Considered the world's greatest insult comic, Don Rickles was a legendary comedy giant, honorary Rat Pack member, and “equal opportunity offender" who defied political correctness, transcended every medium, entertained, influenced and insulted generations of comedians and fans over his six-decade career. Now in the first-ever biography and in-depth portrait of Don Rickles, New York Post television editor and celebrity biographer Michael Seth Starr delivers a hilarious, moving, and long-overdue look at the real man behind the sting.
Riding a wave of success that lasted more than sixty years, Don Rickles is best known as the “insult" comic who skewered presidents, royalty, celebrities, and friends and fans alike. But there was more to “Mr. Warmth" than a devilish ear-to-ear grin and lightning-fast put-downs. Rickles was a loving husband, an adoring father who suffered a devastating loss, and a loyal friend to the likes of Bob Newhart and Frank Sinatra. Don was also a young student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts with future stars Jason Robards, Jr., Don Murray, and Grace Kelly, and intended to become a seriously committed actor. But it was in small nightclubs where Rickles found success, steamrolling hecklers, honing his acerbic put-downs, and teaching the world to love being insulted. Sex, race, religion, nationality, physical appearance, political leanings—nothing and no one was safe from the “Planned Parenthood Poster Boy," as Johnny Carson referred to him.The Merchant of Venom
traces Don Rickles' career from his rise in the 1950s to a late-in-life resurgence thanks to the Toy Story
franchise, his role in Martin Scorsese's Casino
, and scores of TV appearances from Carson to Seth Meyers. In the intervening decades, Rickles conquered every medium he worked in, including film, television, and on stage, where the Vegas legend was still performing at the age of eighty-five. In his highly memorable career, he was idolized by a generation of younger comedians including Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Jay Leno, and performed in the shadow of a shocking open secret: he was the nicest man in town.
An in-depth portrait of the personal and singular professional life of Don Rickles, The Merchant of Venom
delivers a hilarious, moving, and long-overdue look at the real man behind the sting.
"Insightful and funny…. A fun biography that should appeal to Don Rickles fans and those interested in the history of stand-up comedy." —Library Journal
"An appreciative biography of the original insult comic. …(Author) Starr charts Rickles' long rise to fame, which accelerated from Borscht Belt to stardom once he insulted Frank Sinatra, who laughed instead of busting him in the chops." – Kirkus Reviews