On the shelves

Billy Crystal: It’s a wonderful life

 
 
Crystal
Crystal
Chris Pizzello / Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Billy Crystal has the same round face, scrappy New York accent and rubbery grin known to fans of Analyze This, When Harry Met Sally … and all those Oscar telecasts. He looks at least a decade younger than his age and is working at the same pace — constant — that he’s kept up for much of his life.

He’s set to star in a film comedy directed by Frank Oz and this fall will return to Broadway with his one-man show about his childhood and his father, 700 Sundays. His whole life is on record for his current project, the memoir Still Foolin’ ’Em (Henry Holt).

Turning 65 was all the inspiration he needed.

“All of my really dear friends who are the same age are pretty much saying the same thing, which is basically, ‘Wow. Jeez. This is really happening,’” he tells The Associated Press in a recent interview. “You go through stages — first day of school, ‘It’s a bar mitzvah,’ ‘a wedding.’ You know, ‘Who died?’ ”

Crystal is both a typical baby boomer, baseball fan and political liberal who brags about his grandchildren and can’t believe that he’s a grandfather and VIP who seems to have lived out every childhood fantasy — a star of movies, television and the stage, befriended by Muhammad Ali and Mickey Mantle, adored by Sophia Loren. During one Oscar show, Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty stopped by his dressing room to compliment him. Beatty and Bill Clinton turned up backstage after a performance of 700 Sundays.

“Dreams have come true for me in so many different ways that’s it’s almost astounding,” he says. “As I was writing these things, other people reacted to them — I’ve lived through them, but other people say, ‘Do you realize how many great things have happened?’”

He has had disappointments — minor, major and profound. He was scheduled to appear on the debut broadcast of Saturday Night Live, but his segment was cut. The 1992 film Mr. Saturday Night, which Crystal directed and starred in, was a critical and commercial letdown.

But the real wound was sustained at age 15 when his father died of a heart attack. Jack Crystal was a jazz promoter and producer, and his son’s first audience.

“That’s how you start,” Billy says, “making your parents laugh. And he was a really great mentor.”

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