her putting up with his constant teasing and poking. While he often made fun of her during performances, he assured the world that none of it was true, and that he loved his dear wife more than anything else. The two were an inseparable pair, and the world mourns their loss.
Don Rickles was an amazing comedian whose silly personality earned him the nickname Mr. Warmth. Despite his joyous nature, however, he suffered great personal tragedy throughout his life. Were you more saddened to learn about the tragic way Don Rickles lost his life, or to hear about how Don and Barbara had to deal with the loss of their beloved son? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to Facts Verse for more!