1968: Grant surprises Rickles

Hollywood honors Sultan of Insult

Oct 7 1968

GOOD MORNING: The surprise “star” of the Don Rickles Roastmaster dinner tossed by the Friars at the Century Plaza was — Cary Grant who showed as a last-minute guest… Grant, just in from N.Y. and Faberge travels, got an invite at 6 p.m., thought it might be fun… It would have been a routine, four-letter show had not Grant been the gracious audience target of the dais’ deadly barbs… Grant, by the way, plans to remain a moving target, in his recent, non-showbiz exec post, but told us he’ll maintain Universal HQs although no pix are planned… Another “surprise” was Rickles. Instead of his usual cloak as Merchant of Venom, or Sultan of Insult, he was wrapped in humility, oozed affection and appreciation, was the essence of sincerity. Instead of harpoons it was heart. That, too is showbiz. … 2008 Update: Director Bob Wise cast Rickles in the highly dramatic WWII submarine film, “Run Silent, Run Deep” starring Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster 10 years earlier but Rickles returned to his lifelong career which won him the above testimonial dinner — and many others which followed over the years. Of course he was always a much-desired member of the dais honoring everyone… And it was expected he’d unmercifully roast the toastee. He never failed. His targeted audience members — myself, as well — were often barbecued. But this week, when I read him the above column of 45 years ago, he was again mellow and modest, reminding me of his Emmy nomination — “It’s my first.” It’s for performance in a variety or musical program. The Program: “Mr.Warmth The Don Rickles Project.” He said the show is also nominated. “That’s two Emmy nominations!” he reminded me. When I asked if he had any more acting jobs, he answered, “Where am I going? I’m 82!” He has 75 play dates a year including Orleans in Vegas and the Tropicana in Atlantic City and Oct. 22-24 at N.Y’s Town Hall. And he’s writing a book: “Don Rickles’ Letters.” F’rinstance, to Abraham Lincoln’s wife Mary, “Sorry about Abe, but save two tickets for me at the matinee.” To Michael Douglas: “Tell your dad he’s not ‘Spartacus’.” Rickles is still — “Mr.Warmth.”

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