Billy Crystal Gets Serious About His Newest Role

By Soriya Daniels

Published June 18, 2004, issue of June 18, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Billy Crystal, the award-winning actor, director and comedian, has gotten serious about something: the recent birth of his first grandchild, Ella.

Crystal is the latest in a line of celebrities to pen a children’s picture book. But unlike, say, Madonna, Crystal was inspired not by his own children, but by the generation after that, and his book focuses on celebrating the continuity of their lineage.

“I Already Know I Love You” (Harper Collins, 2004) is more than a tale of unconditional love. It imparts some of the Jewish values that have been passed on from Crystal’s own parents and grandparents.

“I want to teach you about our family with pictures from long ago,” writes Crystal. “You’re the new twig on our tree and I can’t wait to watch you grow.”

The quintessential Jewish comedian, who was close to his grandparents as a child growing up in Brooklyn and then Long Beach, N.Y., believes that the older generation has a lot to offer. “It’s important to understand that grandparents were here first and someone was here before them,” said Crystal in an interview with the Forward. “If it wasn’t for the laughs and loves of my relatives and friends when I was a little kid, I don’t think I would have ended up being a comedian.”

News of impending grandfatherhood came on the first anniversary of his mother’s death, which had been a traumatic loss for the entire Crystal clan.

“The baby has filled up a great place for me that had been sad for a couple of years now because of the loss of my mom,” said Crystal. “When you see how life works — someone has to leave to make room for the new — it changes your whole point of view about life. I’ve been smiling ever since.” Not surprisingly, his daughter, Jenny, and son-in-law, Mike, named their daughter, Ella, after Crystal’s mother, Helen Eleanor.

Janice Crystal, the actor’s wife of more than 30 years, had hired a genealogist named Rafael Gruber to explore the histories of Crystal’s Jewish roots. This inspired the couple to support a permanent exhibit at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles called “Finding Our Families, Finding Ourselves,” which helps people trace their own lineage and roots.

The star of “City Slickers” and “When Harry Met Sally” foresees helping his granddaughter study for tests, showing her how to fly a kite, and just doing the simple things that make a child happy.

“I’m just incredibly moved about this whole new period of my life,” he said.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.