Mr. Warmth.

I’ve written about the day I ran in to Eddie Izzard in all its embarrassing glory, but it occurred to me he’s not the first – nor the last – celeb I’ve ever encountered. Hence, I’ve started a new category here just for these kinds of stories.

I was in the baggage claim at LAX when I saw the man approaching. He had a few people with him – assistants and such, I assumed, or “handlers” as they say in show biz – and all were making their way toward the very area where I was standing.

I’ll be damned, I thought. That’s Don Rickles.

This was in the mid-1990s, and his career wasn’t near done – hell, he’s still touring right now – but hardly any of my friends at that time had any earthly idea who the man was. I was familiar with him because my parents were faithful viewers of the Dean Martin Comedy Hour and the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast, and Rickles was a regular guest on both.

I’ve always loved his schtick. He was politically incorrect before it was a term (or a cudgel, some people might say) and he remains one of my favorites. He hasn’t lost his edge, either: His latest appearance on The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson had me howling with laughter.

Anyway, close to 20 years ago, one of his assistants stepped in front of me just as I noticed my bag heading toward us on the machinery. As I stepped around and behind him, I intentionally and loudly said:

“Outta my way, hockey puck.”

Then I winked at Mr. Rickles. He looked surprised for a moment, then smiled and winked back. To this day I think he was confused how a 20-something girl understood who he was, let alone knew he called people hockey pucks in his act.

The knowledge made a memorable moment in my life, sure, but it also made this scene in Toy Story

… all the more hilarious when I finally saw the movie, about 5 years after it was released.

If you’re unfamiliar with his work, see the 2007 HBO documentary Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project. Clips and DVD extras are currently available on Hulu.

It’s worth it for getting those in-jokes.

Hey, Ham, look! I’m Picasso!

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