A Don Rickles Encounter

don rickles

A Don Rickles Encounter

A dear old friend of mine is a party planner based in the Los Angeles area.He sent me out on a gig every once in a while years ago back when I lived in L.A.

One day he called to ask me to help him out for a kids birthday party he had booked. Seems his client hired his company to provide entertainment for the kids in the form of Robby the Robot, a full sized robot with a hidden, builtin two way radio and receiver.

robot from lost in spaceMy job was to sit close enough to the robot so I could hear what the kids were saying to it and respond into a wrist radio – no REALLY! Like the kind Dick Tracy wore in the comics. Anything I said would come out of a speaker in the Robby’s head and the voice would come out digitized to sound, well… robotic.

The birthday girl was five, so most of her friends were in that age group. Still easily convinced that robots were real and said funny things when you asked them a question.

So, I pull up to the house in a very affluent part of L.A. and went to the door to let the mom know I had arrived and ask her to show me where to set up the robot. I had to sneak it into the back yard before the kids arrived because it was a big surprise.

As I approached the door, a very short elderly couple got to the walkway ahead of me so I waited patiently behind them as they knocked on the door. When the mom opened the door and created the couple, it took me all of a split second to realize, as soon as I caught a glimpse of his profile and heard him say, “How are ya, darling” – that I had been standing behind Mr. and Mrs. Don Rickles.

My little gig suddenly made me a lot more nervous. Mr. and Mrs. Rickles went into the living room and I introduced myself to the hostess, who turned out to be Don’s daughter and the birthday girl his granddaughter. Mom showed me where to set up the robot, and I went back to where I had parked, wrestled Robby out of the back of the vehicle and wheeled the big plastic bastard out to the patio where the kids were going to be arriving. I plugged him in, planted myself inconspicuously to the side and spoke into my wrist radio softly to test it out. My voice came out of the robot sounding like a space invader – so all systems go. And with no time to spare. The kids all spotted the robot right away and came over to take turns talking to me (it). And Grandpa and Grandma Rickles sat right next to it on the opposite side from me.

My first thought was, “Oh my GOD! Don Rickles! How in hell am I supposed to compete with a talent like that???” I just knew he would be critical of my banter with the kids. I don’t think Ive ever been more self conscious. At least not very often.

Don RicklesI knew I had done a decent job, however, when a little while later, after I had been successfully entertaining his granddaughter and her friends, I got to talk to him for a little bit. He told me I did a nice job. As I was showing him how the the voice was transmitted through the Dick Tracy style walkie-talkie watch, he turned to his wife, pointed over his shoulder at the robot and with a chuckle, declared, “I can’t believe this. Forty years in the business and I have to compete with THIS!”

I thought to myself, “Man, I feel ya!”

Rest in Peace, Don Rickles. I’m glad I got to share the patio with you.

11 Comments

  1. Joe

    Don Rickles was one of the greatest insult comics, hell just comedian in general, of all time! It is so awesome that you are able to have a story like this that you can share and remember for the rest of your life. Thanks for sharing with us, and keep up the good work!

    Reply
    1. Hal (Post author)

      Thanks, Joe

      I still griin a mile wide when I think about it!

      Reply
  2. Rina

    What a lovely story and good on you for doing a great job in front of a great funny man. I really enjoyed reading your account of this occasion. I’m really surprised Mr Rickles didn’t take the micky out of you since that’s how I remember him to be, hehehe 🙂

    Nice story!

    Reply
    1. Hal (Post author)

      I guess when he was off stage surrounded by 5 year-olds, it mellowed him out. Lucky for me.

      Reply
  3. Jack Taylor

    Hi Hal,

    What a great story about Don Rickles. As a Generation X kid, I grew up with him and loved his comedy, He was one of a kind like Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra and the list goes on. Stories like yours keep Don Rickles alive in the minds of people like me who grew up with him. I doubt the texting generation even knows who he was much less George Washington. Thanks for a great read on a great comedian. R.I.P. Don!

    Jack

    Reply
    1. Hal (Post author)

      Thanks, Jack. I feel blessed having grown up when I did and having the opportunity to experience these little encounters with people like Don Rickles. Oh, wait, I take that back… there was NO ONE like Don Rickles!

      Reply
  4. Irma

    Thank you for posting this fun story! Encountering celebrities, especially when it is a surprise encounter, makes the story that much more fun.

    And you are showing him to be a fun, warm person who wanted to put you at ease about your performance. Praise from a great showman is a wonderful memory!

    Reply
    1. Hal (Post author)

      Encountering celebrities was part of the fun of livng in L.A. all those years. There were only a handful which I opwuld say left me “starstruck” But Don Rickles was definitely on that list!

      Reply
  5. Eric

    Hello Hal, I loved Don Rickles ever since I was a little boy! I came around a generation after the boomers, but I’m kind of an old school guy, I love just about anything nostalgic before I was born in 1968. I remember watching Rickles on Hollywood Squares, he was my favorite along with Paul Lynde! And watching Rickles on the Dean Martin Roasts! They don’t make shows like that anymore, and there will never be another Don Rickles! Love the post, so very cool!

    Reply
    1. Hal (Post author)

      He was the had most abrasive mouth when he was on stage, yet people actually paid extra to be seated close enough to the stage so he might single them out and insult them in front of the entire room. To be verbally abused by Rickles was considered a badge of honor!

      Reply
  6. Pablo Cortina

    Quite a story. Love it. Good work.

    Reply

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