I saw Don Rickles during final days of the Great Las Vegas…
That’s back when Elvis was at the Hilton and Frank Sinatra just down the street. I was a student at Arizona State in my late teens and would drive to Vegas to see the stars and try my hand at one and two buck limit black jack.
Back then if you had the money they didn’t card you. I grew up watching Rickles on the TONIGHT SHOW with Johnny Carson. When Rickles was on, I’d go out of my way to stay up and watch him. It was comedy at its best back then, never to be repeated.
When I moved to Los Angeles in the early 80’s to get into the film biz and sell my life story, my agent got a young lawyer to represent me. His name was Richard Rosenblum and he was the stepson of Variety star writer/reporter Army Archerd.
For decades GOOD MORNING: ARMY ARCHERD was the Hollywood column everyone wanted to be mentioned in as often as possible. Army was so popular he eventually hosted the Red Carpet walk of fame and interview all his pals who were nominated for academy awards.
Army was awarded a star’ on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. So of course there was a party and dinner at his club and I got to go due to my friendship with his step son, Richard.
Army was kind enough to write stories about me and my life story.
That as well as other things I did in Hollywood back in those days. I was in my 20s and it was all new and exciting. I was placed at the head table next to my pal, Richard, Army and his wife Selma and their family.
Every table was full of film and TV stars of that era: names like Robert Wagner, Jill St. John, Red Buttons on and on – people Army wrote about and was close too.
Don Rickles was the master of ceremony for the event.
Ricklles took the floor – walked around doing his thing – bits with the stars, etc. Then he walked over to our table, looked down at me and said, “Army, I’m a big star right? So if I’m such a big star why am I not at the head table with you? Who is this kid sitting at the table.”
He was talking about me.
“Son, what is it you do?”
I told him I was producing a movie about my life and had optioned it to CBS. Rickles smirked and nodded, “Oh, another producer huh?”
Of course, I was only seated there because of my friendship with Army’s stepson, but…Rickles continued.
“Are you a Jewish kid?” I nodded yes, and he said..”O.K. you can sit there.”
I had always wanted to trade jokes with a star like Don Rickles but I was far too nervous to say anything back, so Don moved on to Red Buttons. Still it was a moment in time to remember.
I never got to know Don Rickles, but remain a big fan of his work.
Most of the people at that event are now gone, including Army.
However thanks to Archerd and his kindness to a new kid in town I got a glimpse of old Hollywood, its big stars and what was once entertainment royalty. In fact the Archerd’s had me to their home several times for dinner with other big name stars. They were very nice people and I look back at those days with fond memories.