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The Night Don Rickles Insulted the Beatles

NBC / Hulton Archive, Getty Images
NBC / Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Nobody – not even the Beatles at the height of their popularity – was safe from the barbs of the world’s most beloved insult comedian, Don Rickles.

According to the Beatles Bible, the group attended a performance by Rickles, who passed away today at age 90, on Feb. 14, 1964 in Miami, Florida. “Probably everyone has heard of Don Rickles now,” explained Ringo Starr in the book Anthology, “but we hadn’t in those days, and he was playing in the Deauville Hotel where we stayed. He was a vicious type of comedian. He would say, ‘Hello, lady, where are you from?’ and she’d say, ‘Oh, I’m from Israel.’ He’d go to another table, ‘Where are you from?’ They’d say, ‘Germany,’ and it’d be: ‘Nazi, get out! What the hell is this?'”

As Paul McCartney recalled, Rickles soon turned his acidic wit in the direction of the Fab Four. “We were all on one table with our policeman buddy, our chaperone – we had this one bodyguard who came everywhere with us; he was a good mate and we often went back to his house – and he started on him: ‘Hey, cop, get a job! What’s this? Looking after the Beatles? Great job you got, man, looking after the Beatles!’ He went on, ‘It’s great. They just lie up there on the ninth floor, in between satin sheets and every time they hear the girls screaming they go “Oooohh”.’ Very funny, we thought. We were not amused, as I recall. Very cutting. I like him now but at first he was a bit of a shock.”

Perhaps because of this surprise, or maybe just because their world was moving so fast at this point, the Beatles didn’t stay for the whole show.In his 2007 memoir Rickles’ Book, the comic legend remembered that he was very happy to see the Beatles turn up, “mainly because the minute John Lennon and George Harrison appear, the lounge at the Deauville fills up. The Beatles are the new sensation, and everyone wants to see them. They take a table off to the side, and the girls start screaming. But the Beatles aren’t staying. They’re only here for a quick hello and a few pictures with yours truly. Just like that, they get up and leave. And just like that, the room goes from full to empty, and I’m up there entertaining me.”

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