Funny business

16:00, Dec 07 2013
Billy crystal book
Still Foolin' Em, Billy Crystal, Henry Holt $40.

"A Hollywood autobiography with only one wife, no rehab, a loving family and loyal friends." Robin Williams' endorsement of his good friend Billy Crystal's new book makes it sound deathly dull. In truth though, it's an entertaining, engaging and enlightening, if light read.

Part rant, part memoir, part Paul Reiser-esque (Couplehood, Babyhood) relationship advice book, Still Foolin' Em, subtitled Where I've Been, Where I'm Going and Where the Hell Are My Keys, not only traces Crystal's rise to the upper echelons of Hollywood, but also offers his perspectives on the absurdities and challenges of growing old.

There are a chapters on sex, grandparenting, declining health and death, as the recently turned 65-year-old reveals his self-confessed increasingly conservative views ("I don't live in California anymore, I live in a state of permanent annoyance") on cat ownership, soccer, the NRA, climate change deniers ("they're the same people who think OJ is innocent") and modern technology.

"The Internet says its for everybody. Tell that to the newspapers it has put out of business, the music industry it has crippled and the book stores who have closed," he vents.

Such diatribes are frequent but yet winningly delivered with the same mix of self-deprecation and smarts that has marked out his long-standing career in comedy.

However, those after intimate, behind-the-scenes detail of the 9-time Oscar host and six-time Emmy Winner's various movie projects will be left somewhat disappointed.


The Princess Bride and Throw Momma From the Train rates only a passing mention, while Monsters, Inc is barely namechecked.

WhenHarry Met Sally gets a little more space, if only to offer a slightly new perspective on Meg Ryan's famous deli orgasm and for Crystal to claim it was his intervention in the script that made the rom-com "pop".

But while the anecdotes about Crystal's long-standing relationships with sporting greats Mickey Mantle and Muhammad Ali and his life-long love affairs with Sophia Loren and the New York Yankees wear a little thin, it's his willingness to share intimate moments and some of his less than glorious hours that will win the casual reader over.

Whether it's his disastrous honeymoon, getting punched in the stomach by Joe Di Maggio or hosting the Oscars while battling pneumonia, Crystal's antics are guaranteed to raise a smile every few pages.

Sunday Star Times