Don Rickles married a Philadelphian — and stayed married for 52 years

Comedian Don Rickles with Barbara Rickles
Don Rickles with wife Barbara arrive at Pantages Theater in Hollywood on May 28, 1974, for the annual television Emmy Awards. (AP Photo)

Maybe the best evidence that Don Rickles wasn't quite the person he portrayed in TV, movies, and onstage was that he managed to stay married to the same woman, a Philadelphia native, for 52 years, and that the two of them vacationed for years with comedian Bob Newhart and his wife. 

"My wife came from Wynnefield," Rickles, who died Thursday of kidney failure, told me during a conference call with reporters in 2007 when he was promoting the HBO documentary, Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project, which included Rickles'  description of Newhart's attempts to keep him from goosestepping down the streets of Germany.

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Don Rickles' engagement announcment in the 1965 Daily News.

"When I first met her, there was a maid in the house. I thought they had money. Boy, was I wrong," Rickles said.

The former Barbara Sklar, with whom Rickles had two children, was an actress when the comedian, then in his 30s and never married, was introduced to her by his agent. She may have won his heart in part by not being overimpressed.

"My wife knows I'm funny, and she knows when something I say doesn't appeal to her. I can get an audience screaming in Las Vegas and say, 'Barbara, that was a great show,' and she'll say, 'Would you please hurry up? We have dinner reservations at 9:30,'" he told Men's Journal several years ago.

It's Barbara, too, who might have been responsible for keeping him close to Newhart, Rickles having confided to Jerry Seinfeld a few years ago that "it's the wives" who make such relationships work.

He and Newhart, he said in an episode of Seinfeld's  Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, are "completely different. He came from the Midwest, a real Gentile giant."


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