Tuesday, June 03, 2008

I Saw Don Rickles-Casino Rama - May 29, 2008

This has taken me some time to compose. I had a lot of images and quite a few drawings and immense time pressure on me but here it is at last, my review of Don Rickles.

First off, when I told people I was going to see D R they'd either say "I wouldn't pay a dime to see that guy! He's so mean!" or "What? I thought he was dead?! He's still performing? Cool." I was in the latter category of course as I actually had tickets to go. It's all a part of my quest to see the "classics" whoever they may be, whether I actually am a fan or not. I just want to see them perform, see what they do, try to get an idea of why they are famous.

I did laugh during the performance. I did not "go into a coma" as my guy Chris predicted. I am partial to old feisty folks and he fits that bill to a T. I thought he was on the ball, very sharp. I thought he improvised a bunch of stuff but C, who was at the show with me, did not think so. he thought it was well honed and nothing was left to chance. He also said "I think he's been telling some of those jokes for a long long time."
Who cares.
I love that he's out there doing it. he sure doesn't have to. he was on stage 1hr and 20min. Pretty good for an 82 year old. He sang (he sings great!) and danced (complete with high kicks) and told some stories about Jimmy Cagney who gave him career advice at age 18, frank Sinatra, Anthony Quinn and Dean Martin. I have to get his recent autobiography. He really has stories to tell.

The audience was all age groups, 20's to 80's and more. And the theatre was full. He received a standing ovation and came back for one encore, though he hadn't really left the stage yet.

I read a review before we left for the concert that he looked like a lizard with neck wrinkles. I did see the resemblance to a prehistoric predator for sure, but the shape of his body, which was led by his head and his head by his nose made me think hawk, raptor of some sort. He stalked the stage walking slowly, back and forth, mic in hand, waiting to point out someone in the audience and get them. He did his regular act, the one I knew him for from TV in the 70's-- the insult comic stuff. He was different from the comics now though, sticking to religion (Jews and Catholics mostly) and ethnicity to term it politely. He'd do his bits and in between there was a low rumbling dialogue almost apologetic or backtracking by saying "Don't get mad folks, don't go away mad, I treat everyone the same, everyone equally, I'm just being honest just saying the truth..." That was odd to me and I had no clue if he has always done this or if it's a sign of these politically sensitive times. To his credit he still does what he does. He's true to himself. And if you can;t be that at 82 when can you?
What he made me think of was he's like the relative that everyone has, your mother, grandmother,uncle, brother, cousin, the one who just says stuff and doesn't censor or isn't able to censor what they say and you kind of sort of wish they would but they won't and so everyone goes "oh well, that's just the way they are...." They'd embarrass some people and amuse others. That's what he reminded me of.

At the communal continental breakfast the next morning I heard several tables comment on the fact that D R could sing.."did you know he could sing?" "I never knew he could sing!""Wow what a great voice he had who knew he could sing?!""Yeah, and Don Rickles sang!" "He did?" "Yeah and it was good." I hope I am as lucid and full of life as he is at that age.

A word about my drawings. I drew Wayne Newton in the same theatre but the light was much brighter for his show than the Rickles' show. I was pretty much doing blind contour drawing and could only occasionally see what the heck I was doing on the page. I was also going back and forth between the pencil and the camera when I got really frustrated. I was surprised by the drawings as I just sketched continuously going from one pose to the next when it grabbed me.
Again, as with Wayne, I had the feeling that I learned something about my subject through the act of trying to draw him, more so that just sitting and listening or snapping photographs. I'm convinced of this method and hope to go see more acts and try to draw them too.

This is the official caricature
of Mr. Rickles that cycled on a giant preview screen of what other acts were coming to casino Rama (Bob Newhart, Blondie, Creedance Clearwater Revivial, Donna Summer, Diana Ross &etc.). I kept trying to draw this and I never really caught it.

Pre-show set-up drawing and real thing. He had really busy backgrounds, like 60's OP Art.
But while he was onstage the background was solid pink, red when he first started and then deep pink.

Started out in amongst the crowd then climbed these giant oversized ridiculous stairs to the stage, hoisting himself up step by step. Made you wonder... "can he do it?" Yesssss......

Don onstage, looking into the crowd, getting ready to get you...

This was one of the last drawings I made. I feel like I really captured him here. he was sitting on a bar stool chair beside the piano telling a story. I could have sat listening to stories of his life for days. I'm going to have to get his book soon and read up. It'll be my summer reading book.

Tough to get his face in 3seconds in the dark. Amazing I had lines connecting at all.

My attempts to capture the caricature off the big screen that flashed by. I think the image was held for about 5 seconds at most. It's the shape of the head--I made it either too tall or too squat... plus it's wide. Interesting.

Standing up facing the crowd.
Trying to capture his distinctive shape. He had a bend to him that was really interesting. I know it's a fact of aging but it carried an emotion with it for me. Bent over, head leading the body, nose leading the head. He was like a predator, a hawk, or a dinosaur, looking for prey as he prowled the stage. And he moved slowly, deliberately... not just an age thing, but even if it is, he is using it to his advantage.

I actually am very fond of this small drawing. He's sort of loping across the stage here.

Not too bad. Some resemblance here.
Not sure if this is from the side or the front. I think the side.
Upright and functioning.
Just focusing in on the distinctive shape of his body as he walked. A hooked top and straight stick legs. Interesting. Tough to get it just right. I resorted to the camera trying again and again to capture what it was I was trying to draw. I finally got it at the very end of the show as turned and walked off stage.

Here this is the shape I was drawn to... This is the best image I have of that bent shape and how he looked walking the stage.

Stage shots:

Bowing to the crowd
standing ovation.

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