He was only kidding.
Really. Don Rickles loved everybody: black or white, gay or straight, fat or thin.
But don’t get him started on his wife, or the time she dove into their swimming pool while wearing all her jewelry.
For more than half a century, the hollering, bald-headed “Mr. Warmth” let everyone have it. Insults rained on the meek and the mighty, from unsuspecting fans to such fellow celebrities as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Johnny Carson.
And few seemed to mind. Rickles, who died today at age 90, was among the most loved people in the business.
He was the acknowledged grandmaster of insult comedy. Despite jokes that from other comics might have inspired boycotts, he was idolized by everyone from Joan Rivers and Louis CK to Chris Rock and Sarah Silverman. James Caan once said that Rickles helped inspire the blustering Sonny Corleone of “The Godfather.” An HBO special was directed by John Landis of “Animal House” fame and included tributes from Clint Eastwood, Sidney Poitier and Robert De Niro. Carl Reiner would say he knew he had made it in Hollywood when Rickles made fun of him.