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Don Rickles has Tony Bennettís ear
Don Rickles has Tony Bennettís ear

Kathy Griffin goes head to head with Rickles
Kathy Griffin goes head to head with Rickles
Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett
Whitney Cummings
Whitney Cummings
Tony Danza
Tony Danza
Lewis Black
Lewis Black

Bob Saget
Bob Saget

Gilbert Gottfried
Gilbert Gottfried

Talia Storm before
Talia Storm before

Talia Storm after
Talia Storm after

Jeff Ross
Jeff Ross

Freddie Roman
Freddie Roman
FRIARS CLUB
Comics Toast Mr. Warmth
And Rickle Him To Death

T
HE comedians who populate the ranks of the New York Friars Club have long endured beyond their expiration date. At the club we ask "How old is he?" and the answer is "deceased." George Burns passed on at 100; Henny Youngman departed at 92.

Even comediansí marriages last forever. Ginny and Bob Newhart have been married 50 years; Barbara and Don Rickles, 48 years. Newhart has a theory: "I think if you can keep laughing you will stay together."

Iím no comedian but my Nina hasnít stopped laughing since the day I smashed the glass under the chupah 36 years ago.

After a robust effort to recruit fresh blood, there is now an infusion of youthful merrymakers swelling the clubís roster. This mixture of the young and the old was evident at a recent Friars affair.

When the Friars Foundation, which supports various charities, presented a lifetime achievement award in June to the acerbic and insulting Don Ricklesóthe elder statesman of the comedy racketóhis octogenarian colleagues, those not tethered to their wheelchairs, found their way to the Waldorf-Astoria to pay tribute to their fearless mentor.

Among the usual suspects were Tony Bennett , 86 in August; Bob Newhart, 83 in September; Regis Philbin, 82 in August; Lewis Black, 65 in August; Tony Danza, 62; sportscaster Bob Costas, 62; Billy Crystal, 65; and Bette Midler, 67.

Newhart, of Oak Park, Illinois, said proudly that he started at the Sahara in Las Vegas. Rickles, of Queens, N.Y., added, "I started on a wagon train going west. "

That prompted Joan Rivers who turned 80 in June to crack, "This looks like a walking bucket list." Not to be outdone, Robert De Niro, 70 in August, remarked, "This is an impressive lineup for the Don Rickles memorial service."

"Iím only irritated," De Niro added, "that when I was in Israel celebrating Shimon Peresís 90th birthday, I wasted my prayer at the Wailing Wall in Donís memory."

At some point during all this merriment the Friars Foundation chairman Joseph Zappala and Friars Club dean Freddie Roman managed to bestow an Applause Award upon Barry R. Feirstein of Feirstein Capital Management Corporation, an investment management firm. A Brooklyn College graduate, heís president of the Friars Foundation and a supporter of Manhattanís Center for Jewish History.

Joan Rivers said she loved to watch Bob Newhart sitting among so many Jews. "He looks like Sarah Palin in a library."

Newhart mentioned that he and Ginny vacation a lot with Rickles. "After that we take a vacation."

On a trip to Israel they stayed at the King David Hotel. While driving around Jerusalem Don flattered himself with his keen knowledge of local landmarks. "I know that building. Itís where they keep Palestinian terrorists."

"No, Don," the guide said. "Thatís the national library."

On the Golan Heights Don was excited to see a row of tall poles on the mountain. "Those poles are high so they can spy on the troops in Syria."

"No, Don. Those are telephone poles."

Jimmy Fallon, part of the new generation of Friars who proved their mettle, proposed a toast. "Hereís to Don, not for another 80 years, just 40 years. More than that is just overkill."

Among the celebrities who roasted or toasted Mr. Warmth were comedians Lewis Black, Kathy Griffin, Whitney Cummings, Gilbert Gottfried, Jeff Ross, Bob Saget, Louis CK, NBC news anchor Brian Williams, actor John Stamos, musicians John Mayer and Arturo Sandoval, Canadian singer Diana Krall, Brit singer Talia Storm, singers Natalie Cole and Loston Harris.

Rickles dedicated this priceless night of fun to his late Yiddish speaking mama Etta and his son Larry. Larry was an Emmy Award-winning producer who died of pneumonia two years ago at age 41.

With a tear in his eye, Don held up his head and exclaimed, "Larry, Dad was a hit tonight!"

Kathy Griffin and Joan Rivers
Kathy Griffin and Joan Rivers
Bob Newhart and wife Ginny
Bob Newhart and wife Ginny
Bob Costas and wife Jill Suton
Bob Costas and wife Jill Suton
Everyone wants a piece of Don Rickles including (l-r) jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, Joan Rivers, Bob Newhart, Kathy Griffin and Freddie Roman
Everyone wants a piece of Don Rickles including (l-r) jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, Joan Rivers, Bob Newhart, Kathy Griffin and Freddie Roman
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