A staple of the Vegas-Tahoe-Atlantic City circuit, Rickles still packs em in with his pioneering brand of insult comedy. He recently stepped out of the pool in his Los Angeles mansion to answer a few questions, reminiscing on his tenure in The Biz and offering tantalizing glimpses of Frank Sinatra from the vast wellspring of Ricklesania.
Don: I know Frank Sinatra personally, okay? That's it.
New Times: Are you afraid of him?
Don: He's afraid of me, cause he knows I could wipe him out.
NT: What's it like hanging out with him? Is he a funny guy?
Don: When Sinatra walks into a restaurant, the place stops. You'll never see that again. I've been around almost every major star you can think of, major people that I respect tremendously, and I've never seen anything like it. He's got that magic. And Sinatra, believe it or not, makes me laugh. He's got a great insight on comedy, cause he's been around for so many years; he's fun to be with and he tells a story well.
NT: Why weren't you in the Rat Pack (the Vegas pranks n' booze club that included Frank, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop)?
Don: I hung around them, but I wasn't part of that scene. I wasn't quite the name I am today; in those days, I was still in the lounge. But Sinatra knew me then, used to hang out at the Sands Hotel in the steam room. That was a wild thing, that was a movie in itself. Joey Bishop, Dean, Sammy, Lawford, myself.
NT: You hung out with the Beatles in 64, right?
Don: That's right. I was working in Florida and they were doing a concert there. They stopped by the hotel and saw my show--I was working the lounge--and I got to know them. They were the hottest things in the world, I'd say a very excitable group of guys. I picked on them quite a bit in those days.
NT: Do you like any rock these days?
Don: I adore Sting. I love U2 and Bono; I introduced them to Sinatra backstage at the Golden Nugget. I thought they were the homeless with those outfits. I said, 'You guys got to be better-dressed to meet Frank!' I knew the Beach Boys socially and I enjoy their music. And I'm a big fan of Bruce Springsteen.
NT: What do you really like?
Don: I'm still from the old school. Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Louis Prima, I grew up on that. And I enjoy Frank's records, naturally.