Rickles’ Letters: A Memoir by Don Rickles

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Rickles' LettersVery good memoir by one of the favorite comedians from back in the 50’s thru 80’s. I never realized how many movies that Don Rickles was in during his career. Also tons of television shows (he even had his own show for several years).

Suppose it was easy for him to get work after he got started because he became friends with all of the top names in the entertainment industry during those days. Some folks were not always happy with him because his type of humor usually picked on or made fun of someone in the audience. But I suppose if you realized it was all being done in good fun it was alright.

Although Don’s mother, Etta, always believed in him and would tell everyone that he was going to be a great entertainer some day, he had a very slow start and wasn’t accepted very quickly.

He joined the Navy when he turned eighteen. He continually tried to get into Special Services but no one would really listen to him so he ended up on board ship guarding the Captain.

After his discharge he tried working in sales but as several people told him he was good “at opening but he could never close”. So that wiped out sales as a career. But it taught him that “opening” was to be his role in the show business field that he wanted.

He then enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and even though he was never really interested in drama (comedy was his dream) he did meet some folks like Anne Bancroft, Jason Roberts, and Tom Poston. Shortly thereafter he got his first manager, Willie Weber, and they began working to get Rickles into more and more spots to show his comedic type of entertainment. Strangely enough just about the time he seemed to be moving forward in the New York stream of limited show business his mother (after his father had passed away) decided they would move to Miami. And though she wasn’t his manager or agent she always knew how to play up to people and later on she became one of the most famous “friends” of Hollywood stars.

One of her early accomplishments was becoming friends with Frank Sinatra’s mother, Dolly Sinatra. The two of them arranged for Frank to come to Murray Franklin’s where Don was opening shows.

Frank fell in love with Rickles’ style of humor and really became one of his closest friends forever. Frank introduced him to all of the big name show business people and Don became one of the gang. He developed close friendships with many of the top names of that era and one especially, Bob Newhart, became Don’s best buddy forever.

The book is written in Rickles’ own style and it covers all of his friends as well as many of the encounters he had with the famous, some of whom did not appreciate his biting humor at first, but also later became close friends.

A well written book that really has no plot but it does really give the reader a close look at how the entertainment industry works. It also allows the reader a look into the personal lives of many of the top names in show business. And it is a great look into the person that Don Rickles really was. Very interesting book!