Whaddya Lookin’ At, Ya Hockey Puck?!
Don Rickles passed away yesterday at the age of 90. In many ways his death represents the end of an era.
Rickles' career began in the 1950's, when he turned to standup comedy when acting roles were scarce. He honed his style by reacting to hecklers in the audience and calling them "hockey pucks". His responses to hecklers became the funniest part of his show and the reason that people came to see him. His career took off when Frank Sinatra discovered Rickles' act in a Miami nightclub. Rickles reportedly said, "Make yourself at home, Frank. Hit somebody!" Sinatra began to tell others about his discovery and the comedian was soon playing clubs in Las Vegas.
In the 1960's Rickles seemed to be on television all the time, appearing with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr. and others. He was like an honorary member of the Rat Pack. When Dean Martin started doing his celebrity roasts, Rickles was often the highlight of the entire evening.
No one was immune to Rickles' taunts. Everything was wide open--ethnicity, gender, sexual preference--you name it, Rickles went after it. And because he was so good at his craft, Don worked steadily until the end of his life.
As we often do when someone famous dies, we reflect on their life--the contributions they made and the legacy they leave behind. I was thinking about the internet age we live in today and whether a comic like Don Rickles would ever be able to rise above the nightclub scene with the kind of act he did. I think that with the uber-politically-correct society that exists on social media, he would have been vilified. People just can't seem to take a joke anymore. Some seem to think that the U.S. constitution affords them the inalienable right to not be offended. And that's a shame.
One thing's for sure, we'll never see another presidential inauguration like the one in this video. Rest In Peace, Don.