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Crystal's perks of stardom: money, prestige, Oscars hosting

February 9, 1998
Web posted at: 1:03 p.m. EST (1803 GMT)
From Correspondent Sherri Sylvester

HOLLYWOOD (CNN) -- Billy Crystal readily admits that fame has brought him great rewards. Fresh from the thrill of working with Woody Allen on "Deconstructing Harry," he is now preparing to rally his friends for "Comic Relief 8" and will soon host the Academy Awards for the sixth time.

"I've had a chance to do a lot of things in my career that have been great fun," Crystal said. "I had a catch with Mickey Mantle in Cooperstown, you know, I sat next to Orson Wells on the 'Tonight Show.' Playing catch with Mickey is the same thing as trading lines with Woody. It's the best there is."

Crystal, who hosted four consecutive Oscars awards beginning in 1990, returned after a three-year break to host the 69th Academy Awards presentation last March. He'll be back once again on March 23, when the Oscar winners are revealed. The nominations will be announced Tuesday.

Billy Crystal talks about Woody Allen
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Even as an awards host, his talents have been recognized: He's won three Emmys for his writing and hosting of the Oscar show, and has received five other Emmy nominations for his Oscar contributions.

"It's amazing that it's 70 years (for the Oscars)," Crystal said. "I've done it five times, that feels like 70 years. It's hard work."

Crystal worked with old friend Woody Allen (left) in "Deconstructing Harry"   

His return to the Oscars last year was applauded both by the Oscars' 1 billion TV viewers and by Crystal's immediate audience. "The reception I got, that's something I'll never forget. When I walked out and the audience greeted me the way they did, for them to stand up, and say hey, thank God you're back, that meant as much to me as anything."

Crystal stands a shot at being nominated himself this year, for his performance in "Deconstructing Harry," directed by long-time acquaintance Woody Allen.

The comedian can remember Allen's stand-up on "The Dean Martin Show," recalls a live performance at The Bitter End in New York, and says he's even teamed up with the celebrity director off-camera.

Williams, Goldberg, Crystal
Williams, Goldberg, and Crystal on the "Comic Relief" stage   

"We actually played basketball together in the '70s, and I was guarding him," Crystal said -- adding that Allen was a good player, so Crystal wasn't sure how closely to guard him.

"He said, don't guard me too close, I tend to get nauseous," Crystal said. "I said, Woody, why don't we challenge the bigger guys, and we played against two of his friends who were taller than us, and we beat them. He still talks about that."

Crystal will reunite with old friends Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg in June for the next "Comic Relief." The benefit, in which the trio calls on their famous comedian friends to perform for charity, has raised $40 million for the homeless since the relief shows began in 1986.


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