Saturday, December 17, 2005

Billy Crystal - "700 Sundays" in San Francisco

One of the great things that Aforementioned Wife has brought into my life is theatre. You could count the number of professional productions I'd seen before meeting her on Mordecai Brown's hand. But since her family is so into the theatre, I've had many more occasions to go, often thanks to them. One such occasion was this past Tuesday, when Julie's father gave her a pair of tickets to the Billy Crystal "700 Sundays" show at the Golden Gate.

I knew I liked Billy from his work in TV and movies, but I enjoyed this immensely because it was so personal. It's Billy talking about his life experience growing up. By doing that, he connects to all of our experience growing up. As a person who likes to remember personal history (I've kept a journal every day since 8/31/76), I really appreciate the effort he put in to recapture that experience and share it with us. What I ended up seeing was not so much "Billy Crystal doing his professional entertaining thing" but "Billy Crystal using his talent and skills to reflect on the past the way I wish I could." He made a very stout effort to ignore his professional success and focus on his experience as Everyman. Probably especially more so if you grew up Jewish in New York in the 50's, but still. A notable and well-chosen exception to mentioning his celebrity was when he spoke about seeing his mother in the hospital when she had some memory loss. She said to him, "Hey, you're Billy Crystal. What are you doing here?" Man, I'm tearing up just remembering that.

It just so happens that his life as a kid had some exceptional moments too. His uncle was a visionary who ended up turning an electronics store into the Commodore Record label, thereby making a huge contribution to New York jazz and bringing that influence into Billy's life. He watched "Shane" while sitting in Billie Holliday's lap... how cool is that?

It was a great show. If you get a chance to catch it, then you should. If not, his book is probably a decent substitute and they've got it at Amazon. We sat in the front row of the loge, but I expect even the worst seat in the house is still fine.


PeteGunn said...

No recollections about the Natural himself, Mickey Mantle?

achiappanza said...

He talked about how his first game was the game where Mick hit that record length homer. Maybe a few more comments, but nothing really memorable.

PeteG said...

I'm surprised slightly. Guys like Crystal and Bob Costas treat the Mick like he was Superman.

achiappanza said...

Well it showed some sensibility to explain that he came to love Mick the same way most of us come to love our team's superstars from our first games. Much easier to relate to that than some argument about how great he was.

PeteG said...

I've heard that NYorkers didn't take to Mantle at first, seeing him as the usuper to DiMaggio's throne.

The adoration solidified when Maris came on the scene.

I don't know what to make of Crystal now; he's like Steve Martin, more actor/movie star than comedian.

achiappanza said...

Billy Crystal doesn't have the standup pedigree that Steve Martin does. Martin was blazing hot as a standup in the '70s... Crystal debuted as an ensemble player on "Soap."

I really think that "700 Sundays" is a wonderful culmination of his best talents... telling stories and playing characters while being funny.

obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

Crystal must have been pretty good even before Soap, comedically. He was slated to appear on the first Saturday Night Live with a bit but got cut out at the last second, which set back his career until Soap came along.