Still Foolin' 'Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys?

Still Foolin' 'Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys?

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by Billy Crystal
     
 

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Hilarious and heartfelt observations on aging from one of America’s favorite comedians as he turns 65, and a look back at a remarkable career

Billy Crystal is turning 65, and he’s not happy about it. With his trademark wit and heart, he outlines the absurdities and challenges that come with growing old, from insomnia to memory loss to leaving

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Overview

Hilarious and heartfelt observations on aging from one of America’s favorite comedians as he turns 65, and a look back at a remarkable career

Billy Crystal is turning 65, and he’s not happy about it. With his trademark wit and heart, he outlines the absurdities and challenges that come with growing old, from insomnia to memory loss to leaving dinners with half your meal on your shirt. In humorous chapters like “Buying the Plot” and “Nodding Off,” Crystal not only catalogues his physical gripes, but offers a road map to his 77 million fellow baby boomers who are arriving at this milestone age with him. He also looks back at the most powerful and memorable moments of his long and storied life, from entertaining his relatives as a kid in Long Beach, Long Island, his years doing stand-up in the Village, up through his legendary stint at Saturday Night Live, When Harry Met Sally, and his long run as host of the Academy Awards. Readers get a front-row seat to his one-day career with the New York Yankees (he was the first player to ever “test positive for Maalox”), his love affair with Sophia Loren, and his enduring friendships with several of his idols, including Mickey Mantle and Muhammad Ali. He lends a light touch to more serious topics like religion (“the aging friends I know have turned to the Holy Trinity: Advil, bourbon, and Prozac”), grandparenting, and, of course, dentistry. As wise and poignant as they are funny, Crystal’s reflections are an unforgettable look at an extraordinary life well lived.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
08/12/2013
Avoiding the trappings—excess schmaltz, laundry list of famous friends, boozy party log—of so many celebrity memoirs, Crystal delivers a funny and genuinely moving chronicle of his life inside and outside Hollywood. The quips come as fast they do in the best Crystal films and Oscar hostings, making sure the reader knows that there isn’t a ghost writer guiding this one. Now 65, Crystal, the youngest of three brothers, was a comic from the start, soaking up all he could from the TV comedians of the ’50s during his childhood in the New York suburbs. In addition to loving comedy, Crystal grew up loving music (his father owned a popular record store in the city) and, of course, baseball. Both of these passions stayed with him throughout his life and, something most fans could only dream of, Crystal not only met but befriended idols like Mickey Mantle and boxer Muhammad Ali. His successes are balanced with opportunities that didn’t pan out, or movies that fizzled at the box office: a last-minute cancellation of a semi-permanent gig with the then-fledgling Saturday Night Live is outshone by the opportunity to perform on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. In addition to providing the inside scoop on some of his most iconic roles, from Harry to Princess, Crystal manages the extremely difficult feat of making his prose as vibrant and funny as his stand-up. He’ll always be a hard act to follow. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"[A] wry look at aging."—The New York Times Book Review

"Still Foolin’ ‘Em … moves from one funny, strange and heartfelt moment to the next as smoothly as the best of the nine Academy Awards shows Crystal hosted." —Los Angeles Times

"Crystal is, as always, charming and wry." —New York Daily News

"Crystal gets a lot of laughs out of the indignities of aging." —USA Today

"Laugh-out-loud funny."—Entertainment Weekly

"Crystal has the charisma, humor, and down-home charm that fans have loved over the years . . . [He] delivers numerous chuckles and flat-out belly laughs . . . To quote one of his most famous characters, Billy Crystal, ‘you look mahvelous.’" —Associated Press

"A book with a thousand laughs entwined with unknown stories about some of the most popular movies of the past decades. Tender moments abound, too, as the reader winds his way through Billy’s long varied career." —Steve Martin

"This book is kick-ass funny and truly unique. A Hollywood autobiography with only one wife, no rehab, a loving family and loyal friends." —Robin Williams

"Billy Crystal is a national treasure. Thank God he wrote this hilarious and emotional book because now I don't have to and I'll still have something personal to give everyone at Christmas." —Bette Midler

"Avoiding the trappings—excess schmaltz, laundry list of famous friends, boozy party log—of so many celebrity memoirs, Crystal delivers a funny and genuinely moving chronicle of his life inside and outside Hollywood….(and) manages the extremely difficult feat of making his prose as vibrant and funny as his stand-up. He’ll always be a hard act to follow."—Publishers Weekly

"Massively laugh-out-loud funny . . . Hollywood memoirs don’t come much more entertaining than this one." —Booklist (starred)

"A charming, warm, welcome read for Crystal’s legions of fans . . . the always affable author proves yet again his ability to translate his comedic chops from the screen to the page." —Kirkus

The New York Times Book Review

[A] wry look at aging.
Los Angeles Times

Still Foolin' 'Em … moves from one funny, strange and heartfelt moment to the next as smoothly as the best of the nine Academy Awards shows Crystal hosted.
New York Daily News

Crystal is, as always, charming and wry.
Associated Press Staff

Crystal has the charisma, humor, and down-home charm that fans have loved over the years . . . [He] delivers numerous chuckles and flat-out belly laughs . . . To quote one of his most famous characters, Billy Crystal, 'you look mahvelous.'
Steve Martin

A book with a thousand laughs entwined with unknown stories about some of the most popular movies of the past decades. Tender moments abound, too, as the reader winds his way through Billy's long varied career.
Robin Williams

This book is kick-ass funny and truly unique. A Hollywood autobiography with only one wife, no rehab, a loving family and loyal friends.
Bette Midler

Billy Crystal is a national treasure. Thank God he wrote this hilarious and emotional book because now I don't have to and I'll still have something personal to give everyone at Christmas.
Booklist (starred)

Massively laugh-out-loud funny . . . Hollywood memoirs don't come much more entertaining than this one.
Library Journal
Not just a look back at Crystal's career as an actor and Academy Awards host, this work captures for every baby boomer (and other interested readers) the joys and horrors of turning 65, as Crystal does next year. Wry (with chapters like "Drugs We Did Then, Drugs We Do Now") but touching as Crystal reflects on his final conversation with his father. He'll promote in a big way.
Kirkus Reviews
A humorous take on mortality by famed comedian and actor Crystal (700 Sundays, 2005, etc.). In his latest book, the always-affable author proves yet again his ability to translate his comedic chops from the screen to the page. On the morning of his 65th birthday, Crystal peered into the mirror to find he was no longer the "hip, cool baby boomer" he thought he was, but now resembled "a Diane Arbus photograph." Horrified by the transformation, Crystal dedicates the rest of the book to finding his old self in his new saggy skin--a self-deprecating shtick that proves as endearing as it is silly. Melding the personal with the professional, the author recounts his rise from unknown comic to acclaimed entertainer, a journey that has included run-ins with everyone from Mickey Mantle to Muhammad Ali. Yet through it all, Crystal makes clear that his brushes with greatness--and, in fact, his own greatness--were often the result of luck, timing and hard work in equal proportions. Though he revels in his self-portrayal as a key-losing, liver-spotted old man, in truth, Crystal's wit and writing remain sharp, as do his reflections on the more disappointing moments of his career. Of the mild success of his directorial debut, Mr. Saturday, Crystal chalks up the film's struggles to audiences' inability to leave his past characters behind and embrace the one he portrayed in the film. "I'd had a great run playing a certain kind of guy," he writes. "Audiences liked that guy; they didn't want to see that guy get old." By book's end, it's evident that Crystal himself has grown old, but rather than make a secret of his age, he turns it into a punch line. In the final chapter, he confronts his impending death in perfect Crystal fashion. "I do see a silver lining," he admits; "it's the satin in my coffin." A charming, warm, welcome read for Crystal's legions of fans.
USA Today

And if you like the book, you'll love the audio. Seven chapters were recorded live by Crystal at an NYU fundraiser. Not many books come with their own laugh tracks.
Entertainment Weekly

As is the case with many comedians' memoirs, hearing Crystal's wisecracks about aging in Hollywood is better than reading them.
BookPage

Billy Crystal's new memoir is everything you'd expect from this acclaimed actor, writer, producer, film director and world-class comedian. Though the book is a great read, this audio version, performed by Crystal himself, is even better. His timing is perfect, he laughs, ad-libs a little and even chokes up as he talks about how much his wife of 43 years means to him…But be careful! Listening while driving, treading on a treadmill or stirring up a stir-fry could be hazardous to life and limb - this is unredacted, laugh-out-loud humor, Billy Crystal at his bravura best.
Ladies' Home Journal

The audiobook is read by Crystal himself, and feels like listening to a hilarious friend's stories.
Booklist

Crystal tells all in this bravura performance: authentic, heartfelt, and filled with irresistible humor, nostalgia, and insights.
Los Angeles Magazine

Billy Crystal makes a great commute-buddy.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780805098204
Publisher:
Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
09/10/2013
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
267,090
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Celebrate Your Birthdays

Honestly, my mom always made me feel special on my birthday, March 14. When I was a young boy, she used to wake me up at the exact time I was born: 7:36 A.M. As I grew older and moved out of the house, it became the phone call at 7:36 A.M. Even after I got married and had kids of my own, I always woke up looking forward to her call—it started the day off on the right foot. I put that tradition into City Slickers, with Jayne Meadows’s voice playing my mom on the other end of the line. Mom’s been gone since 2001, but come March 14, I still get up early and look at the alarm clock, and at 7:36, in my mind I hear the phone ring. Her call always ended with her saying, “Do something special.” I didn’t even mind that she called collect.

The most special thing I ever did on my birthday was when my life’s dream came true: I got to play for the New York Yankees.

In 2007, I was in Costa Rica for Christmas vacation and could feel my birthday looming. I was anxious about turning sixty — it felt like a huge number. Derek Jeter happened to be at our hotel. I’d known Derek since his rookie year, and we’d become friends. I told Derek I was going to be sixty and was a little freaked out about it. Jeter asked, “If you could do one thing to make yourself happy, what would it be? You should do something special.” Somewhere, my mom was smiling.

...

I knew my answer to Jeter’s question right away. When Joe Torre was the Yankees’ manager, he had let me work out with the team many times, even before World Series games. Joe and I were very close friends, and he not only knew I could handle myself on the field but thought my presence might even relax the guys. Infield practice was the most fun. I was still a good player, having been an outstanding (if I say so myself ) high school second baseman and shortstop, and had played in leagues in New York and Los Angeles into my forties. My skills, though hardly professional, were solid. I still take batting practice regularly in a cage at home, and every morning my gym workout ends with a “catch.” Turning double plays with Jeter on the historic infield of old Yankee Stadium was an enormous thrill. I wanted to do it again—this time, for real.

I came up with a plan where I would get one at bat in a spring training game. Whatever happens, happens, and I then announce my retirement and throw the team a party. Jeter loved the idea, and a few weeks before my sixtieth birthday, he and George Steinbrenner, Lonn Trost, Randy Levine, Brian Cashman, Bud Selig, and Major League Baseball gave me the greatest birthday gift ever: the Yankees would sign me to a one-day contract, and I would play against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a spring training game in Tampa. The game was on March 13, 2008, the day before my sixtieth birthday.

The official contract was for $4 million! But the nice part was that the Yankees gave me three days to come up with the money. We worked it out so that I would be the DH—designated Hebrew. Even though I wasn’t going to be in the field, I needed to prepare. As you get older, there’s a fine line between getting a walk and just wandering away from the batter’s box. So I went into training.

Reggie Smith, the former great player who’d trained my “Maris and Mantle” — Barry Pepper and Thomas Jane— for  61*, has a baseball academy in Encino, California. He is a great teacher, and a better man. When I told him what was happening, he was almost as excited as I was. We didn’t have a lot of time, but every day I worked on my swing with Reggie and his son (also a great teacher), against live pitching. As I left the West Coast for this great moment—accompanied by my good pal Robin Williams and some dear friends from high school — I was hitting eighty-five-mile-per-hour fastballs and felt as ready as a fifty-nine-year-old comedian can feel as he’s about to play for the New York Yankees.

...

Trivia freaks will know that I was the oldest person ever to play for the Yankees, and the first player ever to test positive for Maalox. I actually did have to undergo routine testing. When they asked me for blood and urine, I gave them my underwear. The day before the game, I met with Yankee manager Joe Girardi. He wanted me to lead off and play left field. I said that was too far to run. We agreed that I would lead off and DH and have just the one at bat. Joe wanted me to score a run if I could. I wasn’t sure (again, that’s a long way to run), so we agreed that if I did get on base, Johnny Damon would pinch-run for me. It would be more theatrical, so to speak. I signed my contract with Lonn Trost and Jean Afterman and went and got dressed in the clubhouse. I knew most of the guys in there and had been in the clubhouse many times, but this felt unreal — I was one of them. In a strange way, I was very relaxed about it. It was so natural for me to wait until everyone had left the clubhouse so I could take off my clothes and put on my uniform. Just like high school gym class.

The team was on a road trip, and I spent that day working out with Derek and José Molina, who’d stayed back in Tampa. I took batting practice with Jeter and José while a small crowd and many camera crews looked on. I was on my game, hitting line drive after line drive. I know I shocked everyone, which was a great feeling. But I was in great shape and ready. Tino Martinez was throwing me sixty-mile-per-hour fastballs while Janice videotaped from a distance. Derek saw her and motioned for her to come over by him at the cage. She whispered to him, “How fast is Tino throwing?”

“One-oh-seven,” Derek whispered back.

...

I couldn’t sleep that night. It was really happening. I arrived at the park early the next morning. Girardi met me and we hung out a little, and to this day I can’t thank him enough for welcoming me the way he did. This was his first year with the club, and the last thing he needed was some aging leading man as his lead-off man. Yet he treated me like a ballplayer, which is what I was that day. I did my pregame stretching and conditioning drills with the club and, of course, was then ready for a nap. Batting practice was amazing. I was in the cage with Derek and Damon and Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada. When the guys nodded to one another that I was okay, I was on cloud nine. The hard part was that once batting practice was over, we had about an hour and a half till game time. I could feel my sphincter tighten, as well as my lower back and hamstrings. Now it wasn’t just fun, it was really on.

I had lunch with Derek and Jorge and tried to be cool, but I was getting more and more anxious. Jorge and Derek were so easy with me. We all ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches: the same meal I always had before games in high school and all the league games I’d played in and, actually, before hosting the Oscars. After lunch I went to put my game uniform on, and that’s when the pranks started. My shoelaces were cut, so when I went to tie them, they came off in my hands. The toes on my socks were cut as well, so when I pulled them on, my foot went through. I took it all in good stride, trying to act like nothing bothered me, as I knew the guys were watching. I was careful putting on my cup, as the fear of hot sauce loomed. The pranks continued — my hat switched with one that didn’t fit, my glove missing, a belt with no holes — until it was time to go to the dugout.

The stands were full as I bounded onto the field with the team to loosen up. A big roar from the crowd made me feel great, until I realized that A-Rod and Jeter were standing next to me. The national anthem was played, and I had a tear in my eye as I looked into the stands to see my brothers, Joel and Rip, and my daughter Jenny, and of course Janice. Mike Mussina threw a perfect first inning, and then I was up. When the announcer introduced me with “Leading off for the Yankees, the designated hitter, number 60, Billy Crystal,” I just about lost it. Since I’d been a kid, playing with my dad, brothers, or friends, I’d always dreamed of this moment, and now it was real. The crowd gave me a tremendous hand as I left the on-deck circle. “Hack,” (meaning swing) said Jeter, patting me on the helmet.

The Pirates’ pitcher was Paul Maholm: six foot two, 220 pounds, from Mississippi. Never been to a Seder. I was nervous, but the one thing I was not nervous about was getting hit by a pitch. It never entered my mind. If Maholm hit me, I’d sue. You ever see a Jew get hit by a pitch? They get plunked in the leg and they grab their neck. Whiplash! Once I’d found out the date of the game, I’d gone to the Pirates’ website to see who’d be pitching. I’d then watched Maholm strike out Barry Bonds. A real confidence builder. I studied his motion and his release point and tried to visualize what hitting off him would be like. As I approached the plate, the ump greeted me, as did the Pirates’ catcher. I watched Maholm’s warm-up pitches, looking for the release point I had seen on the website, and told myself,  I can do this.

“Play ball!”

I stepped in. Since 1956, from the time I had seen Mickey Mantle play in the first game at the stadium I’d gone to, I had wanted to be a Yankee.

So there I am in the batter’s box fifty-two years after that first game, my heart beating into the NY logo on my chest. Maholm is staring in for the sign, and I’m staring back, trying to look like I belong. Here comes the first pitch: ninety-two miles an hour. Ball one. I never see it, but it sounds outside. The ball makes a powerful thud in the catcher’s glove. I want to say, “Holy s__t,” but I act like I see one of those every day. In fact, I do: on TV, not in the F___ING BATTER’S BOX. The count is 1 and 0. He comes in with a fastball, a little up and away, and I hit a screaming line drive down the first base line, which means I didn’t hit it that hard but I’m screaming, “I hit it! I hit it!” Someone yells, “DOUBLE!” Which would be tough because I can’t run like I used to and on my way to second base I’d have to stop twice to pee. The last time a Jew my age ran that fast, the caterer was closing down the buffet.

But I’m still thinking double. The ump is thinking, Foul ball. I had made contact with a major league fastball. Okay, 1 and 1. Ball inside, 2 and 1, and another ball and it’s 3 and 1. I’m this close to getting to first base, just like at my prom. I look over, and Derek Jeter is in the on-deck circle yelling, “Swing, swing!”

The windup, the pitch. It’s a cutter. The nastiest cutter I’ve seen since my bris. But I swing and miss. The first time I’ve swung and missed in two days at Tampa. Now it’s 3 and 2. The crowd stands up. This is my only shot, my only at bat. Ever. Maholm winds, I look to the release point, and there it is: eighty-nine miles per hour, a cut fastball, the same pitch he threw to that obstructer of justice Barry Bonds. I swing over it. Strike three. I’m out of there.

I head back to the bench, but before I do, I check with the ump: “Strike?” He shakes his head no: low and inside. I’m so mad I missed it, and also mad I didn’t take the pitch, that I almost don’t hear the crowd standing and cheering. The guys are giving me high fives. Girardi hugs me, then Kevin Long, the great hitting coach, and then Jorge. Then, for the first time in baseball history, they stop the game and give the batter a ball for striking out. A-Rod hands it to me, saying, “Great at bat!” My teammates greet me as if I’ve just hit a home run. Mariano Rivera hugs me, and others keep saying the same thing:

“Six pitches, man, you saw six pitches!”

I sit with Yogi Berra and Ron Guidry for a few innings, and if that isn’t cool enough, I’m asked to come up to Mr. Steinbrenner’s office. In full uniform I walk into the boss’s lair. He gives me a big hug and then says with a straight face that I’ve been traded for Jerry Seinfeld.

Excerpted from STILL FOOLIN’ ‘EM: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys? by Billy Crystal. Copyright © 2013 by Jennilind LLC. All rights reserved.

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