America actor, comedian, and writer
Billy Crystal was born on March 14, 1948 in Manhattan, New York, and was raised on Long Island. He is the youngest of three sons born to Helen (Gabler) and Jack Crystal. His father was a well-known concert promoter who co-founded Commodore Records and his mother was a homemaker.
At age 15, Billy faced a personal tragedy when his father died of a heart attack at the relatively young age of 54. This gave Billy a real appreciation of what his dad was able to accomplish while alive and what his mother did to keep the family together. Despite this tragedy, Billy was very upbeat and likable as a kid. He had a unique talent for making people laugh. With television becoming a new medium, Billy got his influence from shows like The Honeymooners (1955), and “The Ed Sullivan Show” and performers like Alan King, Ernie Kovacs and Jonathan Winters. He started doing stand-up comedy at the age of 16.
After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts from NYU in 1970, Billy temporarily worked as a substitute teacher until he was able to get gigs as a stand-up comic. He formed his own improv group, 3’s Company, and opened for musicians like Barry Manilow. His impression of Howard Cosell interviewing Muhammad Ali became a huge hit with the audience. It only took a year before he got his big break when he was chosen for the role of gay character Jodie Dallas on the controversial ABC sitcom Soap (1977). This would be the first time that an American TV show would feature an openly gay character as a regular. The show ran successfully for four seasons. After Soap (1977) ended in 1981, Billy continued to do his stand-up routine, which was now attracting a larger audience with his growing celebrity status. During this time, he made many TV guest appearances and even hosted his own short-lived variety show, The Billy Crystal Comedy Hour (1982).
His role in as a therapist to mobster Robert De Niro in Analyze This (1999) earned him critical praise. In 2001, Billy parlayed his childhood love of baseball and Mickey Mantle into a feature film. The movie, 61* (2001), which premiered on HBO, centered on the relationship between Mantle and Roger Maris and their 1961 pursuit of Babe Ruth’s home run record. The film for which Billy served as director and executive producer, garnered 12 Emmy nominations in all.