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)

 

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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.

Superman

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.

………hugmamma. 

Papaya trees

Papaya trees (Photo credit: 4nitsirk)