Monday, June 18, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr Warmth...Don Rickles / This hockey puck is a real LEGEND!!!

This image is the one that resides as my current business card, and I sometimes get the comment that "hey, your card is great, but who is that old guy in the front of it ??"

It always gives me a silent cringe when I think of who that person is walking in front of the band, conducting us through the last rousing, swinging tune of the evening to cap off his rousing, 75 minute set....

Well in the interest of clearing things up, that old guy is great comedian and current flavor of the year, Don Rickles, and that shot is from a two day run in Lincoln City some months ago, where I played in the show's 14 piece orchestra.

Here is a picture of some of the 14...
These guys are the best at playing music for a living!!!

I just need to say that if there were a more genial legend to meet and hang with for two days, please show him or her to me... well now that I have said that, let us not forget the one and only Leroy "The Walker" Vinnegar who I knew for most of his 15 years here in Portland, and was fortunate enough to share a stage or two, in his gracious employ...

but I digress...

Right now, Mr Rickles is enjoying a round of well-deserved attention with his new biography out and selling like gangbusters (check out his interview on "Fresh Air", podcast-wise), but let it be said that, contrary to all that you would believe from his act and how he does it, there was not a kinder, gentle, inviting soul to his orchestra, and to the audience around him...
that is, of course, after getting lit into frequently, by his brand of humor.

He was generous with the orchestra, and included us in the show with a few of the routines. We did not "live behind a scrim curtain", as is the case with some of the bigger shows. We were right up front with him on the stage, and interacted accordingly.

As I said, he referred to us many times during the evening, introduced us each by name near the conclusion of the evening, and of course, insulted us accordingly....

For my portion of the public flogging, it went something like this....

"This is Carlton Jackson, our drummer for the evening...
Hey Drummer!!!!...Sonny Payne wants his act back!!!!"

Then without missing a beat, he went on to tell a wonderful story to me, while we were there on-stage(and conversely so, lightly educating the audience) about his meeting and hanging with the great drummer from Count Basie's big band many years ago (I think it was the late 40's/early 50's he was talking about).
He also tried each night to "hook me up" with some unsuspecting African-American lady that happened to be in the audience. Just the way that he portrayed the piece of meat that was me to these ladies was indeed funny and side-splitting each least my lady friend thought so (thank goodness...).

If that weren't enough, as we were packing up on the second night, Mr. Rickles sent his valet to tell the orchestra that if we could wait a few minutes, he wanted to meet us all and to tell some stories, allow us to take some pictures for memories, and to just generally be a wonderful man to us all.

He let us know that he appreciated the way we played his charts, and that our attention to detail that weekend was to his liking.

For my end of things, I got to hang with another legend that weekend.
For that, I am humbled to no end.

Long live "Mr. Warmth" (Johnny Carson's words, not mine) : )

(photos, again by auntie p.)

9/08 postscript....

One of Dark Horse Comics main drivers is Mike Richardson, who co-produced with John Landis a wonderful special look at Don Rickles called "Mr. Warmth"
The DVD has won an Emmy or two and is a funny and touching look at this legend.

Here is a story about Don hanging with his friend, Anthony Quinn that is up on YouTube.


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