Don Rickles, A Little Toilet Humor

by BJ Janiec

1986. Men’s room. On a break from my bartending duties at Jimmy’s Restaurant in Beverly Hills, I’m at a urinal, going about my business, when Don Rickles — the stand-up comedian, actor, and Rat Pack adjunct — sidles up to the stall next to me.

Of course I know who it is. The pudgy, bald, ever-smirking king of insults. “The Merchant of Venom,” or as Johnny Carson archly called him, “Mr. Wonderful.” He once famously urged Frank Sinatra to “Make yourself at home, Frank. Hit somebody.” I remember as a kid watching him on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast, Carson, in the movie Kelly’s Heroes, and so on. I’m new at Jimmy’s and have never met him before, so with the sort of contrived nonchalance one summons in the presence of celebrity, I just stare straight ahead.

Now there’s always an awkward moment between two men when you’re a foot away from each other peeing, but this feels magnified because, I mean — it’s Rickles! I’m anticipating something, not sure what, maybe nothing; when suddenly, he glances down at my crotch, and with an unimpressed shrug goes, “Hmpfff.” Without further ado, he zips up and departs, leaving me with my you-know-what in my hand.

And that’s how I met Rickles.

Over the next couple years, I used to see him often at Jimmy’s — not in the men’s room — but in the lounge with his wife, Barbara, usually accompanied by Bob Newhart and his wife, Ginny. He was a prince of a man. Took the effort to learn my name, was always pleasant, and a great tipper. And I never heard a “hmpfff” from him again.