Celebrity impersonator Rich Little will never forget the time Don Rickles pulled him aside for a man-to-man chat. “I was visiting him backstage and he said, very seriously, ‘I want to talk to you. Pull up a chair,’” Rich, 80, exclusively told Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “I thought he was going to give me a big lecture. He said, ‘I like how you’re combing your hair.’ I replied, ‘I like how you are, too!’” To which the bald comic snapped, “Don’t get smart with me!”
The impressionist dubbed “The Man of a Thousand Voices” has such admiration for his friend, who passed in 2017, that he’s recently reissued his memoir Little by Little: People I’ve Known and Been with a new chapter on Don. “I was always amazed by how he could think so quickly,” recalled Rich. “He wasn’t one joke ahead of you, he was two.”
Rich has many fond memories of his decades-long career in showbiz. “Bing [Crosby] was a very nice man, very humble and sweet-natured,” he said. “And I got along well with Frank Sinatra — he never hit me or anything!” In 1964, when he was a guest on The Judy Garland Show, “trying to get Peter Lawford sober and Judy Garland out of her dressing room took a long time!” he laughed. “Judy was very insecure and she’d get a little down. One day she said, ‘Rich, why don’t we go to the movies?’ We never did, but we got along fine.”
He keeps a special place in his heart for Lucille Ball, who invited him to appear on her sitcom Here’s Lucy in 1971. “She was fun,” said Rich with a smile. “I thought she was going to be a strict taskmaster, but she wasn’t. We had a wonderful relationship.”
For more on Rich Little, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for more exclusive news!
If you want to hear what Rich has to say, check out our exclusive Classic TV podcast interview with him.