Dave Richards' Weekly Column in The Woonsocket Call

Dave Richards for September 20th…………

--Lessons in how to live a better life are everywhere and if you keep your eyes open you’ll see them. One such lesson came my way from a most unexpected direction last Saturday night when I was in the audience at the Twin River Event Center with The Fabulous Denise to see the famous comedian Don Rickles perform.

I want to say first that I found Mr. Rickles’ performance very satisfying. I have friends who have seen him in a night club setting who didn’t feel that way, pointing to gratuitous use of foul language by the performer. But last Saturday night’s performance in Lincoln wasn’t like that. It was an “All Ages Performance”, written as such right on our tickets.

Oh, sure, there was plenty of rudeness and ethnic slurs, but that’s Don Rickles’ stock in trade. There were no “F-Bombs” or “serious” swear words. You see, Don Rickles came from that era of entertainers who worked the Las Vegas nightclubs where there were no language boundaries but also worked in movies and television where there were. It takes a special talent to entertain audiences without the use of bad language. And only the best can do it.

Let me digress on that point for just a moment. There are those entertainers who just cannot do a ‘clean’ show when it is called for. And I think that’s a shame. Some of them are talented people and I think they could have more success if they could have both an “adult” and a “clean” show, but for some reason many young performers who are talented enough to do it choose not to.

They are like so many other misguided individuals off stage, who think that being able to swear at inappropriate times gives them a liberating sense of power. They think, and I see this a lot in some women these days, if they can cuss like a truck driver they are liberated. I think it is sad, really. And if you ever try to tell them all swearing in public does is show rudeness and rather poor judgement, they look at you like you’re trying to oppress them. And then they swear at you.

Hey, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a prude. Even though I’m in a business which requires me to be more careful than most, I have once in a while let loose with the odd expletive. I’m not proud of it. It didn’t liberate me. And I had to go to confession afterward. All in all it wasn’t worth it. But I hope you note the point I’m trying to make here. There is a time and a place for everything. And using foul language, indiscriminately, shows poor judgement, I think.

Back to my original observations on the performance of Don Rickles at Twin River last weekend.

I was not aware Mr. Rickles was 90 years old. If I’d have thought about it much, I suppose I could have figured it out, but it never occurred to me. I also was not aware he had lost his ability to walk or stand up straight due to spinal stenosis. This condition caused him to sit for his entire performance which, frankly, seemed to bother him a lot more than it bothered me.

He briefly made mention of his infirmity during his show, apologizing for not standing to bow for applause, but making a valiant effort to do so from the chair. And he made up for his lack of movement on stage by frequently playing clips of past television appearances on the huge Event Center screens.

As expected, he roughed up the crowd with insults and cracked jokes about one lady who kept yelling his name during the show from deep in the crowd, calling her a ‘hooker’. You know, the kind of stuff you expect from Don Rickles. His rough and callous personality softened just a little when one of the people he randomly called up on stage from the audience revealed to Don he was an aspiring comic who came to the show to learn from him. The veteran performer gave him some sage advice so we could all hear it and then, as the young man was heading back to his seat in the audience, pulled him close for a moment and whispered something private in his ear. Judging from the look on the young comic’s face, whatever Don said was personal encouragement.

It was certainly an unusual evening, and very entertaining. But I wanted to leave you with one comment he made early in the show when referring to his physical condition which was almost a throw-away joke within the context of the show, but which I thought brought the entire evening into clear perspective. He told us that a while back he was feeling frustrated that he couldn’t walk, but yet he still needed to get back on stage and perform for people to be happy. That’s when his wife told him, “You’ve got a mouth. That still works. Do you really think people spend money and leave their homes to see you walk?” He realized then that even at 90 years old and with a failing spine he still had all he needed to be happy.

And at that moment, sitting beside my wife in that audience, I was reminded that we all forget to count our blessings sometimes, and I gently squeezed her hand.

Don Rickles gave the audience in Lincoln last Saturday night something more valuable than a night of laughs. He gave us inspiration. And he gave us good memories, which is what he……and all of we……..will become someday.

--That’s what I think. What do you think? Comments to: dave@onworldwide.com or postal mail to Dave Richards, WOON Radio, 985 Park Avenue, Woonsocket, RI 02895-6332. Thanks for reading.


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