Childhood & Early Years
Billy Crystal was born on March 14, 1948, in New York City. His father Jack Crystal owned and operated a music store. He was also a jazz promoter and producer, who served as an executive at the Commodore Records. His mother Helen (née Gabler) was a homemaker.
Billy Crystal was the youngest of his parents’ three children. He and his older brothers, Joel and Richard, were initially raised in Bronx. The family later moved to Long Island where the Crystal brothers grew up in a musical environment. Many well-known musicians were often invited as their guests.
In 1965, Crystal graduated from ‘Long Beach High School’ and entered the ‘Marshal University’ on a baseball scholarship. But the university suspended its baseball program in that very year, and he had to enrol in the ‘Nassau Community College’, Long Island, to study theatre.
After studying at Nassau for some time, he moved to the ‘New York University’ to study film and television direction. He graduated from there in 1970, earning a BFA from the university’s School of Fine Arts, which would later be renamed as the ‘Tisch School of Arts’.
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In 1969, while still a student at the ‘New York University’, Billy Crystal formed a comedy trio with two of his Nassau classmates. After performing with the group for four years, he started doing solo acts at prestigious comedy clubs like The Improv and Catch a Rising Star. Concurrently, he also started working as a substitute teacher.
Crystal moved to Los Angeles in August 1976 and made his television debut in the same year. His first appearance was as Al Bender in one episode of the CBS sitcom, ‘All in the Family’. He was then seen as himself in shows like ‘The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast’ and ‘Saturday Night Live’.
His first movie ‘SST: Death Flight’, a made-for-television film, released on February 25, 1977. Later that year, he bagged his first starring role when he was cast as Jodie Dallas in the sitcom ‘Soap’, appearing in its 73 episodes until 1981.
In 1978, he debuted on the big screen with the lead role of Lionel Carpenter in the comedy film, ‘Rabbit Test’. Thereafter, he appeared in various television productions, hosting five episodes of ‘The Billy Crystal Comedy Hour’ (1982) and two episodes of ‘Saturday Night Live’ (1984).
Crystal’s film career received an impetus in 1984 when he played a brief but memorable role of Morty the Mime in the cult classic mokumentary ‘This Is Spinal Tap’.
In 1986, he starred in the action comedy film ‘Running Sacred’ and hosted the TV show ‘Billy Crystal: Don't Get Me Started – The Billy Crystal Special’. Around the same time, he also started ‘Comic Relief’, a yearly fund-raising program for the homeless, along with Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg.
In 1987, he featured in the brief role of magician Miracle Max in the adventure-action movie ‘The Princess Bride’ and starred as Larry Donner in the black comedy ‘Throw Momma from the Train’. This was also the year when he debuted as an award show host, presenting the 29th Annual Grammy Awards.
Much in demand as an award show host, Crystal went on to present the ‘Annual Grammy Awards’ in 1988 and 1989. Thereafter, he began to host the Academy Award ceremony, hosting it in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2004 and 2012. Meanwhile in 1988, he earned his first screenwriting credit after he co-wrote ‘Memories of Me’.
In the 1990s, he began to concentrate more on films instead of television shows, working in ten movies that decade. He received critical acclaim for his roles in films like ‘City Slickers’ (1991), ‘Mr. Saturday Night’ (1992), ‘City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold’ (1994), 'Deconstructing Harry' (1997) and ‘Analyze This’ (1999).
In 2001, Crystal emerged as a voice actor, voicing for the character of Michael "Mike" Wazowski in the animation film 'Monsters, Inc’. Thereafter, he worked in ‘Untogether’ (2018) and ‘Standing Up, Falling Down’, which released on 25th April 2019.
He played a role in the upcoming animated web television series ‘Monsters at Work’, which is expected to be released in 2020.
Family & Personal Life
Billy Crystal married “his first and only date,” Janice Louise Goldfinger, on June 4, 1970. The couple has two daughters together; Jennifer Crystal Foley and Lindsay Crystal.
Crystal is also a published author who has five books to his credits. They include ‘Absolutely Mahvelous’ (1986), ‘I Already Know I Love You’ (2004), ‘Grandpa's Little One’ (2006), ‘700 Sundays’ (2005) and ‘Still Foolin’ ‘Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys?’ (2013).