NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Emmy-Award winning comedian Don Rickles passed away in his home in Los Angeles Thursday, his publicist said.
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Rickles died from complications of kidney failure, his publicist said. He was 90 years old.
The award-winning comedian was known for his work as an “insult” comic, communicating back and forth with his audience with an air of spontaneity that resonated with his fans.
For more than half a century, “Mr. Warmth” headlined casinos and nightclubs from Las Vegas to Atlantic City, and appeared often on late-night TV talk shows.
His big break came in the 1950s when superstar Frank Sinatra saw Rickles perform in Miami Beach, CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported.
“He sat down right in front, and I started doing my thing. And one of the famous lines was, ‘Stand up Frank, be yourself, hit somebody!’ And the whole audience laughed. He had all his guys with him,” the comedian said in an interview.
The two became lifelong friends, often appearing together in Las Vegas and on television talk shows, where almost nothing was off limits.
His career on stage took him to the big screen in 1958, with his film debut in the movie “Run Silent, Run Deep,” acting alongside Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster. He even took a famous turn as the irascible Mr. Potato Head in “Toy Story.”
Rickles was also a familiar face on television, making appearances in hit shows like “The Lucy Show,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
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It was at the Friar’s Club in Midtown, Manhattan that he perfected the art of the celebrity roast.
“I haven’t said so many tuxedos since the Osmond brothers had their annual prom,” Rickles said, roasting Dean Martin.
“Don Rickles was the Friar’s Club. It’s the essence of love, and comedy and doing good things for people. Just a walking bundle of joy,” the club’s executive director, Michael Gyure said.
In 2000, Rickles got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He also won an Emmy award for his 2007 documentary “Mr. Warmth.”
“It feels like an accomplishment after some 55 years in business. After starting out in tough joints, and saloons, striptease – what they called in those days striptease joints — to finally get to this makes me very proud,” he said.
Rickles’ last major appearance was in December at an event honoring Kirk Douglas.
He began his career as a comic after serving in the U.S. Navy for two years until he was honorably discharged in 1946.
Rickles is survived by his wife Barbara, their daughter Mindy Mann, and two grandchildren. His son, Larry Rickles, passed away in 2011 at age 41. He would have turned 91 on May 8.
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