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)


weekly writing challenge: dna analysis

I’m a comic.

No. Not the Sunday news kind or the Superman kind, but the stand up kind. My daughter threatens to follow me around with a video, recording me as I mouth one-liners. And, of course, you know what comes next? She wants to share me with the world by uploading the video to YouTube! Yeah, right! Like that’s ever going to happen.


It’s not what you’re thinking, that I’m shy or humble. Heck no! It’s because neither of us knows how to upload a video onto YouTube. We’ve got the brains…we just lack the motivation. 

Funny thing about being funny. It just comes naturally, for me at least. I can’t remember anyone else in my family being funny. With 9 kids to raise after my dad died, funny was probably the furthest thing from my mom’s mind. Most likely she was thinking…life sucks…those stupid kids…I gotta get me some…I need a drink.

My siblings can be funny, when they’re not reminding me that they’re older and smarter. My brother Ed never does that though. He knows I’m smarter. I’ve got a college degree to prove it. Even though I know diddly-squat about computers, something at which Ed’s been working for 40+ years, only retiring a couple of years ago. And when it comes to being funny, he just had to open his mouth and cackle, and I was on the ground laughing my head off while holding my pee. A couple of missing teeth in his wide grin was enough to set me off.

Adolf Hitler, head-and-shoulders portrait, fac...

Talking about toothless grins. My once exuberant smile is nearly nonexistent now, unless I’m with close friends and family. That’s about 4 people.  You see, I’m in the midst of a tooth implant. Since it’s a couple of teeth back from the front left side, my smile is the length of Hitler‘s mustache. Get the picture? I could wear the retainer which the dentist made for me. It’s got my old tooth where my new crown will be. I’d have my old smile back, but then I’d have to take the retainer off every time I ate. You can see my dilemma…smile or eat…smile or eat…smile or eat. My ingenious solution? I eat during the day…and I smile when I go to bed at night. My husband likes my smile, although he wishes I wouldn’t wake him up to look at me…smiling.

It could be said that I cornered the market on funny because my siblings beat me to everything else…beauty…brains…brawn…booze. Being the youngest, I had to settle for the leftovers. Except there were no leftovers. So I went outside my family and found…funny. 

I probably caught the bug when black-and-white TV was invented. I learned funny from the masters…Laurel and Hardy…The Three Stooges…I Love Lucy…The Honeymooners…Abbott and Costello…George Burns and Gracie Allen…Red Skelton, Jerry Lewis, Art Linkletter, Milton Berle, and Jack Benny

Lucy watches Little Ricky's birthday party fro...

Lucy watches Little Ricky’s birthday party from the window ledge. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Or maybe I decided to be funny as an attention-getter. My friends and classmates thought I was hilarious when I fooled around, making goofy faces and spinning tales that were only half true. 

Once during elementary school I told a fib that back-fired. I did it to gain popularity among my classmates but wound up making enemies instead. I don’t remember what the lie was; I only remember crying and sweating…profusely. I forgot to mention one minor detail…I was in Catholic school where the nuns taught us…not to lie. I must’ve been MIA during those lectures. 

I was cured of fibbing, but I went on being funny. Like the time I pulled a papaya tree completely out of the ground. I didn’t plan to, of course. It just happened while my best friend and I were taking a breather from hunting down a litter of stray kittens in a neighbor’s backyard. I leaned against the skinny fruit tree, wrapping my arms around its trunk. When I moved to leave…the tree came with me. We had a hard time “replanting” it, especially since we were laughing so hard. We finally leaned the papaya tree against another one nearby, and ran like the dickens before the homeowners found us trespassing on their property. The hard-working Japanese couple might have beaten us with their shovels! Can you blame them? Of course I never did tell my mom. She would’ve beaten me for sure.

My daughter thinks I’m at my funniest now, when I’m on a rolling laugh. It only happens with her. One of us starts laughing, then the other. Then it’s as though we’re hitting a ping pong ball back and forth over the net. It’s even more hilarious when we’re on our cell phones. Using TANGO, we get glimpses up each other’s nostrils or deep inside our cavernous mouths. Jiggling our phones as we rock back and forth with uproarious laughter, we catch site of pimples…blackheads…”crow’s feet”…snot…drool…perspiration…smudged eyeliner. Not a pretty sight, I guarantee you. But one worth all the gold in Fort Knox

…a 27 year-old daughter cracking up at her 64 year-old mother’s…funniness.


Papaya trees

Papaya trees (Photo credit: 4nitsirk)

it takes a village…

No matter the scenario…a village lies within.

Yesterday was not a day I’d been awaiting…with joy. However neither was I anxious. Let’s just say I was…numb. Beginning the day before I forced myself into another zone…mentally, that is. Anyone who’s had a colonoscopy, and if you’re over 50 you should start to ponder the possibility, knows of what I speak.

One of my siblings had had colon cancer a number of years ago, making me a prime candidate for regular colonoscopies. That he is free of the disease doesn’t matter. That I havent’ lived near him in Hawaii doesn’t exempt me either. That we have probably not consumed the same foods for 40 years or more also carries no weight. Seems I’m hooked for good…every 5 years.

Zoning out mentally is necessary because you have to be fully present physically. A restrictive diet begins several days beforehand. It felt strange not to eat my usual high-fiber foods…whole grain breads and pasta…brown rice…leafy, green salads. Being told to eat the exact opposite was like being let go in a candy shop.

I relished the taste and texture of country, white bread…a hot dinner roll right out of the oven, slathered with butter…white spaghetti with meatballs. Because my mom had diabetes, I’d subscribed to a diet of whole grains to stave off getting the dreaded disease. From all I’d heard and read, white anything…goes straight to sugar.

Downing 4 liters of a liquid that helps you lose weight, whether or not you want, is when I knew I was paying for my hay day in the candy shop. Twenty-nine, eight-ounce glassfuls of anything is too much to stomach. I was fine until the last 5 or so. I wasn’t chug-a-lugging the stuff anymore. More like huge gulps. Of course you can imagine what I was doing between-times.


I was only allowed a low-fiber breakfast the day before, followed by a liquid diet until midnight when consumption of everything came to a screeching halt. Not even a drop of water was allowed. So, of course, I couldn’t pass my half-filled water bottle without longing to take a swig. Water never looked so good…

The day of the procedure I was fully prepared to have the dastardly thing done and behind me…literally. I even told the doctor as much. “Okay. Let’s get this over.”

English: Poster showing a nurse, with her arms...

Image via Wikipedia

From the get-go, I felt ensconced in a family of helpers. The nurse who escorted my husband and me from the lounge to where I would get ready, had the same name as my daughter. That got us chatting. The nurse congratulating my daughter on her career and the discipline that went with it.

I was handed over to an Asian nurse who was serenity itself. With calm patience she readied me for the inevitable. When Dr. Patterson arrived, he whipped out his iPhone and showed the nurse a buffet he’d attended earlier for a colleague who was leaving. The nurse had contributed a couple of the homemade items. I asked to see the photo, which the doctor was only too happy to share. Everyone laughed when I said I’d not eaten for 24 hours, and gazing at the picture of food might help quiet the rumbling in my belly.

I was wheeled into the surgery room where 2 nurses attended to me. Both were very pleasant. The younger one, probably in her 30s, asked if I was cold. When I hesitated, she immediately set about to warm me up with heated blankets…several of them. As she layered me with them I commented “It’s been a long time since I’ve been tucked in.” Chuckling she told me she had a 3-year-old.

Lying there, bright lights glaring down upon me, I couldn’t help but feel as though I were in a TV reality show, and I said so. The young nurse smilingly commiserated, adding that the idea was a good one. The other nurse made a comment which seemed to pooh-pooh the thought, something about rules and regulations. Not to be dissuaded, the young nurse chimed in saying “Not if they showed what goes on behind-the-scenes…the romances.”

Donald Campbell, Physician, Butte, MT

Image by Butte-Silver Bow Public Library via Flickr

I don’t remember what else she said. My mind was already picturing scenes from the next reality hit “Love ’em…and Leave ’em.” Laughing aloud I said that the TV patient would probably be yelling “Hey! What about me? This is suppose to be about me. Remember? Excuse me! Can we get back to my procedure, folks.”

I told the nurses that the doctor looked unexpectedly dapper in street clothes beneath his white physician‘s jacket, when he visited me earlier. However when he arrived and took charge, he appeared more as I had expected …wearing green pajamas…white cap atop his head. 

The cap was unique in that it was customized with an all-over pattern of a piano keyboard . During our first office visit Dr. Patterson had told me of his affection for music, being a voice student himself. So the cap made sense.

All I remember of the operating room was being told that the anesthetic was being administered slowly…the young nurse holding my hand, smiling…as I drifted off into a deep slumber. She told me to think of Maui. I told her I was going to go “moi moi”. Words Hawaiian moms whisper to their children, telling them to “go to sleep.”

D. T. Fleming Beach Park, Kapalua, Maui, Hawai...

Image via Wikipedia

It was a coincidence that the young nurse had lived on Maui for 7 years, engaged to an islander. They’d not wed, but she loved living there nonetheless. So while she may have been an attractive, blonde, my new friend felt like family. And given the circumstances…it was nice to have her by my side.

If you think my story is pretty funny thus far, you’ll bust your ribs when you read about my antics in recovery. Even I couldn’t believe what my husband told me. I guess under the influence of anesthesia (or lemon-drop martinis), I’m another…Phyllis DillerWhoopie GoldbergTina Fey…or my idol…Lucille Ball. All I can say is…

…heavens to mergatroid!!!…

………hugmamma.  🙂


Publicity photo of Lucille Ball from her Here'...

Image via Wikipedia


“just go with it,” and we did

My daughter convinced me, at the last minute, not to see “Black Swan.” I knew it was “dark,” and so was prepared for a Stephen King style thriller. But I wasn’t aware there was raw sex thrown into the mix. My daughter’s words were “raunchy,” “out there,” and more to the point, “sex between the 2 main actresses.” I might have stomached such scenes in my early 20s, when hormones were raging. But not so much into my “golden years,” and definitely not in a packed theatre. Yikes! I definitely didn’t want to hear the heavy breathing of strangers seated nearby. Double yikes!!

More disturbing to me, however, was the need to depict Lesbianism in its most damning, stereotypical imagery. Just when strides are being made among that community to show themselves to be upstanding citizens like their heterosexual counterparts, a much-hyped film with an Oscar for Best Actress, regurgitates the bad press that should remain ancient history. Been there. Done that. Don’t need to go there anymore. Was there a real need for explicit sex scenes between the 2 women? Did we need to remind people about their homophobia? Might the gay community have been spared the potential for a public relations setback? You who have seen the film will have to answer that one. I’m speaking “blind,” and it’s only my opinion.

Cover of

Cover of Cactus Flower

Opting to seeJust Go With It instead, turned out to be a happy surprise. Adam Sandler is not a favorite of mine, but after seeing him in “50 First Dates” with a definite favorite,  Drew Barrymore, Sandler is “growing” on me. Not until the credits were displayed did I know that the show was a remake of an oldie, but goodie,Cactus Flower.” Filmed in the 70s, I think it was a career booster for Goldie Hawn, but I only had eyes for the great Ingrid Bergman, and ears for the dead-pan humor of Walter Matthau. It’s good I didn’t know earlier that this later film was a remake. I might’ve spent the evening making comparisons. Instead I thoroughly enjoyed “Just Go With It” on its own merits.

Nicole Kidman at Cannes Film Festival 2001

Image via Wikipedia

I’d forgotten that I’d read in a review that 8 weeks of the film were spent on the island of Kauai. Seeing the green, lush beauty of a Hawaiian island brought huge smiles to our faces. Since it was the backdrop for most of the film, my husband and I obviously never stopped grinning, except when we were laughing. And seeing both Nicole Kidman, in a supporting role, and Jennifer Aniston do a pretty mean hula was an added bonus.

But the scene that brought tears to my eyes, and a lump to my throat, was a closeup between Anniston and Sandler. Watching her face as she listed things which she loved about him, I felt as though I were looking into the eyes of a good person, not just an actress. Never far from my mind, whenever I hear her name or those of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, is the pain Anniston must have endured throughout her marital breakup, and even years after the dissolution. The media scrutinized her every look, her every move, her  relationships, her breakups. While the hurt may have shown in the probing paparazzi photos, Anniston said very little. And she was probably entitled to say a lot.

Having seen Jennifer Anniston only a handful of times in films, and maybe a few dozen times on television, I was noncommittal one way or the other. But tonight I came away feeling like she’d be a good BFF, not for me obviously, but for someone who travels in her celebrity circle.

a full thumb’s up for Jennifer…and half-a-thumb for Adam…hugmamma.