"I'm here tonight as one of Don Rickles' friends... it's a minority group." - Carol Channing
Don Rickles' presence on these Celebrity Roasts was ubiquitous, and it was only a matter of time before he was so honored himself. Rickles could verbally spar with the best of them, and his put-down schtick became so infamous that if you weren't on the end of one of his barbs, you felt like you hadn't made it. On this evening, the dais included heavy hitters like Joey Bishop, Phyllis Diller, Bob Newhart, Jack Klugman, and Telly Savalas. I guess someone must have thought it would be a good idea for Casey Kasem to do an Adolph Hitler impersonation as his tribute to the Merchant of Venom, but I don't know if that was such a good idea. Watching today it just felt awkward.
No doubt the funniest presenter of the evening was Foster Brooks doing his drunk routine. No matter how many times you saw him back in the day doing the same bit, he was always hilarious, and on this night he killed. Other presenters I'd consider very good this evening included Nipsy Russell and Telly Savalas, both quite funny in their remarks and getting good response from the audience at the MGM Grand. If you were a regular viewer of these Roasts back in the day, the one celebrity you always anticipated was Ruth Buzzi doing her Laugh-In character, bag lady Gladys Ormphby. So it was a disappointment that she wasn't on hand for this one, even though the program was a lot of fun anyway.
Rounding out the rest of the dais were Lorne Greene, Rowan and Martin, Cliff Robertson, Pat Henry, and special guest roaster, Captain Eugene Cernan, one of the moon flight astronauts. Rich Little as usual did a couple of his celebrity impersonations, and had the guest of honor rolling with his version of Rickles himself.
Of course when it was time for the finale, Rickles got in a few good shots of his own on every presenter. That along with a moment of thanks for Dino giving him his first big break on TV with appearances on Dean's variety show. It looked like everyone was having a pretty good time, and none more than dandy Don. Funny, but after all the times I've heard him called that over the years, nobody used that tag this evening.
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