Donald Jay Rickles passed away at his home in Beverly Hills, California, April 6 from kidney failure at the age of 90. He is survived by his wife Barbara Rickles (formerly Sklar), his daughter Mindy Rickles and two grandchildren Ethan and Harrison Mann. His wife was at his side as he died. Their son Larry, born in 1970, passed away in 2011.
He was born to Jewish parents in Queens, New York, on May 8, 1926. His father Max Rickles emigrated in 1903 with his Litvak parents from Kaunas (then Kovno in the Russian Empire) and his mother Etta Feldman was born in New York City to Austrian immigrant parents. Rickles grew up in Jackson Heights, New York.
He was graduated from Newtown High School and then enlisted in the US Navy. He served in World War II on motor torpedo boat tender USS Cyrene (AGP-13) as seaman first class. He was honorably discharged in 1946. He attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and then played bit parts on television. Don Rickles attracted notice performing comedy, namely that of Frank Sinatra, after which RIckles became the favorite comedian among the so-called Rat Pack of young actors. One of his trademark stage routines was to respond to hecklers, to heckle back and insult the audience. He chided Sinatra during one of his performances and Sinatra began promoting him. Rickles was a frequent and popular guest on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show and the Dean Martin Show. He starred in the situation comedy CPO Sharkey (1976). Film credits include Rat Race (1960), X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963), Bikini Beach (1964), Where It’s At (1969), Kelly’s Heroes (1970), Innocent Blood (1992), Dirty Work (1998) and Dennis the Menace Strikes Again (1998).