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)

 

“opens me up,” walking

Just returned from a short walk around the neighborhood. Couldn’t have asked for a nicer day. The sun was warm, but not unbearable. Although I did peel off a layer, a lightweight jacket, opting to wear the thick vest over my thin sweatshirt instead. Wrapping the jacket around my hips, I headed toward the nearby park. As I got closer, I could hear voices and as I rounded the turn, there was an explosion of people having fun.

The tennis court was full, a family of 3 were in the children’s playground, the huge, grassy field was host to several different groups. Baseball was being played by a good, many people, soccer by a handful, La Crosse by a couple of boys. Dogs on leashes, walking their owners; a puppy frolicked, rolling around blissfully in the green blades. Pets are not exempt from having fun in the sun.

Always in evidence on the weekends are a small “army” of young adults dressed in feudal garb doing battle with poles. It’s interesting to observe them at play. At first glance the group may look like goth followers, until they re-enact fight scenes. They look serious at what they’re about. Maybe one day I’ll engage one of them in conversation and find out the group’s history. For now, I’ll just enjoy watching them as I walk by.

Everyone looked like they were having so much fun, oblivious to those around them, or perhaps enjoying that they were part of the bigger celebration of a beautiful day in the park. Deciding to join in, I sauntered over to a swing and started…swinging. Wow, what an adrenalin rush! I was a child again, no cares in the world. Gazing up at the cloudless, pale blue sky, I felt a million miles away. Leaning back into the push off, I rushed forward as though I were 6, not 61. I’m not sure what I looked like to others, but I felt gloriously youthful. There’s a child in all of us, waiting to emerge whenever we let them.

Minutes later, I alighted back on earth, back to reality. Striding away I felt a bounce to my step as I resumed walking, like several other adults, young and old, whom I passed. Nodding with a small smile and a glance in their direction, I felt myself opening up to the warmth of a blossoming, very early, spring day, and the joy of others doing the same. As I continued on my way, I thought  “How wonderful life is, when I open myself up to the  sunshine that pours in on a cloudless day.

Hey! And if I can’t be on a beach in Maui, a park full of sun worshippers will do just fine.

for good weather…hugs, and some…hugmamma.  🙂

“texas rangers, all the way!” or “angels in the outfield!”

I’m not a baseball fan. It’s too slow a game, causing my mind to wander, more so than at Sunday Mass, I might add. But after reading about 2 devout fans in a Wall Street Journal article, I’m rooting for the Texas Rangers, sight unseen. Let’s say I have a soft spot in my heart for the 2 women who’ve been rooting their team on since 1972, when they played their first game in Arlington.

Season ticket holders since forever, Maggie Hession, an 82-year-old Catholic nun, and her companion “in crime,” Frances Evans, 84 years-old, would make anyone proud to call them fans. These two have dedicated themselves to supporting their favorite baseball players just as, it seems, they have dedicated themselves to serving God. 

The nuns have faithfully attended Rangers games for 39 years, “listening to the play-by-play on their transistor radios and beating a drum they inherited from another fan.” They accompanied the team to New York for the playoff series in ’96, ’98 and ’99. Staying at the same hotel, the nuns rode the team’s bus to Yankee Stadium, sitting in the dugout during one game. Every day the devoted fans visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan to pray; unfortunately, the team still lost.

Occupying an area of their shared duplex, is a shrine erected by Hession and Evans, “decorated with religious figurines, crosses, refrigerator magnets of past players and three dozen signed baseballs, each enclosed in plexiglass. …There is also a framed portrait of the sisters in Rangers uniforms, taken when they attended Texas Rangers Baseball Fantasy Camp in the early ’90s.” During camp, Sister Frances, a self-described “ornery renegade,” broke her thumb when she was hit by a ball. Nonetheless, both she and Sister Maggie were thrilled when they hit the ball, and ran to first base.

Aside from the special attention bestowed on them by the Rangers, the nuns also received other perks. “The first season, they saved their money for tickets, but, after that, benefactors, including past Rangers owners and local businessmen, picked up the tab. ‘We like to say, “God provides,” ‘ Sister Maggie says.” At the stadium, they have parking space No. 1. And for many years, they flew to spring training in Florida, gratis the generosity of friends they’d made.

Having been schooled by Catholic nuns for 12 years, I know for a fact that they’re not the least bit shy about offering advice, requested or not. Hession and Evans were no different. They told Tom Schieffer, president of the Rangers, from 1991 to 1999, how to run the team, including “which player ‘needed to pay attention to his personal life.’ ” Sister Frances was displeased with former owner Tom Hicks, who signed Alex Rodriguez to a 10-year, $252 million dollar contract, which forced Hicks to sell the team in bankruptcy court this past summer. Hicks agrees with her about Rodriguez saying, ” ‘I do hope Sister Frances understands that I know I made errors, but they were all done because I was trying to deliver a winning team to Rangers fans,…Prayerfully, I hope Sister Frances can forgive and forget my past errors, especially as she is watching the Rangers in the 2010 World Series.’ ”

The nuns are delighted with the new president and part-owner, former, Ranger, star pitcher Nolan Ryan. When he saw a specialist for a hand problem, they were in the waiting room praying for him. Sister Frances had been encouraging Ryan to buy the team for years. She leaves him messages with coaching tips, like ” ‘If those guys would stay loose and have fun playing the game, they will play well.’ ”

The Rangers’ most religious fans, Sisters Frances and Maggie, will be at every home game against the San Francisco Giants, sitting in their 14th-row seats behind home plate. As for the away games, they’ll watch them on TV with the sound off, and the radio on, listening to the play-by-play calls. ” ‘You hear a lot of tidbits you don’t get from those TV announcers,’ Sister Frances says.” Despite losing the first two games of the Series, the nuns still feel the Rangers can win it. According to Sister Frances, ” ‘God’s time frame and mine are never the same,…but I really believe this is the year, this is the team.’ ”

from her lips to God’s ears…hugmamma.