The business model of not insulting your paying customers doesn’t apply to a Don Rickles comedy performance, and the audience in the Pala Casino Events Center knew that before they obtained their tickets to the Feb. 11 performance. Just in case anyone ended up not being insulted by Rickles, Pala added a concert by Frank Sinatra Jr. to the show.
Sinatra, Rickles, their orchestra, and a few audience members Rickles selected entertained the crowd for approximately an hour and 45 minutes. Sinatra threw in some dialogue, Rickles included some songs, and even the uninsulted went away happy.
Sinatra’s 45 minutes on stage consisted of 12 songs and dialogue. Most of the songs he sang had been recorded by his father, although he changed the words of “The Lady is a Tramp” to make “The Gentleman is a Tramp” casino-specific while using Dean Martin’s “When You’re Drinking” lyrics version of “When You’re Smiling.” Sinatra’s dialogue noted that Nelson Riddle wrote four songs for the elder Sinatra at the last minute when the technological change from 10-inch records to a 12-inch disk led to the need to provide four additional songs on the album, that the original Frank Sinatra disliked “Strangers in the Night,” and that the younger Sinatra was at one time encouraged to record country music songs. During his dialogue Frank Sinatra Jr. sought to remind the audience of the era when his father was recording songs and the son reinforced those reminders through his music.
Since Frank Sinatra Sr. recorded so many tunes, fans were guaranteed to be somewhat disappointed due to the time limit of the concert, although once again the fans knew in advance that Frank Sinatra Jr. wasn’t going to sing all of his father’s songs.
While both Sinatra and Rickles joked about playing at nationally-unrecognized Pala, Sinatra ended with “New York, New York” while Rickles talked about some of his early Long Island childhood.
Most of Sinatra’s 20-piece band remained on stage as Rickles performed for nearly an hour, which provided an orchestral background as Rickles performed a handful of songs and also gave Rickles more targets for his humor.
Rickles tried his best to offend everyone in the audience; the 85-year-old Rickles even made near-death jokes in reference to some of the elderly members in the front rows. At times Rickles portrayed himself as a short-on-breath octogenarian, but his subsequent transition into S.O.B. curmudgeon mode ended any question of Rickles himself being on his last leg.
Rickles, who spent part of World War II in the Navy, took time out from his insults to pay tribute to the United States military, commend his wife of 46 years, and even compliment the band members after insulting them publicly. His nickname “Mr. Warmth” was given sarcastically, but it was evident that no harm was intended to the targets of his verbal abuse.
In the (chronological, not sitting) end, the audience received what they expected. Rickles insulted as many audience members as he could, but Pala Entertainment didn’t insult its customers with the night’s product.
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