I normally do not write about celebrities, but something occurred to me recently and I felt I wanted to write about this topic but from a very singular angle. Many of the people that have worked with Mr. Billy Crystal in over 10 films have died, many of them quite young. I don't know Mr. Crystal's age, but I believe he's still a young looking man. It must be very difficult to lose so many friends so early. I think first, of course, of Bruno Kirby who died of cancer a few years ago. I have no idea what it must be like to work on a movie set, but by the same token I can't think individuals can simply forget or feel indifferent if a large number of their "co-workers" at a "place of employment" died in rapid succession. Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal were absolutely perfect in "Running Scared." Mr. Hines was not only a great actor, but an excellent tap dancer as well. About a decade ago, there was a tribute to Sammy Davis, Jr. (thankfully before he died), and Gregory Hines and Mr. Davis did a tap dance number together. As with most tap dance routines, they squared off imitating each others steps. Towards the end of the routine, Sammy Davis, Jr.'s tapping was so complex that Mr. Hines got on his knees and kissed Sammy Davis, Jr.'s shoes. Now, anyone with a cynical side would say it was all for show; however, there was something about Gregory Hines' sincerity in the act of bowing to a superior that was far too genuine to fake. His tears spoke for themselves. A few months later, Sammy Davis, Jr. was dead--cancer.
Billy Crystal has had to endure the loss of friends such as (the aforementioned three), Andre the Giant, Anne Ramsey, Jack Palance, John Spencer, Carl Ballantine, Joe Viterelli, Carroll O'Connor, Nancy Walker, Pat Morita, John Fiedler, Tom Pedi, Ted Bessell, Walker Edmiston, Jean Le Bouvier, Fred Sadoff, Henry Wilcoxon, Stephen Roberts, Steve Allen, Foster Brooks, Ray Goulding, William De Acutis, George Carlin, John Candy, Estelle Getty, Buddy Hackett, Madeline Kahn, Henny Youngman, Brother Theodore, and perhaps some more I did not list here. (Also Mickey Mantle with whom Mr. Crystal did not work, but was very good friends with). For a relatively young man, by any measure, I happen to find this "statistic" quite outrageous.
Let's not say here that working with Billy Crystal is an occupational hazard--far from it, Billy Crystal is the comic's comic. He has given the world so much laughing material and I bet the odds of him winning the Presidential Medal is nearly a certainty. Beyond the sad side of his incredible career I bet it's awesome to be Billy Crystal.
Labels: Billy Crystal, colleagues, comedy, comic, death, sadness