Don Rickles died today. The insult comedian who was a mainstay on The Tonight Show and the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts and who delighted in calling people “hockey pucks” was 90.
And this sounds terrible to say, but my first reaction to the news was: “That’s interesting. I guess I thought he was dead already.”
I feel very guilty about this reflexive response, but it happens all the time these days. Some musician, comedian, movie star, or sitcom actor from the ’50s, ’60s or ’70s kicks the bucket, and you could have sworn they’d already gone to meet their maker. I think the reason for that response is that, during their period of great fame, those celebrities are seen so frequently that they become expected, everyday sights on talk shows, in magazine articles, on game shows, and in guest roles on sitcoms. Then, when their period of fame ends, as is inevitably the case, you associate their ongoing lack of presence on the popular scene with . . . death. In fact, the only way you know for sure that they’re not in fact dead is if they suddenly get hauled out to award an Oscar or give a tribute to one of their just departed colleagues.
So, Don Rickles is officially dead. Doc Severinsen, on the other hand, is still with us.