Comedy fans around the world were heartbroken yesterday after it was reported that stand-up legend Don Rickles, 90, had passed away from kidney failure. Rickles' career spanned decades and in that time he built up a truly impressive social circle, having been close friends with Frank Sinatra and The Rat Pack, to only name a few. A number of these people who knew or were inspired by Rickles have come forward with tributes honoring the comedian, including his one-time director Martin Scorsese. Scorsese directed Rickles in Casino and had these words to say:
Don Rickles was a giant, a legend... and I can hear his voice now, skewering me for being so lofty. I had the honor of working with him on my picture Casino. He was a professional. He kept me doubled over with laughter every day on the set -- yet he was a complete pro... He made comedy into an art form. And like all geniuses, comic or otherwise, he's irreplaceable.
Martin Scorsese issued a statement (via Rolling Stone) honoring Don Rickles, who once starred in Scorsese's 1995 film, Casino. Rickles played Billy Sherbert, a casino manager who works with Robert De Niro's Sam "Ace" Rothstein. Scorsese highlights the experience of working with Rickles in his statement, noting how professional he could be while being hysterical every day on set. Afterward, Rickles and Scorsese stayed in touch and became close friends. Don Rickles was probably one of the few people on Earth who could get away with insulting the director, something Martin Scorsese admits he did often. Scorsese also writes that he was roasted "more than once" by the insult comic and that Rickles would "just started showing up at places and insulting me."
During the filming of Casino, Martin Scorsese wanted to cast Don Rickles because he was a Las Vegas fixture and wanted to give the film more authenticity. Rickles was a frequent headliner at several casinos throughout his career, such as the Sands Casino. It was easy for him to act in Casino because he based his performance off of real people he knew.
To really get an example of the type of friendship Don Rickles and Martin Scorsese, here's a video of Rickles roasting Scorsese at the AFI Life Achievements Award. It's equal parts hysterical and heartwarming as Scorsese has to fan himself while Rickles calls him short.
Don Rickles only passed away of kidney failure on April 6, but in the short while since, plenty of celebrities have spoken out about their feelings related to losing the longtime Hollywood and Las Vegas comedian. Our own condolences go out to all of Don Rickles' friends and family during this difficult time. If you've got a favorite Rickles moment, feel free to share it in the comments below.