Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Nothing Rankles Like Rickles

Here's a companion piece to my post about Bob Newhart the other day. As hard as it might be to believe, the quiet spoken, mild-mannered, and low-key Newhart names as his best friend, the loud, brash, and domineering Don Rickles! Here's an excerpt from Bob Newhart's autobiography where he explains it himself:

Don Rickles and I are best friends. I know that might seem strange to those who know Don only by reputation, but somebody has to be his friend. Just to make sure I don't forget, Don gave me a doormat that sits just outside the door of my house. It reads: "The Newharts: The Rickleses' Best Friends"

Apparently, The Rickleses and Newharts have been vacationing together for decades. I recall Bob showing one of his vacation home movies on "The Tonight Show" to Johnny Carson many years ago, back in the days that people still used 8mm cameras before the advent of home video. I think poor Bob was always stuck doing the filming, while Don hammed it up with both their wives, heckling him all the time.

Don Rickles was a hugely popular entertainer back in the 70's, showing up constantly on "The Tonight Show" and pretty much as a regular fixture on "The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts" with his barrage of insult humour. In fact his nickname was "The Merchant of Venom". All the kids in high school during that era would borrow his comic insults, calling each other "Hockey Pucks" and such. I must confess, though I like Don Rickles, I find a little of him goes a long way. Just like Robin Williams today, I can only take his frenetic, ad-lib style of humour in small doses. (I'm definitely much more of a Bob Newhart fan.)

These days, not too many kids seem to know who Don Rickles is anymore. Whenever I show my portfolio of caricatures at school presentations, only a few seem to have heard of him. I always follow up, however, by pointing out that Rickles is currently heard as the voice of Mr. Potato Head in Pixar's "Toy Story", and that, with a face like his, it seems like appropriate casting. They usually get a laugh out of that info. This caricature I did a few years back, by the way, and it has been on my website since day one, but I thought that my more recent caricature of Bob Newhart should not be kept too far away from that of his best friend.