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CNN Larry King Live

Interview With Rickles

Aired May 24, 2007 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR:. Tonight, Don Rickles -- the comedy legend is hot all over again.

DON RICKLES, COMEDIAN: I tell you, it's such an exciting night.


KING: He's even on that gossip on the Internet and show business news site alongside Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. Fasten your seat belts for an outrageous uncensored hour with the king of zing.


RICKLES: I'll tell you what's funny.

KING: All right. All right. Tell me what...

RICKLES: You're funny in that outfit.


KING: The merchant of venom...


RICKLES: What is wrong with you?


KING: Mr. Warmth...




KING: my dear old friend, Don Rickles, is here for the hour. And no one is safe.


RICKLES: What happened?

Is my fly open?

What happened?



Tonight, on LARRY KING LIVE, we salute a publisher. We've rarely have Done that. But we want to salute Simon & Shuster for having the guts to publish "Rickles' Book."

Yes, Don Rickles finally has written his memoir. He wrote it with -- who is David Ritz?

RICKLES: David Ritz is a butcher on 20th and Coney Island Avenue.


RICKLES: No, he's a fine writer. He wrote "The Ray Charles Story" and many other things.


Why did you finally decide to do this rather...

RICKLES: Because I was lonely. I was sitting in the toilet and I was by myself. I was tired of playing with the roller, so I said I'd better write a book.

No, they came -- Simon & Shuster, David Rosenthal, who is the CEO of Simon & Shuster -- came out to California -- by bus...


RICKLES: ... and he came out and he said, Don, I want you to write a book.


And I said -- Elliott Wiseman, my manager, was with me. And he says like this, you know, he's I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) idea.


RICKLES: Anyway, so he said that -- sweet talk. So I've got to be nice to him. He carries a gun.

KING: By the way, you can -- you can laugh. This is a studio audience. Go ahead.

RICKLES: Yes, do whatever you want. Go. Go off the cameras. Go for lunch. So, anyway, so...

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). RICKLES: ... and he said because it's you. You've said that to me, because it's you and it's your kind of rhythm and the way you speak. And the book, the book, I believe, is my voice and my rhythm.

KING: It is. It was a great read. I got it in Galley's. I loved reading it. It was so well done. And you're out promoting it.

What's it like -- I mean your long career -- to go out...

RICKLES: To catch a moth (ph)?


What is it like to go out promoting a book?

RICKLES: What do you mean, what's it like?

You get on a plane and you go out and you say here's the book, you know?

You go to different places. You meet a lot of people...

KING: No, but I...

RICKLES: ... Jews, Italians, Irish, black guys, all kinds. Mexicans...

KING: Do you enjoy it?

RICKLES: Mexicans, too.


RICKLES: And, you know, and you meet all these people...

KING: Do you enjoy it?

RICKLES: Of course. I read it to myself every night. I lay by the bed and I go oh, chapter five. Look at all these pictures, too. I've got pictures -- everybody is dead, when I think about it. They're all dead. I looked at that one night and I said, my god, Larry is the only one alive.

KING: Yes.



How do you...

RICKLES: And that's questionable.

KING: How do you account for

the fact that you know you've made it big when you make... RICKLES: When I'm on this.

KING: ... Harvey Levin, TMZ.

When you make that, your gossip column...


KING: Oh, see, Harvey didn't...

KING: What happened?

RICKLES: I know him a long time. I know Harvey Levin a long time. I knew Harvey Levin when he was just running around downtown Hollywood going, pssst, Miss.?

Anyway -- his case comes up Thursday. That's why he's doing what he does.


RICKLES: No, Harvey I've known for a long time. And the DMZ was there when I was coming out of -- where was it, Mr. Chow's, you know.

KING: You mean they had the paparazzi there?

RICKLES: No, no. They had cops standing around with cameras playing games. Of course, the paparazzi.


don't put me down like that.

RICKLES: Well, don't be a dumbbell.

KING: I do with that...

RICKLES: You talk to presidents. You talk to everybody. How come when you talk to me you go to pieces and you sound like a lonely Jew on a highway?

You've got to snap out of it.

KING: I'm doing it for emphasis.

RICKLES: That doesn't matter.

Listen, I -- what I wanted to tell you...

KING: All right.

So they took pictures of you?

RICKLES: They took pictures and I rolled down the window and I said, you know, tell Harvey Levin I'm gay. And I got into all the things, you know? And I'm not gay. I've had a problem, but I'm working on it.



RICKLES: Tell Harvey Levin I'm fed up with him. Tell him I'm fed up, but I love him. But I'm fed up.


RICKLES: Because he found out that I -- he found out that I'm gay and nobody else knows that.


KING: So that was your -- your decision, to be approached by gossipy news shows?

RICKLES: It wasn't my decision. I rolled down the window and they mobbed the car.

KING: But you know when you say you (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

RICKLES: When you come out, they don't bother you. You stand up with the shoulders up so high they can't find your face, you know?

So who bothers you?

KING: But when you say you're gay, that's -- that's going cause a stir.

RICKLES: Well, you're -- you're working on it. You're helping it to cause a stir.

KING: All right.

RICKLES: I don't -- I have nothing against the gay people. They're wonderful. They really are. In fact, I've got a friend that just sits on the swing in front of my house.


RICKLES: I don't know what that means, but it seems to get a laugh, right, with the kid over here?

KING: A lot of people...

RICKLES: Joe -- what's his name again?

KING: Jodie.


Hi, Jodie.


RICKLES: The kid is standing there playing with his deer.


RICKLES: Come on. Come on. It's an hour show. Snap out of it. Spit it out. Get it out.

KING: A lot of people are going to learn a lot about you reading this.

RICKLES: Really?

KING: The days in Jackson Heights.

RICKLES: Oh. That's fine.

KING: Your relationship with your mother. It's a great story.

RICKLES: My mother was great, yes.

KING: You're a great human interest story.

RICKLES: Well, thank you.

KING: The attachment to your mother, how do you explain that?

RICKLES: Well, my mother -- she used to run a Nazi prison camp.


RICKLES: My mother's dead.

Anyway -- but my mother was a very strong woman.

KING: She was a strong woman.

RICKLES: Yes, a strong woman. You know my mother.

KING: Very.

RICKLES: And she was the type of woman, as I say in the book, you know, you walk into a restaurant and she goes, "Waiter, where's our table?"

And I was always behind her sucking on her leg, for crying out loud. I was hiding. I was -- because we're all self-conscious when we're little kids, as actors. We really were an embarrassment and insecure and what have you and all those things.

But my mother made me strong. She really did. She made me have the courage to do what I do today. Now -- now I have complete Blue Cross and a fast bike.

KING: Were you a bashful kid?

RICKLES: Very much so. Very much so.

KING: That -- which -- it's hard to imagine.

RICKLES: When I went to the bathroom and I had to do something, I never looked. That's how bashful I was.

KING: You were that bashful?

RICKLES: That bashful.

KING: Were you a...

RICKLES: I just went in and said, is over? And then I came out.


RICKLES: (LAUGHTER). Give me a minute. I thought that was kind of funny.

KING: Were you a good student?

RICKLES: I was, you know, when you get an F...

KING: Yes.

RICKLES: I was below F. There was nothing below F.

KING: You were that bad?

RICKLES: Oh, the worst. I was known in high school -- here's the way it was in school. Like this.

Can I say that, Larry?

KING: You copied off other people?

RICKLES: Oh, I was notorious. But I had a way. I'd slide the paper so they couldn't see. And one day the teacher walked into the room -- Newtown High School -- and said, "Mr. Rickles, what are you doing?"

And I looked up and said, "I'm cheating."


RICKLES: And like, you know, yoyo, he went like, oh, OK. And passed me.

KING: So I...

RICKLES: When I got out, the war came and I got out of this high school.

KING: I gather you did not attend college?

RICKLES: No. Well, you didn't attend college... KING: I did not.

RICKLES: ... and look where you're going, in a box here. There's no place.

What, are you kidding me?

KING: I didn't attend college either.

RICKLES: And yet you talk to presidents -- that's what I'm amazed about you, and I love you for that. With the nonsense, you never went to college and you always told me you read a lot and you get on with people -- see, the world doesn't know the real Larry. See, when you get on the air and all the problems in the world today and you get on, "Mr. President," and you talk to everybody -- "Mr. Vice Chairman," "Mr. President of Russia."

And then when you're alone, do you think maybe a hard boiled egg?

What do you think?

Then you become like a -- like a Nebbish Jew from the ghetto, you know what I'm saying?

KING: The interview is about you, Don.

RICKLES: No, but I like to let the people to know what a stiff you are.




Go ahead.

KING: When did you know -- this is heady -- when...


KING: When did you know...

RICKLES: You're talking to the right guy.

KING: When did you know, I want to do this for a living?

I want to stand on the stage and make people laugh.

RICKLES: The stage -- how do you know those things?

I never -- I was always the class clown. I was always the guy -- out of insecurities, I was always making fun, even as a kid. What I always said is I always wanted to be a -- I wanted to be an actor. I went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

KING: And you're a very good actor.

RICKLES: well, thank you. And I graduated with people like Jason Robards, Tom Poston -- rest his soul. We just lost him. Jason is gone.

Grace Kelly was in our class but I never got near her. She was in Locker 41 and I could only pick up her cologne.

But -- and I was with -- I was with Ann Bancroft.

KING: You wanted to be a serious actor?

RICKLES: No, I thought I would get the experience of being an actor. And I hoped I could be a serious -- I did some serious stuff with Jack Klugman. I did "Inherit the Wind" for a television. We did a scene. I thought I was pretty good. But -- and then I -- and I was in "Private Kelly's Heroes." I had a pretty big part in it.

KING: I loved that movie.

RICKLES: I carried Clint Eastwood. And...


RICKLES: He doesn't know it. Clint (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

KING: "Run Silent, Run Deep."

RICKLES: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) first picture. Clark Cable and Britney (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Understand something. Understand (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And Clark Gable would say, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), let's have a drink.


KING: Let me get a break.



Whatever you like.

KING: The book is "Rickles' Book" by Don Rickles from Simon & Shuster.

We'll be right back.



JON STEWART, HOST: They love you.

RICKLES: Well, nice seeing you, Jon.

STEWART: No, no, no. There's more. RICKLES: I heard this thing is catching on.


STEWART: I'll tell you, we love to give kids like you a break.

RICKLES: I appreciate it. I appreciate it.

STEWART: I think -- I think this could put you over the top.


KING: We're all over the board with Don Rickles.

The occasion is the publication of "Rickles' Book," a guaranteed best-seller. It's called a memoir. I like that. A memoir.

RICKLES: Right. Yes. That's right.

KING: OK, we just showed you with Jon Stewart.


KING: What do you make of this new wave of comedy, the Jon Stewarts?

RICKLES: I think it's kind of brilliant. I think Jon Stewart is exceptionally a bright, new guy on the horizon. He's not a youngster. I mean he's only -- well, young is -- excuse me. He's in his early 40s, but he's charming. And he has a different approach to comedy, you know?

It's a lot -- it's brains. It's brain stuff, as well as Bill Maher, and I'm -- on the serious side, you know, Bill Maher does good brain stuff.

KING: So, do you -- how do you look at yourself in relation to this?

Here's Rickles, 80 -- you're over 80.

RICKLES: Eighty-one.

KING: Eighty-one.


You know, I said 81, I thought you win a prize the way you said it.

Why do you do this?

Do you expect rain?


RICKLES: He does this. Like, rabbis do that. Welcome, my children. Welcome.



KING: Do you say to yourself, wow!...


KING: ... here I am at this stage of my life and I'm going on Jon Stewart, which is appealing to 19-year-olds?


KING: How do you explain that?

You get a young demo.

RICKLES: Well, because my -- I'd like to think my performance is today. I never try to -- it's so, as you know, watching me, I have a beginning, middle and ending. But every night the show changes and I relate to an audience and I relate to the young people.

And what I've noticed, which is kind of great, 19, 25 and in their early 30s are coming to see me now more than ever. And I get a lot of "My dad told me about you."

And so, to last this long and have that -- that title of insult, which I never really believed in -- Johnny Carson, rest his soul, he used to call me Mr. Warmth which I adore. And I now tell everybody Mr. Warmth.

KING: That's a wonderful...

RICKLES: Yes, because -- and people that don't know me that hear the word insult, they used to think I was some mean -- mean guy. And I'm never mean-spirited. And that's not the truth. And certainly I -- I wouldn't be headlining for over 45 years in -- around the country, thank god, as you know, if I was a mean, miserable guy, you know?

And so...

KING: But do you think you're...


RICKLES: What happened?

Is my fly open?

What happened?




KING: Well, he's been making me laugh for almost 50 years.

RICKLES: Yes, but I didn't do anything.

KING: Do you think -- I know. You just make me laugh.

RICKLES: Oh, good. Sure.

KING: Do you think you're the last of a breed?

In other words, you're the only one, comic, in an age group, let's say, over 50, 60, working big rooms.


KING: Vegas.


KING: Atlantic City.


KING: You tour.

In the summer you do fairs.

You're the only one.


KING: How do you account for that?

What do you think it is?

RICKLES: I have a car.


RICKLES: How do I account for that?

KING: How do you...


KING: That's a good question.

RICKLES: I know -- I'll tell you if it's a good question or not.


It's a good question.

RICKLES: I'm the guest.

KING: All right.

RICKLES: There's no voting here.

KING: All right.

RICKLES: No. The reason is, as I told you, I'm different. I like to think I'm one of a kind. But I'm sure as time goes on and when my day comes to be finished and retire and so forth, that there will be somebody to come along and will try to do what I do and maybe do it better.

KING: Last as long as you?

RICKLES: That I can't say. I'll be in -- I'll be out in the cemetery. If I get out of the box, I'll tell them.

KING: Why don't you like the word insult?

RICKLES: Well, because insult to me was -- I -- hey, it gave me success. Let's not -- let's not wrap it up and throw it away. It's something that -- it always bothered me because I don't believe I was insulting. But the public tagged me with that, but tagged me with a laugh. They said he insults and I go (LAUGHTER). I'm the guy -- and I say it in the book -- I'm the guy that goes to the office Christmas party on Friday, makes fun of the boss, makes fun of everybody, and Monday morning comes back and gets the job and maybe gets promoted. And that's pretty much what it is.

KING: Do you to still get the same kick going on?

I mean after all these years do you -- Sinatra said -- and we'll talk about him in the next segment...



He told me -- sitting right where you're sitting...


KING: ... he said I still get that same...

RICKLES: Oh. Well, what does he know?

He's gone. Let him lay there. So...

KING: You wouldn't have said that if he were alive.

RICKLES: No. If he was alive, if I said that, this hand would be like this.


RICKLES: And I'd be -- I'd be like (SINGING) walk on, walk on with hope in your heart. KING: OK.

Do you still get the same charge every time you...

RICKLES: Sure. You get a little of that. You do, too, when you go on.

KING: Yes.

RICKLES: I saw you today. You take off your glasses four times and went...


RICKLES: And they were clean.

But that's your relaxation.

KING: Stop it.

RICKLES: Well, that's what you do.

No, we all have you know, that, Larry. We all have our little energy and a little excitement going on in our gut, no matter how many years you do it. And that's -- that's the key. That's very important.

And my biggest success in my performance is my energy. You lose your energy, you lose that excitement and it gets the audience up.

You know, you -- as you know, the way you go, you know -- you know, I wonder how you became successful because you're smelling your nose, you know?


RICKLES: And yet you're a very big success.

KING: Your friendship with Regis...


KING: How -- does that go back a long way?

RICKLES: Yes. About 45 years, like I know you. Yes.

KING: So you knew Regis out here with Joey Bishop and...

RICKLES: Yes. Oh, don't say Joey Bishop to Regis. The whole body goes...

Regis was his announcer.

RICKLES: Yes, I know, but Joey went, "Hey, Regis."

And Regis went yes, yes. He couldn't handle it.

KING: Really?

RICKLES: Yes. Well, Joey was, you know, Joey is still with us, thank god.

KING: Yes.

RICKLES: He's in Newport Beach.

KING: Regis is a funny guy. We have the same doctor, Regis and I.

RICKLES: Yes, I know. You -- and that's when I told you the first time, when Vic Damon was on the show and myself...

KING: Right. For my cardiac foundation.

RICKLES: ... in Chicago. And I said that. I say it to anybody in the audience. Every -- all the doctors, I said that on the stage. You had Dr. Ed Thompson, Freddie Franklin, John Johnson and Ed Perrin, Eddie Finn. No little Lipshitz. No Harry Digman. No Irving Katz. these are the men that can operate and save you.

And yet these Gentile guys, Ed Finnen (ph), head surgeon. And they were sitting there with a bottle of beer going...



RICKLES: I think it's fixed, Al.

What do you think?

KING: Have you ever been sick?

RICKLES: Yes, now.


RICKLES: You don't know how sick I am. You can't believe how sick I am.

Of course -- have I ever been sick?

What am I, a robot?

KING: No, I mean really -- I mean really...

RICKLES: Look it. Look it, my watch came off with that remark, have I ever been sick?

KING: I mean really sick. You know what I mean.

RICKLES: Yes, once I had double pneumonia and a heart attack and three cancer operations. Now...

KING: Stop it.

RICKLES: And now I'm great.

No, of course, I've been sick. But thank god...

KING: Did you ever...

RICKLES: ... I never had...

KING: Did you ever have a major surgery?

RICKLES: No. I had an Achilles tendon. When I was a kid, I had the appendicitis, like all kids. I had tonsillitis.

Anything else?

KING: That you count as a major...

RICKLES: Would you like to come in the room and I'll show you my body?

KING: You count tonsillitis as a major illness?

RICKLES: Well, no, you asked me what I had.

KING: I mean -- have you had a major illness?

RICKLES: No need to holler at me, Larry. No need to holler at me.


RICKLES: If you're sick, don't take it out on me.


RICKLES: I know about you. And, by the way, I spoke to the doctor. Only one more year tops. Tops. The doctor and I arranged that. That's (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: It is "Rickles' Book."

We'll be right back.



RICKLES: Actually, you remember when he was kidnapped?

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: I remember that. Sure.

RICKLES: Unfortunately.

LETTERMAN: Yes. RICKLES: So thank god he comes home safe and sound. And it's about a month, two months later. And I'm sitting with Frank around the living room and he said, "Don, we got the kid back."

I said, "Yes, Frank, that's great."

He said, "That's wonderful."

I said, "Do you know why they -- you know why they let him go?"

He said, "Why?"

"They heard him humming in the trunk."


KING: We're back with Don Rickles.

His memoir just published from Simon & Shuster, "Rickles' Book," written with David Ritz.

And we just saw the clip on you -- with you on "Letterman" talking about Francis Albert.

RICKLES: Yes. You know, I -- I did quite a bit about him in this book. A lot of people -- some of the people say, you know, he was a tough guy.

Why do you make such a thing about him?

People that weren't always exactly in Frank's corner.

And I -- I really fight back about that because he was wonderful to Barbara and I and my family. And he was a wonderful man. But he, you know, he had this mood swings. But he was -- he did more things for charity, more things for good deeds.

The greatest thing he ever did for me, which is a little bit of your world, which you know, which I talk about in the book, was the Ronald Reagan second inaugural.

There I am in Kennedy Center. Frank Sinatra calls me up in Hawaii and says, "Don, you're going to be at Ronald Reagan's inaugural," -- and George Bush, Sr. you know?

And you -- "George Bush and Ronald Reagan. We're going to do a show together with Dean and you and it's going to be great."

I said, "Really, Frank?"

He said, "Just pack your bags and get to Washington."

Well, Frank goes to the cabinet -- this is true -- and says, "I got Don Rickles, who's going to be on the show with me for Ronald Reagan's inaugural."

And they all went oh, gee, oh, oh, oh, you know, like -- like puppy dogs. They all -- they went into sugar shock.

And he said no, no, that's going to be it. And they said no, Frank, we can't. Hey, we don't trust it. And he said you don't have him, you don't have me.

True. And they said fine. OK.

But what is he going to say?

He said I can't tell you. He says whatever he wants.

Frank never questioned me. He never asked me what am I going to say on that stage.

And my opening line when I walked out on the stage that night -- Secretary Schultz was the secretary of defense -- I walked out and said, "Secretary, I'm a friend. The dickey is popping up. You've got to fix the dickey. It looks ridiculous."


RICKLES: And they all did what you did -- they all checked with each other. And then I had them really rolling. And I said to Ronald Reagan, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I said, "Mr. President, stop napping when I talk. I hate that. I hate when you nap and doze off. It don't look good."

And you know me, I don't do jokes, I do situations.

KING: Right.

RICKLES: And they were wonderful. It was the biggest night of my life, swear to god. And then later we had a few drinks with Frank and he wanted to hit me.


RICKLES: No, no, that's a -- no, that's a joke.

KING: He was two people, right, in a sense?

RICKLES: Yes, well, he had mood swings, yes. He...

KING: But if he liked you...

RICKLES: If he liked you...

KING: He liked you.

RICKLES: ... he loved you. And if he didn't like you, he made it pretty obvious.

KING: He was a tough guy to deal with.

RICKLES: Oh, listen, I wouldn't -- I wouldn't want to be his enemy, let's put it that way. KING: What was he like to work with?

RICKLES: Wonderful.

KING: You toured with him.

RICKLES: Yes. You know, I do a little singing. So we're at Radio City Music Hall, right?

And he's usually in the wings kidding around. And he's having his drink and blah, blah, blah. And I'm doing -- I'm doing (SINGING) I'm a nice guy.

And he turns around to Elliott Wiseman, my manager, and his manager at the time, and says, "Why is this bum singing?"


RICKLES: What is this with the singing?

And I -- and he -- and he always ribbed me about the singing. But I always said to him -- I always -- I was one of the few guys that would walk in backstage and said to him, "Frank, I'm a friend. The voice is gone. It's gone.


RICKLES: Be a Mensch. Walk out there. Tell the audience you're through."


RICKLES: And I said -- and then Radio City opening night, sold out to him. I said, "Frank, it's a fantastic day. They loved me. They loved me. And I can't believe it. I have you on the show," he said. "How is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- how does it feel to work with a big man?"

And he would always laugh, you know?

And then Chile, rest her soul, behind him...

KING: Yes.

RICKLES: ... would go, hey, yes, yes.


Did Frank like you the first time he saw you?

RICKLES: Absolutely. My mother arranged that.

KING: Was that Morey Franklin?

RICKLES: Yes, Morey Franklin. That's right. You remember Morey Franklin.


RICKLES: That's when I first knew you.

KING: Yes.

RICKLES: Right. He gave Dolly -- Dolly Sinatra was told by my -- was asked by my mother if he would come and see me. And my first bit joke was, "Frank, be yourself. Stand up. Be yourself. Stand up and hit somebody."

And the bum -- the audience laughed and his guys with him went, "Frank, hit -- hit -- hit -- hit somebody."

And they liked it.


Were you nervous when he was there?

RICKLES: No. I never...


RICKLES: No. I was excited. There's a difference in nervous, because I knew that god -- to this day, if there had been the biggest person in the world that has come to see me -- and I've had great people see me of importance -- I never -- I get anxious that they'll love it and I take my best shot. I never lay back and say, maybe I won't say this, maybe I won't say that.

Whatever I say in my heart, after I say it, I say, god, I know it was funny and I know it was good. Because my -- my thoughts are never bad. Really. So help me god.

KING: So you were an impersonator?

RICKLES: Yes. What a wild guess.

This man just won two weeks, two weeks in Lebanon.

KING: Lebanon?

RICKLES: Two weeks for Larry King in Lebanon. In a beautiful hotel overlooking the water, just where they hit the bombs. You'll be right in there with your lovely wife Shawn going -- and she'll there be with the -- with the -- with the guy, the singer.

What's his name?

The singer that you just did the record with?

KING: Willie Nelson.

RICKLES: Right. Look how long it took you. And this is the -- every night he'd say to me -- we were working together -- wait until you hear Willie Nelson. Now we're on the air. And he's singing with him. Will -- Willie -- Willie whooo -- Willie Welson.


We'll be back with Don Rickles.


RICKLES: don't bang my book.

KING: I'm not banging it. I'm bringing it attention.

RICKLES: Jesus. You're busting up the book.

KING: don't go away.


RICKLES: Listen, Frank, do me a favor. Give me a break. I got relatives living in Jersey.

FRANK SINATRA: Not for long.



KING: Mr. Rickles, during the break, was making fun of our guest earlier, Al Gore.

What do you think?

Are these guys easy to kid?

RICKLES: Most of them.

KING: Yes?



RICKLES: no, no. I -- I -- I think -- hey, most of them are. Yes. They've got a good sense of humor.

KING: Jimmy Carter.

RICKLES: That's trouble.

No, Jimmy Carter, it's in the book. No, Jimmy Carter -- we came to the White House and then met with Brzezinski -- is that how you pronounce his name?

KING: Brzezinski.

RICKLES: Yes, he was wonderful. He was sweet. And he says, "You're going to meet the president."

It was all arranged.

And they come into the Oval Office and all there is, is a sweater on the chair. And Newhart says, "You did it. he ran out because he heard you were coming."


RICKLES: "The man ran out and you ruined it for all of us."

That's the truth. All that was left was a sweater. I never did him any harm, you know?

But the man was afraid. He couldn't handle it.

KING: Explain the unusual friendship, unusual, at least, based on personality, of you and Newhart.

RICKLES: Well, it's...

KING: He's your best friend, right?

RICKLES: Well, yes. He -- he was.

You are now.


RICKLES: Because I'm with you. I go whoever I'm with.

KING: Yes.

RICKLES: No, Bob is a different -- it all comes -- as you know, as a married man, if the wives get along, so help me god, you become great friends. Bob's wife Jenny and my wife Barbara are like sisters. I say that in the book. And Bob was a Midwest guy, you know?

He was the kind of guy that reads -- when we were in -- when we were in Paris, he finally, he says, "You know, Don," it sounded like something you'd say to me, wonderful, wonderful Frenchman, Jacques (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He just said that Paris will have -- may have problems with weather-wise and so forth. What do you think? I said I think the Dodgers should win in the ninth thing because I would read the sports page and he would read "The New York Times." And we became friends. We have nothing in common except we laugh and enjoy each other. Personally, when we're off the stage, we had the best time. And he's always -- you know I call him the librarian and I'm the loud Jew from New York.

KING: You had fun with Reagan, right?

RICKLES: The best. He was a lifeguard when he was a young man. And out at the beach, we had our own place -- the former place that we lived.

KING: Malibu.

RICKLES: Malibu. Now, we have a place in Port Doom. Up in Malibu, we had this place and one day I come and see guys standing by the garage next to us. Charlie, Baker, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Hello, Al, I'm on the toilet. Where are you, Lou? And I see these guys, they're all smelling their arms, you know. I said, what the hell is going on? And I knew it was Secret Service. I said, "Who is it guys?" The guy said, "The president, he's spending a couple of days." Rickles knows the president is spending the day. So I seem him out there and he's out on the deck. Three secret service guys going -- he's in shorts, president of the United States, in shorts. And I walk out and I said, "Mr. President." "Hello, Don, how are you, Don? You know I used to be a lifeguard." I'm going really? The Secret Service guy is going -- trying to keep a straight face. Going -- talking to him. "You know I used to do the backstroke" No kidding, Mr. President, the backstroke." "Yes, that was great, Don." And there's Coast Guard boats out in the water, and he goes, I feel great. And I kept saying, "How good a swimmer are you?" "Excellent, Don. I'm excellent, Don." And I walked away, I said, "You better give him some medicine because something's wrong with him." And all the guys were laughing like -- and the president says, "What's the matter?" "Nothing, sir, nothing."

KING: How did you get along with George Bush the first?

RICKLES: Terrific. He and his wife Barbara invited me to the White House a few times. One time we couldn't come because he had the Israeli embassy and we couldn't come. So he invited us when he had the Tunisian embassy and I walk in with my wife and they're going -- and they all had rifles. And I took off my arm band, you know, because I didn't want them to start shooting, you know. And I sat there by the fireplace with Barbara Bush, God bless her, and the president was at the other table. And they -- wonderful evening.

A lot of -- and, you know, Sandy Bergen, remember Sandy Bergen?

KING: Sure.

RICKLES: He was wonderful to me. He kept saying, "Hey Don"...

KING: The Giants guy.

RICKLES: Yes. He said, "Don, the Giants are going to win." We're having a baseball talk in the corner. And then I remember that the president was wonderful and Barbara was saying, "Don, you're doing 'Beach Blanket Bingo'? Is that the movies you're doing?" Barbara bush is like -- she said to call her Barbara. She's a great lady. I said, "Well, gee, Barbara" -- long story short, she sent me a letter. She said, "Dear Don, I watched 'Beach Blanket Bingo.' Do you really have to do this?" I have it on the wall.

But they're both -- to this day, I correspond with the president.

KING: Why didn't you do more acting?

RICKLES: Well, I think my image was...

KING: You were very good.

RICKLES: But Larry, my image was so strong with this making fun of life and people and so forth, so strong that to this day producers were afraid of me. A lot of producers were really afraid of me. And every part -- excuse me -- mostly every part that was serious that I ever got, including "Rat Race" with Tony Curtis and Debbie Reynolds, which was a -- Debbie was great and so was Tony. And it was a hell of a movie.

But when -- and the recent one with "Casino" with Marty Scorsese, you know -- but I'll tell you about that in a minute, but Marty himself called me. There was no part in that movie but he said the image of Rickles being in it would be important. And they wrote in a part called Billy Sherbert. They just wrote it into the script. And they all were kidding me. They said, "You're playing the part of a mute because there wasn't a lot of dialogue." I used to go, "Really?" But I used to break it up because...

KING: And why didn't you do more?

RICKLES: Because, thank God, I was making money, good money, headlining in nightclubs and theaters and to this very day. And so it was hard to switch over.

I just got to tell you one thing. You know DeNiro pretty good and he's a great guy because people don't know. I haven't seen him in a while. He said, "You know when this movie is over, I'll call you." We'll be -- you know, two buses hit me at once. I had a brain tumor and I've never heard from him. But now he's doing a movie and they've got what they call handheld camera. The first scene in the movie, we're walking down the casino floor with the camera and I walk with him. He goes, "You know, Don, you know, Billy" -- I said, "Hold it, hold it, hold it, Marty, I can't -- I don't work with a mumbler. I'm walking. I don't need this. I don't want to do it."

KING: You did that?

RICKLES: Yes, I did it. And DeNiro goes, "What are you doing?" I said I can't. When you mumble, you spit up all over yourself and you're making $80 billion. I don't need it, take a cab and leave me alone, OK. And Marty Scorsese was behind the camera. They had to lift him up because Marty, you know was a dwarf. So they had to lift him over the camera so he could say to me, "What are you doing?"

KING: We'll be right back with more Rickles. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the hell are we doing?

RICKLES: I'm awful sorry. I can't understand it. These mechanical failures, you know, they happen. Hey, better here than up there, you know what I mean?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The laughs didn't stop during commercial breaks. To catch all the hilarity you couldn't see on TV, check out our web extra at


KING: Back with Don Rickles. You're going to do -- I can't believe this. You're going to do a meet-and-greet here in Los Angeles at Book Soup next Thursday.

RICKLES: Right, 7:00 at night. It's too late for you. You're in bed by then.

KING: A meet-and-greet, you?

RICKLES: Yes, I did that. I just did that up at the Y -- the 92nd Street Y with Regis as the host.

KING: They sell books there?

RICKLES: No, no, I did that because I wanted to go to the gym. I wanted to put on shorts and dribble a basketball around for -- at 81 for a half hour. Of course, they sell books there and they had a meet-and-greet there and everything. But they did like a little show. We talked about the book and did Q&A. And now, we're going to do it at Book Soup. And I'm looking forward to it. And I promise I'll keep your name alive.

KING: I'll name some people; you tell me what you think.

RICKLES: You've done that with a lot of guests. I noticed you. But you've started to do that with me and now you do it with a lot of guests. I watch, I watch.

KING: What's wrong with that?

RICKLES: Again with this? Again. What has a drizzle come on? It's a drizzle.

KING: Bob Hope.

RICKLES: Bob Hope's a great guy. He was a great guy. Not the kind of guy that hung around with too much because...

KING: He used you a lot though.

RICKLES: Yes. He was pretty much a loner, Bob.

KING: You said once he was "big in war."

RICKLES: What is wrong with you?

KING: You said that in a club.

RICKLES: Do you have to bring -- I could punch you right in the head. It didn't go like that. I said he came in -- I was doing the "Dean Martin Show" -- and see how jokes get spoiled, "big in war."

KING: Big in war is funny.

RICKLES: Big in war is not -- I'll tell you what's funny.

KING: All right.

RICKLES: You're funny...

KING: Tell me what's funny.

RICKLES: This outfit is funny. This is great if it's Halloween and it's not Halloween. There we go. Pin me. Pin me.

Anyway, now Bob Hope comes in and in fact -- and I was doing a one man show with all the guests. Dean and Frank and they all sit in chairs and Bob Hope walked in and I said, "Look it, it's Bob Hope." This was during the Vietnam War. I said, "Look at this, the war is over, Bob Hope just came in." And that was the big joke, so you had to be there.

KING: I like big in war better.

RICKLES: Well, then you go back and do the show.

KING: I just liked it better.

RICKLES: Well, we'll dig up all those people and you can do the show.

KING: Elizabeth Taylor.

RICKLES: Elizabeth Taylor is great. She wears jewelry a lot. When I was with her one night in the Beverly Hills Hotel, she was signaling ships and there was no water around. She was just sitting there signaling ships.

KING: Like her?

RICKLES: Lovely lady.

KING: Gene Kelly?

RICKLES: Great, great, walks around with an umbrella and waits for it to rain.

KING: Funny. Judy Garland.

RICKLES: Judy Garland, I knew her well.

KING: Did you?

RICKLES: Oh yes. I watched her drink (UNINTELLIGIBLE). She used to drink (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It came down her chin, but I never told her that, you know. And then she did the yellow brick road. I said, "Judy, you're 50, stop skipping up and down the yellow brick road with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in a stupid cut-out. Get a job." And she would laugh. She was great lady. She laughed. I loved her. She was headlining in the main room in the Sahara and I was in the lounge. And by God, she came in, I can't count how many times and I made fun of every night and she was just adorable.

KING: Johnny Carson.

RICKLES: Who? Yes, oh, Johnny Carson, yes. Johnny, rest his soul, I miss him as you do too.

KING: Yes.

RICKLES: He was -- we have been in his company. He was...

KING: You much more than me.

RICKLES: He was -- socially, Johnny was very uncomfortable with a lot of people.

KING: Shy.

RICKLES: Yes. When the light went on, he was magic. He was magic. He had a way of leaning back. In fact, when I did the "Tonight Shows" and they -- people say it was an event. It really was. In other words, when I come out, he would have notes, you know, like your people call me up and say what do you want to talk about? I say I know that joke. I'll tell him Israel blew up and he'll stay here and leave me at the table.

But so we turn around and he would sit and I would come on and sit down and he would go, "So how's your mother?" I said, "What you talking about my mother? You never liked my mother. What you bringing up my mother for?" "Well, I thought" -- you do something like that you go, well, gee, I thought you might -- don't steam me, you never liked my mother and I'm fed up with your mother too. And we go from there and we do a whole half hour without any notes.

KING: Well, one of the funniest scenes in history of "The Tonight Show" is you going in the tub.

RICKLES: Oh, yes, well, that one was history. Yes, he threw me into a tub, which everybody -- AP picked up on it, everybody did.


RICKLES: Can I do it a couple of minutes? No, no. Just give me a break, I'm so lonely.


KING: It was one of the great...

RICKLES: Oh, it was one of the great moments, yes. And the other moment is when I did CPO Sharky. In those days, they didn't have the handheld cameras. They brought the big heavy cameras into the -- he came out with -- Bob Newhart was emceeing and that night I broke a cigarette box the night before. And he walked out and said, "Somebody broke a cigarette box." And it was a joke. It wasn't that big a deal. But I broke it during the show. I broke Johnny's cigarette box. The show is on. He gets up from the desk and he says, "Is Rickles in there?" And I was doing CPO Sharky those days.

KING: Jack?

RICKLES: Yes. He said, "Is he in there?" Yes. Let me just -- and he picks up the box and he walks in and says, "You broke my box" right in the middle of the show.


JOHNNY CARSON, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": My box is broken. They told me you broke it on the show last night.

RICKLES: Well, I really....

CARSON: I, I, I -- you can't tell me I, I, I, I. Carry on.

RICKLES: Help me.

CARSON: Carry on. We'll see.

RICKLES: Johnny Carson.

CARSON: They know who I am. Why are you -- why do you always do that, Johnny Carson? They know who I am. Don Rickles.


RICKLES: That was his big thing. Every time I'd see him he'd say, "I know who I am. You're going to tell them I'm Johnny Carson."

KING: Rickles, he's amazing. We'll be back with more after this.

RICKLES: Only when I'm on a stiff show.


KING: What was it like, Don?

RICKLES: Well, I blew a suit. The man is a millionaire and didn't replace the suit. He said, "Isn't this great" as I was rinsing out my -- in those days it was about a $500, $600 suit, you know. Today, if it was Oscar de la Renta, I would have sued. But he was something else.


KING: Coming up next week on LARRY KING LIVE, former first lady Nancy Reagan on the just published Reagan diaries and what they reveal about the man who adored her, President Ronald Reagan. That's a week from Thursday, May 31 on LARRY KING LIVE. One night when Don Rickles was on stage in Las Vegas, I had my two small boys there, and he made a funny remark about children at the show. And my little boy Cannon, who just turned 7, was then 6, began to weep because he felt a little hurt. So we went backstage. And I said, "Cannon, he didn't mean it" and Don was wonderful. He gave Cannon a little hug and everything. And then I whispered to Cannon, "Cannon, you know, that this is Mr. Potato head." The whole world changed. Everything -- you're his number one person of all time. How did you get to do that?

RICKLES: That's sweet. My grandchildren too. I have -- you know we have two little ones that -- one is 7; one is 4, Harrison and Ethan. And they too -- they call any -- they don't call me Papop, they call me Mr. Potato head. They go, "Papop, you were a great Mr. Potato head." I could have done an Oscar if that ever would ever happen in my life because Mr. Potato head was great.

KING: How did you get that?

RICKLES: John Lassiter, who's a wonderful man, he came out to Malibu one day and phone call and said, "Don, I'd like to talk to you about something, some cartoon." I said, "John, forget it, I don't do cartoons." This was four or five years ago. I don't do cartoons, John. "No, no, you got to, Don." to. He came out, showed up with a microphone and he said, "Just say these words, you know, 'Ho, ho, ho, where is the other man, where is this, where is that? And I'm Mr. Potato head." He said, "Your voice is so perfect for what we're going to do." I said, "No, John -- but anyhow, long story short, I came ahead and wound up into the studio. And I started to do it and it became a real fun thing to do.

And the difference is Tom Hanks was a great guy. And Allen, you know, Tim Allen, the two of them were the leads, you know? And so -- and Lassiter would say to me, this is true, before you ask me about -- he'd say to Tom Hanks, Tom, how do you feel when the duck or the bear comes? What is your thinking?" "Well, John" -- this is Tom Hanks, "John, I feel that the ultimate duck, if the moose came towards me, I would feel -- I would be against it. Tim, you feel the same way, don't you?" And then he'd come to me, Don, how do you feel if the moose and duck." "I feel it's 6:30. I'd like to go home. I'd like to have my vodka and stop bugging me about the moose and the duck." That's my Mr. Potato head.

KING: I know it flipped me when "Shrek" came out and I was Doris. I'm a woman.

RICKLES: Yes, that's right.

KING: "Shrek 2" and "Shrek 3."


KING: Were you shocked at the reaction, like, when you went to see it and the audience reaction?

RICKLES: Yes. KING: It blew my mind. Were you shocked at the reaction to a cartoon?

RICKLES: No, I was shocked at the money.

KING: Not much.

RICKLES: No, they paid pretty good I must say. Yes, I was surprised for that. That's why at this stage in my life, I'd love to do voice-overs. I'm waiting. If you know somebody --

KING: You have a distinctive voice.

RICKLES: Yes, but, you know, they're great because they can't handle fun. They can't handle...

KING: How did you like seeing Mr. Potato head on the screen?

RICKLES: It was wonderful for my grandchildren and my family.

Larry, let me explain something to you, Mr. Potato head is not -- doesn't fire rockets out of my cannon. I don't get that crazy, you know what I'm saying?

KING: You should be thrilled.

RICKLES: I'm thrilled for my grandchildren and I'm thrilled to do it. But when I watch it, I don't get up in the morning, I don't say, "Did you say Mr. Potato head? Was that a film you'll never forget? Was that -- was that talent, that Mr. Potato head." I'm thrilled. I'm thrilled!

You're starting to really get to me. How much longer is this? You're starting to run down. You're on page 99.

KING: No, I'm not. I don't need notes with you.

RICKLES: No, you don't.

KING: Why do you keep working?

RICKLES: Why do I keep working?

KING: You don't need the money.

RICKLES: No, my wife needs jewelry.

KING: Come on.

RICKLES: No. It's not a question of that. The audience -- thank God, I'm in good health. The audience shows up, thank God. And I say thank God this is true. And I feel it's a desire for me. I look forward to it. I'm going to open, as you know, in Vegas.

KING: This Memorial Day weekend, you're the Vegas headline.

RICKLES: Yes, I know. It's been 45 years, you know, and still there. You know it's -- and you see your name on the sign, it's...

KING: So you don't say I don't need this anymore?

RICKLES: No, I never say that. I always need it. Even when I retire when that day comes, I'll always feel I need it. I always feel I can go to a party and I always kid I can't not because I demand it.

I miss Marvin Davis, rest his soul, he used to have those, you know, these big dinners. And you know what my name was -- give me the pencil there, if I may. The pencil was -- everybody would get up. Everybody would get up and make a toast, you know. We had the king of Jordan was there, big one, yes. And I went, "King of Jordan, Mr. -- I said to Larry -- I said to Marvin Davis, "Marvin, what should I call him?" He said, "You call him Your Majesty." And I said, "I'm going to call him King." He said, "Don't call him King. Are you crazy? Don't call him King." I walk in, there he is. King! The guy went to St. John -- to Boston University and his name is Frank. I had his real name is Frank. I said, "How is the family, Frank?" Nobody else would say that. And all of the Syrian secret service went -- but Marvin always said -- and now -- they introduced everybody to make a toast. That was my name. And now, I'm two taps on the silverware. And now -- and I had to get up. And I've done a wipe everybody out and to the king -- and I said to the king of Jordan, I said, "Your majesty, no trouble, no trouble." And they all laughed and then they came out and shot my uncle.

KING: And we'll be back with our remaining moments with Rickles of "Rickles' Book." don't go away.


RICKLES: I found it.

TOM HANKS, ACTOR: You found my hat?

RICKLES: Your hat? No, the misses lost her earring. Oh, my little sweet potato.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, you found it. Oh, it's so nice to have a big, strong spud around the house.


KING: According to the book, here are a few reasons why you, the audience, need to buy this book. It will help you win friends and influence people.

RICKLES: Absolutely.

KING: It'll introduce you to all his famous friends from Sinatra to Carson. It'll help you lose weight. It'll help you gain weight. It'll improve your love life. It'll make you cry if your love life doesn't improve. It'll make you laugh if your love life does improve. It'll give you something to talk about at parties if you're ever invited to parties. So this, Mr. Rickles, is a self-help book. RICKLES: It's a book, Larry, so help me. And I'm delighted that I'm -- I must say, I assume we're coming -- winding down towards the end -- I just got to tell you, I thank you for talking about the book. The book means a great deal to me at this stage of my life, I mean it. At this stage of my life, for my wife and my family, to accomplish this book and hopefully the public will feel the same way because it's something -- a brand new challenge with David Ritz's help, who is a fine writer. And we double spaced. So it would be in my voice and how I said things. He'd come out with a big work like "incomparable." Now, I know the word but he'd say "incompetent." I don't say that. I never said incomparable in my life. I talk speed talk all my life. I've always done it.

And so, he was so helpful. And so, this book means a great deal to me and hopefully to the public. And I want to tell you, really, I sound like Bob Hope, I want to tell you, I want to tell you, you have been a tremendous friend. For me to have an hour with you is a joy and a treat. And I respect you and I love you. And I want to tell you, from my heart, the next time we have dinner, pick up the check.

KING: I thought you were going to say "I never liked you."

RICKLES: Well, that too. No, I love you. You know that. You're a classy guy. We're friends a long time.

KING: The real of the real Rickles is a sweet, gentle -- this is going to destroy his image. He's a sweet, gentle, compassionate, nice guy, who if he's your friend, you really have a friend. We still have a couple of minutes.

RICKLES: Oh, good.

KING: Do you have a philosophy? I never asked you this. A philosophy of life...

RICKLES: I think...

KING: ...that all of us can pay attention to, that we can use in our daily lives?

RICKLES: Are you through, Rabbi?

KING: Yes.

RICKLES: I think it's Yom Kippur. We just heard the best sermon in the world.

No, my philosophy in life is if the fog doesn't come in over the -- under the hill and suck up the mountains, the air will die.

KING: That was brilliant.

RICKLES: That's a friend's comment. That's a friend of mine's comment.

KING: If the fog doesn't come under the hill... RICKLES: Larry, how would you like it if I step on your glasses? Would you like that? I never saw you without the glasses. Do you know where you are without the glasses? No, there it is. You like a stick on a can, one of those dogs. You're at the ballpark.

By the way, you took over Dodger Stadium big and never invited me. That was big.

KING: No, it was a birthday party. You were...

RICKLES: No., so what, a Dodger....

KING: But I'm going to take you to a Dodger game.

RICKLES: OK, before it's over, OK.

KING: Next week...

RICKLES: If they could only win one game...

KING: It'd be nice.

RICKLES: Yes. I'd like to meet Grady Little. Anyway, my philosophy on life on is -- as I sit here with you, my philosophy in life is that you should all be able to not envy each other, have no jealousy if that's possible, and we do have jealousy at times all of us do, but to leave a good life and have a great woman behind you. My wife, Barbara, is magnificent. Now, a lot of guys say that about their wives. But believe me, 42 years married and she kept me going.

KING: Did you think, because you married a little late, that you would not get married?

RICKLES: Thirty-eight years old.

KING: Yes.

RICKLES: Well, I used to be -- I'd lock myself in the bathroom a lot. I never had a problem with that. I loved to hear the water.

KING: Donald, you're the best.

RICKLES: You're the best, Larry.

KING: "Rickles' Book," a memoir. Don Rickles with David Ritz from Simon & Schuster.

RICKLES: By the way, give my love to your lovely wife, Shawn, will you? She's a good saint.

KING: From mine to everyone in your family. And as anyone will tell you, this is a down-to-earth, funny, flat out great read, "Rickles."

Thanks for joining us.