Jewish Actors, Playwrights, Comedians, Musicians
William Edward "Billy" Crystal (born March 14, 1948). Mr. Crystal is an American actor, writer, producer, comedian, and film director. Crystal gained prominence in the 1970s for playing Jodie Dallas on the ABC sitcom Soap and became a Hollywood film star during the late 1980s and 1990s, appearing in the critical and box office successes When Harry Met Sally... and City Slickers. Billy Crystal has hosted the Academy Awards nine times, including the 84th Academy Awards in 2012.
Crystal was born in the Doctor's Hospital in Manhattan and raised on Long Island in Long Beach, the son of Helen (née Gabler), a housewife, and Jack Crystal, a record company executive and jazz producer who also owned and operated the Commodore Record store. Billy Crystal's babysitter was occasionally Billie Holiday. Billy Crystal's uncle was musician and songwriter Milt Gabler, and his brother, Richard "Rip" Crystal, is a television producer. Mr. Billy Crystal grew up in a Jewish family that he has described as "large" and "loving".
After graduation from Long Beach High School, Billy Crystal attended Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia on a baseball scholarship, having learned the game from his father, who pitched for St. John's University. Billy Crystal never played a game at Marshall because the program was suspended during his freshman year, and because he was too busy being the Editor in Chief of The BG News from 1969–70. Billy Crystal did not return to Marshall as a sophomore, staying back in New York with his future wife. He instead attended Nassau Community College and later New York University, where Billy Crystal graduated in 1970 with a BFA from its Tisch School of the Arts.
Billy Crystal returned to New York City and performed regularly at The Improv and Catch a Rising Star. He studied film and television direction under Martin Scorsese at New York University. In 1976, Crystal appeared on an episode of All in the Family. He was on the dais for The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast of Muhammad Ali on February 19, 1976, where he did impressions of both Ali and sportscaster Howard Cosell. He was scheduled to appear on the first episode of NBC Saturday Night (later renamed Saturday Night Live) (October 11, 1975), but his sketch was cut. He did do a stand-up bit later in that first season as Bill Crystal, on the April 17, 1976, episode; the "Can you dig it? I knew that you could." portion of which was repeatedly quoted by characters in the 1977 feature film Saturday Night Fever.
Crystal's earliest prominent role was as Jodie Dallas on Soap, one of the first unambiguously homosexual characters in the cast of an American television series. He continued in the role during the series' entire 1977–1981 run.
In 1982, Billy Crystal hosted his own variety show, The Billy Crystal Comedy Hour on NBC. It lasted five episodes.
After hosting Saturday Night Live in 1984, he joined the regular cast. His most famous recurring sketch was his parody of Fernando Lamas, Fernando, a smarmy talk show host whose catchphrase, "You look... mahvelous!," became a media sensation. Crystal subsequently released an album of his stand-up material titled Mahvelous! in 1985, as well as the single "You Look Marvelous", which peaked at No. 58 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the same year. Also in the 1980s, Crystal starred in an episode of Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre as the smartest of the three little pigs.
In 1996, Crystal was the guest star of the third episode of Muppets Tonight.
Billy Crystal hosted three Grammy Awards Telecasts: the 29th Grammys; the 30th Grammys; and the 31st Grammys.
Acting in film and hosting the Oscars
Crystal's first film role was in Joan Rivers's 1978 film Rabbit Test. Crystal also made game show appearances such as The Hollywood Squares, All Star Secrets and The $20,000 Pyramid. He holds the record for getting his contestant partner to the top of the pyramid in winner's circle in the fastest time, 26 seconds.
Crystal appeared briefly in Rob Reiner's 1984 "rockumentary" This Is Spinal Tap as Morty The Mime, a waiter dressed as a mime at one of Spinal Tap's parties. He shared the scene with a then-unknown, non-speaking Dana Carvey. Crystal's line in the film was "Mime is money." He later starred in the action comedy Running Scared (1986). Reiner directed Crystal again in The Princess Bride (1987).
Reiner directed Crystal for a third time in the classic romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally... (1989), for which Crystal was nominated for a Golden Globe. Crystal then starred in the buddy comedy City Slickers (1991), which proved very successful both commercially and critically and for which Crystal was nominated for his second Golden Globe.
Following the success of these films, Crystal wrote, directed, and starred in Mr. Saturday Night (1992) and Forget Paris (1995). In the former, Crystal played a serious role in aging makeup, as an egotistical comedian who reflects back on his career although the character was from his SNL days. He directed the made-for-television movie 61* (2001) based on Roger Maris's and Mickey Mantle's race to break Babe Ruth's single-season home run record in 1961. This earned Crystal an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special.
Crystal has continued working in film, including Analyze This (1999) and Analyze That (2002) with Robert De Niro, and in the English version of Howl's Moving Castle as the voice of Calcifer. He was originally asked to provide the voice of Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story (1995) but turned it down, a decision he later regretted due to the popularity of the series. Crystal later went on to provide the voice of Mike Wazowski in the Pixar film Monsters, Inc. (2001), which was nominated for the inaugural Best Animated Feature Oscar.
Crystal hosted the Academy Awards broadcast in 1990–1993, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2004 and 2012; and he reportedly turned down hosting the 2006 ceremony to concentrate on his one-man show, 700 Sundays. He returned as emcee for the 2012 Oscar ceremony, after Eddie Murphy backed out of hosting. His nine times as the M.C. is second only to Bob Hope's 18 in most ceremonies hosted. At the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony in 2011, he appeared as a presenter for a digitally inserted Bob Hope and before doing so was given a standing ovation. Film critic Roger Ebert said when Crystal came onstage about two hours into the show, he got the first laughs of the broadcast. Crystal's hosting gigs have regularly included an introductory video segment in which he comedically inserts himself into scenes of that year's films in addition to a song following his opening monologue.
Crystal won the 2005 Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event for 700 Sundays, a two-act, one-man play, which he conceived and wrote about his parents and his childhood growing up on Long Island. He toured the U.S. with the show in 2006 and Australia in 2007.
Following the initial success of the play, Crystal wrote the book 700 Sundays for Warner Books, which was published on October 31, 2005. In conjunction with the book and the play that also paid tribute to his uncle, Milt Gabler, Crystal produced two CD compilations: Billy Crystal Presents: The Milt Gabler Story, which featured his uncle's most influential recordings from Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" to "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley & His Comets; and Billy Remembers Billie featuring Crystal's favorite Holiday recordings.
Crystal is a Los Angeles Clippers fan.
New York baseball
On March 12, 2008, Crystal signed a minor league contract, for a single day, to play with the New York Yankees, and was invited to the team's major league spring training. He wore uniform number 60, in honor of his upcoming 60th birthday. On March 13, in a spring training game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Crystal led off as the designated hitter. He managed to make contact, fouling a fastball up the first base line, but was eventually struck out by Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm on 6 pitches and was later replaced in the batting order by Johnny Damon. He was released on March 14, his 60th birthday.
Crystal's boyhood idol was Yankee Hall of Fame legend Mickey Mantle who had signed a program for him when Crystal attended a game where Mantle had hit a homerun. Years later on The Dinah Shore Show, in one of his first television appearances, Crystal met Mantle in person and had Mantle re-sign the same program. Crystal would be good friends with Mickey Mantle until Mantle's death in 1995.
Crystal also was well known for his impressions of Yankee Hall of Famer turned broadcaster Phil Rizzuto. Rizzuto, known for his quirks calling games, did not travel to Anaheim, California in 1996 to call the game for WPIX. Instead, Crystal joined the broadcasters in the booth and pretended to be Rizzuto for a few minutes during the August 31 game.
In the movie City Slickers, Crystal wears a New York Mets baseball cap.
Billy Crystal and his wife Janice (née: Goldfinger) married in June 1970, and have two daughters, actress Jennifer and producer Lindsay, and are now grandparents. They reside in Pacific Palisades, California.
In addition to his Golden Globe Award-nominations, Emmy Awards, and Tony Award, Crystal won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding One-Person Show for 700 Sundays and received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2007.
Saturday Night Live
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