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An internationally popular comedian describes his youth as a disadvantaged Jewish boy from Queens, the obstacles he overcame in order to achieve success, and his four-decade stage and screen career. 100,000 first printing.
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Don Rickles is looking for his first big break in show business. If you have a gig for him, contact his agent (as soon as he gets one).Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Jackson Heights, Queens, was no special place, but my dad, Max, was a special guy. Here's the kind of guy he was: If he was your friend and came over to your house and your wife was in a housecoat, he could hug her and you wouldn't think twice. There was nothing distasteful about Max S. Rickles. (I never knew what the "S." stood for, and neither did he.) Everyone loved my dad. The man was all heart.
Best of all, he laughed at my humor.
He was an insurance salesman who provided for my mother and me, the only child. We weren't rich, but we weren't poor. We just were. We lived in a plain apartment like a million other apartments you see in New York City's five boroughs.
Dad had a lighthearted attitude about life. He took it the way it came. He was the guy who taught me all I know about car repairs: Pay someone to do it for you.
We'd be sitting in our tired old Ford, the engine dead as a doornail. Dad would see someone he knew from our building.
"Charlie," he'd say, "here's a couple of bucks. Make the car start."
He also taught me all I know about home repairs.
Here's how that worked:
Mom wants to hang a picture.
Max offers the janitor, the mailman -- anyone who's around -- a couple of bucks to bang a nail in the wall. No one ever takes the money -- they like Max too much -- except the janitor, who's mad because he has to live in the basement.
Max Rickles was a giving sort of man, but sometimes giving isn't as simple as it seems. I'll give examples:
We belonged to a little Orthodox synagogue in Jackson Heights, where Dad was an important member. Once he was even president of the congregation. He loved the congregation and fussed over its finances. It was not a wealthy group and the building required maintenance. On the High Holy Days, Dad would escort me and my cousin Allen, who later became a fine doctor, to prime seats near the altar. It turned out to be a land-lease deal. Ten minutes before the start of services, Dad would move us ten rows back. Five minutes later, he'd say, "Okay, guys! Find seats in the back."
It turned out my father was selling tickets to services like a scalper at a ballgame. He was shuffling around the worshipers and moving some of the higher-donation members to better seats. The proceeds went directly to God.
In this same small synagogue, my lighthearted father was the only one who could deal with the weighty matter of death. When everyone was hysterically crying, Dad would quietly take care of everything. He'd line up the limousines and make the cemetery arrangements. The bereaved families loved him. Dad was able to deal with death. It never frightened him or threw him off track.
Speaking of the track, that was Dad's one vice. But it wasn't the kind of vice that did him in. He bet cautiously -- two dollars here, two dollars there. He loved the horses. Nothing gave him greater pleasure than winning ten bucks at Belmont.
He also loved many of the customers he sold insurance to. In fact, when they couldn't cover their insurance payments, he'd often do it for them. He wrote their names in his debit book and carried them on his back. When Dad died of a heart attack in 1953, those same customers came to his funeral and put a box next to his grave where they paid off those debits. That's how much they respected my dad.
By sheer coincidence, his grave site in Elmont, New York, faces the finish line at Belmont. How's that for God's help?
Copyright © 2007 by Wynnefield Productions, Inc.
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Book Description Simon & Schuster, 2007. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0743293053
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