Billy Crystal, Bette Midler are a duo decades in the making
BY CINDY PEARLMAN December 20, 2012 9:18PM
80th Annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
Updated: January 24, 2013 6:15AM
When Bette met Billy, it wasn’t quite love at first sight.
Bette Midler recalls, “Billy says I met him in the late ’60s at the Improv on 44th Street in New York City. I do remember going to the Improv, but those nights are a haze.
“Don’t tell Billy!”
We tell Billy, and he emits a sniff. “Now you’re going to make me cry,” he says.
He remembers every detail of that night in New York. “She came in late one night and sang ‘Danny Boy,’ ” he recalls. “Actor Danny Aiello was the bouncer and Chris Albrecht, the programming genius at HBO, was one of the bartenders.
“As for Bette and I, we had a mutual friend who did a lot of work with Bette over the years. He brought us together and said, ‘You guys should be doing something together.’
“About 100 years later, this movie happened.”
In “Parental Guidance” (opening Tuesday), Crystal is a baseball announcer who has just lost his gig just as his daughter (Marissa Tomei) desperately needs a babysitter. Crystal and wife (Bette Midler) bring their old-school skills to the new-school parenting practiced in this generation.
Crystal says the film has unexpected dramatic moments. “It’s a very powerful movie. You don’t expect it to hit you as hard as it hits you. It’s rooted in very real things about how the different generations relate to each other,” he says.
The Midler teaming was a natural. “When you pal around and rehearse, you create the chemistry,” he says. “You get a feel for it.
“Once you start shooting, it’s a different level of pressure, but Bette and I always had fun together.”
To play longtime marrieds, Crystal hung out with Midler to create a little history and a comfortable feeling. “Bette and I went on a date. We went to the movies together and we drove around Atlanta. We didn’t even know where we were going.”
Crystal, 64, also brought his real life to the film. He and wife Janice have two daughters, actress Jennifer, and producer Lindsay. They’re also grandparents these days.
What kind of parent is Crystal? “I was appropriately strict when I had to be,” he says.
“I think kids are the toughest take-home exam you will ever get. I raised two girls during the busiest time in my career. That was a challenge. But my wife and I devoted our lives to raising them properly.”
He’s learning a lot as a grandparent of children 9, 6, and 3, with one more on the way.
“As parents, my daughters listen more than we did. But I’m also a fan of the old-school parenting vs. the current wave. My generation had a lot of common sense when it came to parenting.”
There have been several life lessons since he became a grandfather.
“Now, I know how to Tivo,” he says. “I know every crazy thing you can do on a phone including watching a movie. It’s remarkable and great — although no one goes to a library anymore, which makes me sad.”
“Progress,” he says with a sigh.
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