RIP Don Rickles: 6 Things You May Not Know About The Late Comedian

Beloved comedian and Hollywood legend Don Rickles passed away on April 6 from kidney failure. He was almost 90 years old. Millions of fan mourned his passing, along with his wife Barbara and their daughter Mindy.

To honor the memory of Rickles, here are a few things you might not know about this hilarious and extraordinary American icon:

1. He Dared To Take On Frank Sinatra…And Made A BFF As A Result

Don Rickles built his career by ribbing celebrities and insulting politicians. There was no one he was afraid to tackle…not even Frank Sinatra, who was famously not a fan of being made fun of. One day, during one of Rickles’ performances, Sinatra happened to walk in. Seeing the popular crooner, Rickles had this to say: “Come on in, Frank. Make yourself at home—hit somebody.” It was a jab at Sinatra’s well-known temper. The audience held their breath. How would the sensitive Sinatra react? He roared with laughter. And so a lifelong friendship began. Check out this famous clip of Don Rickles surprising his buddy Sinatra on “The Johnny Carson Show”:

2. He Never Meant The Insults He Made On Stage

Rickles, who was known as “Mr. Warmth” by his fans due to his effusive personality, had this to say about the insults he told on stage: “If I were to insult people and mean it, that wouldn’t be funny.”

3. He Was An Inspiration For Today’s Most Loved Comedians

Jimmy Kimmel choked up on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” as he discussed Don Rickles’ impact on his life. He talked about how many times he’d asked Rickles to be a guest on his show, and how Rickles gave the best advice. Rickles even performed at the funeral of Kimmel’s uncle, bringing comfort and humor to his family during a much-needed time.

don rickles jimmy kimmel photo
Getty Images | Frederick M. Brown

4. His Hecklers Helped To Make Him A Star

When Rickles was starting out as a comedian, hecklers would often hurl insults at him on stage. Rather than give up on his comedic dreams, Rickles played along with the audience and good-naturedly ribbed them in return. Soon, his audience began to love his off-the-cuff riffs better than his written material, and so an “insult” comic was born.

5. He Was A World War II Veteran

During World War II, Rickles served his country in the Navy aboard the USS Cyrene. Recalling his service, Rickles was as self-deprecating and funny as always, saying, “When I got out of high school back in the ’40s, I had to go to a thing called a war against Japan,” he said. “What did I know then? I was still trying to figure out why I had pimples.”

6. He Was Married For Over 50 Years

Don Rickles was never swayed by his fame or by the temptations of Hollywood life. He was absolutely devoted to his wife Barbara, to whom he was married for 52 years. The pair had two children, Mindy and Larry (the latter of whom passed away due to complications from pneumonia in 2011). Rickles shared this sweet tweet about his wife just last month:

Wishing his family comfort and healing during this difficult time. Goodbye to an amazing legend!