Versatile entertainer William Jacob Crystal (1948–) was born on this day in Long Island, New York. The youngest of three boys, he was raised on Dixieland Jazz, had Billie Holiday as a babysitter, and dreamed of becoming a baseball player like his hero Mickey Mantle.
"The great Mickey Mantle—young, athletic, handsome, everything that I wanted to be," said Crystal, whose own resume is impressive.
Majoring in Theater and Film, he married his college sweetheart. "I fell in love with the right person, a person I know and who knows me," he said.
Crystal studied under director Martin Scorsese and taught for awhile before becoming a stand-up comic. In 1977, he made television history on the sitcom Soap, portraying the first openly gay character, Jodie Dallas.
"Life isn't convenient sometimes," Crystal once said.
He gained prominence and looked "mahhhhvelous" as the Latin swinger Fernando on Saturday Night Live (1984), then starred in a string of successful films, including When Harry Met Sally (1989), City Slickers (1991), and Analyze This (1999).
"A laugh is a weird sound," he said. "When you get a couple thousand people making it at once, it's really strange. But when I can feel proud of myself for causing it, it's great."
In 1986, along with Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams, he started Comic Relief an HBO fundraiser to benefit the homeless. The extraordinarily talented comedian hosted his first of many Oscar telecasts in 1990.
In 2004, he conquered Broadway with the award winning one-man show 700 Sundays, based on his childhood memories. And he commemorated his 60th birthday in 2008 by becoming an honorary New York Yankee for a day.
Life, said Crystal is great. "As our folks used to say, it goes by so fast. So damn true. When it goes by and it's good, it's nice."
More Film-Making Quotations
Change is good.