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The Merchant of Venom: Don Rickles, a Biography

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Considered the world's greatest insult comic, Don Rickles was a legendary comedy giant, honorary Rat Pack member, and "equal opportunity offender" who defied political correctness, transcended every medium, entertained, influenced and insulted generations of comedians and fans over his six-decade career. Now in the first-ever biography and in-depth portrait of Don Rickl Considered the world's greatest insult comic, Don Rickles was a legendary comedy giant, honorary Rat Pack member, and "equal opportunity offender" who defied political correctness, transcended every medium, entertained, influenced and insulted generations of comedians and fans over his six-decade career. Now in the first-ever biography and in-depth portrait of Don Rickles, New York Post television editor and celebrity biographer Michael Seth Starr delivers a hilarious, moving, and long-overdue look at the real man behind the sting. Riding a wave of success that lasted more than sixty years, Don Rickles is best known as the "insult" comic who skewered presidents, royalty, celebrities, and friends and fans alike. But there was more to "Mr. Warmth" than a devilish ear-to-ear grin and lightning-fast put-downs. Rickles was a loving husband, an adoring father who suffered a devastating loss, and a loyal friend to the likes of Bob Newhart and Frank Sinatra. Don was also a young student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts with future stars Jason Robards, Jr., Don Murray, and Grace Kelly, and intended to become a seriously committed actor. But it was in small nightclubs where Rickles found success, steamrolling hecklers, honing his acerbic put-downs, and teaching the world to love being insulted. Sex, race, religion, nationality, physical appearance, political leanings--nothing and no one was safe from the "Planned Parenthood Poster Boy," as Johnny Carson referred to him. The Merchant of Venom traces Don Rickles' career from his rise in the 1950s to a late-in-life resurgence thanks to the Toy Story franchise, his role in Martin Scorsese's Casino, and scores of TV appearances from Carson to Seth Meyers. In the intervening decades, Rickles conquered every medium he worked in, including film, television, and on stage, where the Vegas legend was still performing at the age of eighty-five. In his highly memorable career, he was idolized by a generation of younger comedians including Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Jay Leno, and performed in the shadow of a shocking open secret: he was the nicest man in town. An in-depth portrait of the personal and singular professional life of Don Rickles, The Merchant of Venom delivers a hilarious, moving, and long-overdue look at the real man behind the sting.


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Considered the world's greatest insult comic, Don Rickles was a legendary comedy giant, honorary Rat Pack member, and "equal opportunity offender" who defied political correctness, transcended every medium, entertained, influenced and insulted generations of comedians and fans over his six-decade career. Now in the first-ever biography and in-depth portrait of Don Rickl Considered the world's greatest insult comic, Don Rickles was a legendary comedy giant, honorary Rat Pack member, and "equal opportunity offender" who defied political correctness, transcended every medium, entertained, influenced and insulted generations of comedians and fans over his six-decade career. Now in the first-ever biography and in-depth portrait of Don Rickles, New York Post television editor and celebrity biographer Michael Seth Starr delivers a hilarious, moving, and long-overdue look at the real man behind the sting. Riding a wave of success that lasted more than sixty years, Don Rickles is best known as the "insult" comic who skewered presidents, royalty, celebrities, and friends and fans alike. But there was more to "Mr. Warmth" than a devilish ear-to-ear grin and lightning-fast put-downs. Rickles was a loving husband, an adoring father who suffered a devastating loss, and a loyal friend to the likes of Bob Newhart and Frank Sinatra. Don was also a young student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts with future stars Jason Robards, Jr., Don Murray, and Grace Kelly, and intended to become a seriously committed actor. But it was in small nightclubs where Rickles found success, steamrolling hecklers, honing his acerbic put-downs, and teaching the world to love being insulted. Sex, race, religion, nationality, physical appearance, political leanings--nothing and no one was safe from the "Planned Parenthood Poster Boy," as Johnny Carson referred to him. The Merchant of Venom traces Don Rickles' career from his rise in the 1950s to a late-in-life resurgence thanks to the Toy Story franchise, his role in Martin Scorsese's Casino, and scores of TV appearances from Carson to Seth Meyers. In the intervening decades, Rickles conquered every medium he worked in, including film, television, and on stage, where the Vegas legend was still performing at the age of eighty-five. In his highly memorable career, he was idolized by a generation of younger comedians including Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Jay Leno, and performed in the shadow of a shocking open secret: he was the nicest man in town. An in-depth portrait of the personal and singular professional life of Don Rickles, The Merchant of Venom delivers a hilarious, moving, and long-overdue look at the real man behind the sting.

30 review for The Merchant of Venom: Don Rickles, a Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Janalyn Prude

    You would never know that the shy unassuming only child would grow up to be the great come back artist Don Rickles. Born in the Bronx and raised my loving parents he became famous at a time where men were known for womanizing and being socially and politically incorrect was a career move Don Rickles was the best and time and time again until his death he was the man with the comebacks no matter how politically incorrect would cause you to laugh until you cried. He was a fair politically incorrec You would never know that the shy unassuming only child would grow up to be the great come back artist Don Rickles. Born in the Bronx and raised my loving parents he became famous at a time where men were known for womanizing and being socially and politically incorrect was a career move Don Rickles was the best and time and time again until his death he was the man with the comebacks no matter how politically incorrect would cause you to laugh until you cried. He was a fair politically incorrect distributor and no one was safe from his toes. He always told them with a smile that let the target know it was all in good fun. I loved Don Rickles and never thought the read his autobiography but I am certainly glad I did and think the author did a wonderful job covering his life in the highlights of a career anyone would be proud of. I received this book from NetGalleyShelf in the author and I am leaving this review voluntarily please forgive any mistakes as I am blind and dictate my review but all opinions are definitely my own.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sue Fernandez

    This title, "Don Rickles: The Merchant of Venom” is a biography of Don Rickles. I applaud the author for keeping the golden age of comedy, and stories about the stars when there were really stars. The reason I requested this book is that I'd heard a few times that Don's comedy was nothing like the man in real life. This book showed the reader that he was more than his brand of humor. I really enjoyed learning more about Mr. Rickles. Kudos to the author for delving into research to make a good bi This title, "Don Rickles: The Merchant of Venom” is a biography of Don Rickles. I applaud the author for keeping the golden age of comedy, and stories about the stars when there were really stars. The reason I requested this book is that I'd heard a few times that Don's comedy was nothing like the man in real life. This book showed the reader that he was more than his brand of humor. I really enjoyed learning more about Mr. Rickles. Kudos to the author for delving into research to make a good biographical read. Thank you to Kensington Books and NetGalley for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. #NetGalley #DonRickles #TheMerchantofVenom #GoldenAgeOfComedy #KensingtonBooks

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Rhoden

    Some people like him, some people don’t. Don was known for being irreverent and funny. I enjoyed reading about him and the other comedians who were making their way at the same time and their different styles of comedy. All words and opinions are my own. I was given a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher for my honest review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Annie Oortman

    I’m a Don Rickles fan from way back, and this enjoyable book brought The Merchant of Venom back to life. Well-researched and well-written, the treatise was an easy read that offered incredible insight into what made Rickles lovable and funny to people of my generation.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sheila

    I received an ARC of, Don Rickles, by Michael Seth Starr. Don Rickles was a hard worker, the infamous insult comedienne. His jokes were not always funny, but he kept them coming. Working in Vegas to having his own show, Don has done it all, his way.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Parsons

  7. 4 out of 5

    عبدالمناف عبد أبوطالب

  8. 5 out of 5

    MLD

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mel

  10. 5 out of 5

    Hadley

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ilene Harris

  12. 4 out of 5

    Erica Caluag

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sarina

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Lawson

  15. 4 out of 5

    Micielle

  16. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Hughes

  17. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Lee

  19. 4 out of 5

    Skarpetta

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Adams

  21. 4 out of 5

    Root Of Evil

  22. 4 out of 5

    CallahansBooks

  23. 5 out of 5

    Linda Shields

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  25. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Gerhart

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amy

  27. 4 out of 5

    Douglass Abramson

  28. 4 out of 5

    Silvanna

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cody

  30. 4 out of 5

    Karen Jones

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