billy crystal…a gem!

I’m in the midst of reading Still Foolin’ ‘Em…Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell are My Keys? by stand-up comic and actor, Billy Crystal.

Cover of "City Slickers"

I was never really a fan of Crystal’s until I saw him in the film City Slickers. Suddenly, he was on my radar.

That’s not to say my eyes light up as they do when Cary Grant or Sean Connery appears on the TV screen. But these two men have nothing over Billy Crystal when it comes to zinging those one-liners, with nary a flinch in his face muscles. The man is a born natural. I don’t think he’d mind if I likened him to one of his idols, Johnny Carson.

Crystal’s autobiography made me laugh from page one.

March 14, 2013, my sixty-fifth birthday. I got up that morning, padded over to the bathroom, threw some water on my face, looked in the mirror, and my uncle Al was staring back at me. My scream brought Janice, my wife of forty-two years, running in. I kept yelling, “HOLY SHIT! What the fuck happened to me?” Somehow, overnight it seemed I had turned from a hip, cool baby boomer into a Diane Arbus photograph. I looked at Janice for an encouraging word, for a hug, for an “It’s okay, Billy, you look great. It’s an old mirror.” All she did was glance down at my robe, which had opened up, and ask: “When did your pubic hair turn gray?”

I had settled into my side of the bed and had barely begun reading, when I burst out laughing. Of course hubby asked what had set me off. Never in need of a nudge, I proceeded to read him the first paragraph. I continued to read excerpts I found particularly funny, forcing him to interrupt his own reading. My husband got a reprieve when I decided I’d better go to bed, or I’d be up all night with…Billy Crystal.

Did you know that Crystal was lifelong friends with Mickey Mantle, Muhammad Ali, and Howard Cosell? “What” you might ask “does he have in common with those iconic sports figures?” Well, I’ll tell you.

Impersonating…Cosell interviewing Ali and Ali responding to the sportscaster’s questions…catapulted Billy Crystal onto the world-wide stage. And it made him , in Ali’s words “…my little brother.” In fact, when Crystal informed Ali that a certain country club didn’t allow Jews, Ali never patronized the club again. 

Wheaties/Muhammad Ali 2.15.12

Billy Crystal made his “…network television debut on Cosell’s short-lived variety show on ABC.” Their friendship grew over the years as a result of their attachment to Muhammad Ali. Seated next to one another at Cosell’s funeral, Ali asked Crystal 

“Do you think he’s wearing his hairpiece?

I had to hold in my laugh. “I don’t think so,” I replied.

“Then how will God recognize him?”

“Once he starts complaining, he’ll know,” I said.

We both shared a muffled laugh. “He was a good man,” said Ali…

The comedienne’s relationship with Yankee great, Mickey Mantle, traversed a long and sometimes bumpy road. You see, Mantle was a life-long alcoholic. Suffering under the weight of feeling he’d never measured up to his father’s standards, Mantle found comfort in the bottle. Only when his sons, Danny and David, themselves recovering alcoholics, convinced their father to get help at the Betty Ford Center in 1994 did Mantle finally beat the “devil” in the bottle. He couldn’t, however, beat liver cancer which took him before he had a chance to really enjoy his newfound peace.

Español: foto de Mantle NY Yankees

The Anti-Defamation League honored Billy Crystal as “entertainer of the year” in 1995. They awarded him an original seat from Yankee Stadium, which had been renovated. A rarity, the wooden seat was the same as those Crystal had sat in back in 1956. The seat number, 7, had been Mickey Mantle’s. Later, the ballplayer inscribed the relic…” ‘Billy, wish you was still sittin here and I was still playing. –Mickey Mantle 6/7/91.’ ” Years later one of Mantle’s baseball gloves from the sixties was up for auction. Crystal bought it and since then has cherished both mementos in his own private Hall of Fame. Of Mantle, he said

When the ’61 Yankees approached the casket as pallbearers to lead their teammate away, I lost it. That was my team, now all in their sixties carrying the casket of their fallen prince.

Maybe it’s the baseball magic. When Dad rolls a ball to you for the first time and you roll it back, it starts; but then there comes a time when you don’t want Dad to throw it to you–you want Mickey to. I got that chance.

While Billy Crystal shmoozed with some of the all-time greats, including the object of his boyhood fantasies…Sophia Loren…he doesn’t seem so far-removed from common folk, like you and me. In fact, we could be him if we were able to be funny…

…in front of millions…as a stand up comic…

…i’ll pass………hugmamma.

Billy Crystal

Billy Crystal (Photo credit: Bob Bekian)

 

tv genie…real life mom

Have just finished reading Barbara Eden‘s autobiography. Remember her as the genie in the bottle in “I Dream of Jeannie?” A favorite sitcom of mine at the time it aired in the mid-60s, I’m sure she was the fantasy of every young girl who wanted to be like Jeannie, and every man, young and old, who wanted to be her master, aka Captain Tony Nelson. Because I looked nothing like Barbara Eden, blonde, blue-eyed, I don’t think I was as fixated on her as I was on her cute leading man, Larry Hagman. I probably tuned in as often as I could to drool over his good looks. I thought the show was funny, although I liked it a lot better when Tony finally stopped running away from Jeannie’s advances. They made a cute, TV couple; I thought they’d make a great pair in real life too. But I guess I was wrong.

It’s obvious that Eden admired Hagman’s acting, and shared a lasting friendship with him, but according to her, he was like the Tasmanian devil…hell on wheels!

On one unforgettable occasion, when Larry didn’t like a particular script, his answer was to throw up all over the set. Nerves? Method acting? I didn’t stick around long enough to find out, but took refuge in the sanctuary of my dressing room instead.

In many ways, Larry was like a very talented, troubled child whose tantrums sometimes got the better of his self-control. The crew, however, quickly lost patience with him and vented their frustration by cutting him dead as often as possible and tormenting him however and whenever they could. Once when Larry demanded a cup of tea (as opposed to his habitual champagne), the crew, exasperated by his high-handedness and demands that a scene be reshot because he didn’t like that particular segment of the script, put salt in his tea instead of sugar.

When the unsuspecting Larry took a sip and spat the tea out in disgust, the entire set rocked with suppressed laughter from the delighted crew, who probably would have applauded if they could have, they so enjoyed humiliating poor Larry.

In real life, Eden was happily married to fellow actor Michael Ansara. Of Lebanese descent, he was two when his parents moved the family to America. She raved of him…

As far as I–and thousands of fans and love-struck female fans throughout the world–was concerned, Michael Ansara was a magnificent specimen of alpha-male masculinity. Six foot four and darkly handsome, with blazing brown eyes, a deep, resonant voice, and a powerful aura of strength and dependability, Michael was a Hollywood heart-throb with sex appeal to burn.

I think we get the picture. If Ansara had portrayed a genie competing with Tony Nelson for Jeannie’s hand on the TV sitcom, I wonder if Eden could’ve refrained from revealing to the audience which of her two suitors really had her in the palm of his hands?

I’m sure you’ve surmised that Eden and Ansara tied the knot. Seven-and-a-half years after marrying they were delighted to welcome son Matthew, a month before the premiere of “I Dream of Jeannie.”  ... with husband Michael Ansara and son Matthew - i-dream-of-jeannie photoBecause her career climbed while her husband’s nose-dived, Eden became the family breadwinner. For the most part the arrangement seemed to work just fine, for as she explained at the conclusion of her book…

The wonderful thing about my business and about my life is that I never know what’s around the corner. I’m very lucky to like what I do and to be able to work at it so happily and for so long. I’ve always considered my career to be a great joy and a great gift. I love it, and long may it continue.

But her career took its toll on her marriage, her son, and another baby boy as yet unborn. It was this chain of events that convinced me to share Eden’s story with you, which I’d intended to do yesterday, Mother’s Day. What she endured is a tragic example of a wife and mother who tries to do everything, to be everything to all people.

… Ten years into our marriage, I gave an achingly honest interview to a newspaper journalist about the problems Michael and I encountered in our marriage.

“My husband, Michael,” I said, “is becoming more and more annoyed watching me go to work every day while he sits home. He hates the thought of it. I don’t blame him. There isn’t a man around who enjoys the feeling that his wife is the breadwinner and brings home the bacon. I know it’s uncomfortable for Michael. What are we going to do about it? I wish I knew…All I’m sure of is that Michael would give anything to see our positions reversed.” …

Difficult or not, Michael and I had no plans to end our marriage, and we still loved each other as much as we ever had. Then in 1971, to our delight, I became pregnant with our second child.

Even their son Matthew was excited at the prospect of a baby brother. Good fortune seemed to bless her with more good news when she was offered the opportunity to tour America for 10 weeks in not one, but two musicals, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” and “The Sound of Music.” She signed on against her better judgment, for she was in her late thirties and was already feeling the effects of already having acted, sung, and danced “nonstop all over the country for so many years.” For once in her life she was “overcome by a burning desire to refuse not just one job but two.”

But Michael was not working, and if I didn’t take this opportunity, our family would go hungry. Although I knew in my heart that this wasn’t the case, against my better judgment, I agreed to star in both musicals and tour the country right up until I was eight months pregnant.

She took precautions, checking in with doctors wherever she toured, who were recommended by her L.A. physician. But upon finally returning home and being examined by her own doctor, she learned what no mother wants to hear.

My baby was dead. His umbilical cord had been crushed, and there was nothing anyone could do to save him. I say him, because the doctor told me that my unborn baby was a boy. The doctor also told me that in all his many years of practice, he had never encountered a case like mine.

Worse yet, Eden says…

I only knew that I had to carry my dead baby inside of me for six more weeks, because were the doctors to deliver his lifeless body before then, my own life could be endangered. In hindsight, this is a barbaric, outmoded medical practice, and thankfully it is no longer done.

Upon reading this, I recollected overhearing adults whisper of such instances when I was growing up. I didn’t know what it all meant, except that a woman had to carry the dead fetus the entire nine months. There’d be no shortcuts. Needless to say the ordeal took its toll on Eden, who unknowingly succumbed to postpartum depression. After 15 years of marriage she divorced Ansara who was bewildered by her decision. And in retrospect, she regrets not having sought counseling to save her marriage. For the consequences took its toll on their son. “But I still regret our divorce, because the repercussions it would one day have on Matthew would turn out to be cataclysmic. Had I been able to look into a crystal ball at that time, I would have stayed in the marriage until Matthew was an adult. but I didn’t.”

In 1974, Michael, Matthew, and I were living in our ranch-style home in the San Fernando Valley, a prosperous community of well-heeled, well-educated people. Little did we know that someone who lived close by, a wealthy hippie, a man with children of his own, was growing pot in his garden and smoking it with the neighborhood kids. I guess that particular person thought that what he was doing was fun, cool, harmless. If I ever came face-to-face with him, I’d happily kill him.

Fate is so strange, and I often ask myself this question: if Michael and I had lived in another neighborhood, not one where our neighbor was growing pot and handing it out to kids like some kind of candy, would Matthew have avoided becoming a drug addict?

But the reality may well be different. Marijuana can be an extremely addictive drug, and the addiction is intensified if a child not only starts smoking when he is extremely young but also has a marked genetic predisposition to addiction. Sadly, Matthew fell into both categories. Michael and I both had alcoholism in our respective families. Michael’s grandfather was an alcoholic, as were both my mother’s older sister and her brother. Matthew’s early addiction to marijuana easily led to an addiction to harder drugs later on.

Another factor, one for which I will blame myself to my dying day, is that Matthew was only nine when I asked Michael for a divorce, and he never really recovered from having his hitherto happy home broken up. …

…on the morning of June 26, (2001) all my worst fears came true. Matthew was dead. …He was just thirty-five years old.

Barbara Eden’s life continued in the same way that all our lives do…with its ups and downs. Although Michael Ansara remains the “love of her life,” she has found happiness with her third husband, Jon Eicholtz, a builder/developer.

a mom who tried to do it all…and in my estimation…remained a classy lady despite her tragic losses…hugmamma.

 

“homeless celebrity,” ted williams

 

Along with most other Americans, I rooted for Ted Williams as his resurrection from the homeless heap was broadcast across all TV channels not too long ago. But where is he now? Is he still in rehab for alcoholism? Is he still getting phenomenal job offers? Does anybody care anymore? Now that I think about it, didn’t Dr. Phil assume responsibility for getting Williams “back on track?” But no longer media’s darling, he seems to have been quietly relegated to castaway status again.

An article in Tennessee’s homeless paper, The Contributor, “Lessons Learned from Ted Williams the homeless man with the golden voice” by Gemma Holmes, once again shines the spotlight on the man who was given the chance to salvage his life in a big way. Holmes explains, convincingly, that the homeless experience cannot be rinsed clean by fame and money.

The rags to riches story of a homeless veteran with a golden voice took him off the street corner begging for change to the sets of the Today Show, The Tonight Show, The Early Show, Inside Edition, Entertainment Tonight, and Dr. Phil. He had a tearful on-air reunion with his mother and a public meeting with his children. Lucrative voiceover contracts with Kraft, MSNBC and others were given to him within days of his story going viral. The video of him being interviewed by a local reporter has been seen by 15 million viewers and counting. His rise to stardom in less than two weeks was remarkable. The glare of the spotlight showed us his talents, but it also showed us his demons that made the media who took him to the high heavens in one swoop, quickly throw him back to earth with a crashing hand.

Comparing Williams to other homeless whose “comeback stories are filled with ups and downs,” Holmes says about them

They may not have a golden voice, but many have skills and abilities that have been buried under the hardships that come with being homeless. Homelessness affects a person physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Many are looking for a second or even a third chance to correct the mistakes of the past.

The remainder of the article speaks to the selfless involvement of a local Nashvillian, Pat Waggoner, who is giving a “hand up” to the homeless in his community. Unlike Ted Williams who obviously had no support system in place to help him maneuver his way back from the brink, Waggoner provides the backbone needed for the homeless to stand tall once again, taking their rightful place among the rest of society. He understands “that getting a Ted Williams off the streets does not stop the struggles instantly. Unlike our culture of instant gratification, Pat is patient and believes that with faith, perseverance and hard work, lives can change for the better.” In offering the usual assistance to the homeless, such as meals, clothing and housing, Waggoner enlists the aid of others in the community, from “networking and civic groups, and church members who abide in his passion for helping others.” But he goes “above and beyond” as well.

He even finds jobs to help them become independent and self-sufficient. Pat is a strong advocate for rehabilitation to make sure that individuals stay drug and alcohol free after they leave the streets…he makes sure that for long-term well-being, he mentors men and families about financial literacy along with making sure they have someone to call when stressful situations occur that can push one over the edge. He encourages group therapy and spiritual counseling and believes strongly that counseling is one of the keys for personal growth. No, Pat Waggoner is not superman, but he is dedicated to deflating our homelessness numbers one person at a time.

The author goes on to say that Waggoner recruits others to help in his crusade by telling one homeless story at a time, enlisting his listeners compassion in believing in “the goodness of men and women who just need a break.” Undoubtedly not every story has a happy ending, but this doesn’t deter Waggoner from continuing to reach out to others.

“All too often when a very public rags to glad story falls short of our expectations, it has a chilling effect on us, and cynicism can creep into our giving and serving others.” This says the article’s author is why Pat Waggoner’s actions “can teach us to give to those in need, to step out on faith and build relationships with individuals who may still stumble and fall on the road to recovery. Leaving a life on the streets can happen with just one faithful encounter, but the emotional scars often remain as they transition into their new dwellings.” The writer goes on to suggest

If you come across a Ted Williams today, help him find a Pat Waggoner. Slowly but surely, you just might change a life.

there’s nothing i can add to such a profound statement…except “amen”…hugmamma.

  

dr. amen speaks

Am including this “page” as a post, since readers don’t often click on my pages, running beneath the pictorial header at the top of the blog. So it’s reprinted below so that you don’t miss the good information contained in the accompanying YouTube videos. Enjoy!

Wanted to keep Dr. Daniel Amen’s YouTube videos close by, for when I need a spiritual boost. Watching his animated presence, hearing his laughter, partaking of his great sense of humor, and being reassured that I need not be stuck with a brain that can go askew every now and then, makes Dr. Amen a cherished friend. I like having him on my side; so I want to keep him by my side. His words are not only food for my brain, but more importantly nourishment for my soul. You’re always welcome to visit, when you need uplifting…

a lot to digest, i know…feel free to stop by, often…hugmamma.

president bush, “citizen”

Was pleasantly surprised to see the human side of President George W. Bush on Oprah’s talk show yesterday. I didn’t follow his comings and goings while he lived in the White House, so I can’t say I had any inkling what he was really like, personally. Professionally, I saw what the mainstream media offered 24/7. As we all know, much is taken out of context, to support whatever viewpoint is being touted. And, of course, he wasn’t “my man,” although I did vote him into office (like others who thought he might do a good job…hmmm), so I wasn’t inclined to follow George W.’s every move.

Relaxed, congenial, smiling broadly and freely, citizen Bush looked like someone I’d vote for all over again. (Except now I know better.) I guess all Presidents stop aging at lightning speed, once their terms are over. Then they seem to drop 5-10 years off their appearances. Yes, even Clinton, with his full head of white hair. Maybe it’s the strict diet he’s been on, no meat, no dairy, only grains, fruits, and a little fish.

Both Clinton and George W. had their “moments,” which will be a major part of their political legacies, Monica Lewinsky, and the Iraq War which contributed to a near-Depression. As the years advance, such remembrances recede into the corners of our minds, where “cobwebs” form and other memories replace them. That is until some incident stirs up the media, causing them to troll the “archives,” digging up the dirt once more, causing another frenzy. That seems to be the way of the world, our human world.

Life has a way of moving forward, even after major strife, President Clinton faced impeachment proceedings, and in the aftermath of Katrina, President Bush faced unfavorable rhetoric for his failure to respond quickly. Now that both are “ordinary” citizens, we celebrate personal events with them, Chelsea’s recent marriage, and the familial love of the Bush family, as seen on video during Oprah’s interview.

In the “heat of the moment,” I too was angry with these Presidents for their failure to perform their jobs as I, and others, expected. But now I can appreciate them as men with loved ones, subject to human frailties, having done their best with what talents, and shortcomings they brought to the Presidency, Clinton’s womanizing and his stepfather’s alcoholism, and Bush’s alcoholic past. Perhaps we’ll be as generous, when we reflect upon President Obama’s time in office. I’m getting a head start, I already am.

bush gave oprah a huge hug; i do the same for him, and other presidents, past and present, huge hugs for their service…hugmamma.