Don Rickles returns to the Borgata with a well-seasoned appeal to new audiences
Rickles has never been a stranger to the Jersey shore. “I played Wildwood once, and, believe it or not, that was right before Kelly’s Heroes,” he says. “We had our bags packed, I did the show and we left from the show to the airport in New York and flew to Yugoslavia to film.”
The result was involvement in a film that still is paying dividends for his career.
“That film has been on television so many times now and it’s become a cult film,” he says. “And I understand lately that Casino is also being shown a great deal. So these films, I mean I’ve done more, but most people who love television have seen those films. Everybody has seen Kelly’s Heroes and they talk to me about it. It’s kind of nice. I mean it was 40 years ago so that’s kind of good.”
In fact, modern audiences may think of Rickles as a cartoon potato, but in truth, he’s worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood (Clint Eastwood, Robert De Niro, Donald Sutherland). His first film role came in 1958’s Run Silent Run Deep, a classic World War II submarine movie starring two of the biggest stars Hollywood has ever produced — Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster.
“That was kind of exciting, you know, my first picture and here I am with Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster,” he says. “I was a nervous wreck when I first met them. Clark Gable was a marvelous gentleman. And so was Burt. But that was my first picture and I had never done anything in front of the camera. And Robert Wiser was a great director so I had the best things going for me and being part of Run Silent Run Deep was very exciting and I loved doing it.”
More recently, Rickles had success with his 2007 memoir Rickles’ Book, its sequel Rickles’ Letters and the 2007 documentary Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project, which netted him two Emmys. As longtime fans know, Rickles took several shots at TV stardom with shows like C.P.O. Sharkey and The Don Rickles Show, but television success eluded him. Still, Rickles is known for some of the most classic moments on shows like The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, the Dean Martin roasts and notable guest shots on a slew of 1960s sitcoms. Though he wouldn’t it call it vindication, the success of the Mr. Warmth was a long time coming.
“It was kind of great after some 50 odd years in this business to finally get an Emmy,” he says. “Some people worked forever and never got one and some people are very hot in the business and never got one. My receiving one from my peers was a great, great treat for me. I have them proudly displayed in my living room.”
So it’s been a long haul from a stripper’s comic relief to casino legend to a family favorite. But Rickles says retirement isn’t in the picture and there will be more to come.
“I enjoy it and I’ll keep going,” he says. “Thank God, as long as the audience shows up. It’s better than laying on the couch. I’ll have plenty of time for that some day. Right now it’s fun for me to work.”
Where: The Borgata
When: Fri. & Sat., Oct. 9 & 10 (9pm)
How Much: $75
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