I really wanted to see Billy Crystal’s one-man show 700 Sundays, but when the show came close to Cincinnati, I was just too busy with classes. He strikes me not simply as someone who is funny, but also interesting and insightful. Plus, he is in The Princess Bride.
The basic idea of the 700 Sundays – both the show and this book – is that Crystal figured out that he spent roughly 700 Sundays with his father, until his dad passed away suddenly at a young age. Why Sunday? Well, these were the only days that the Crystal family really had their patriarch to themselves. During the week he worked long hours at two jobs to support his wife and three boys. But Sundays…Sundays were filled with baseball games, movies theaters, and trips to the beach.
This book was really about Crystal’s family. He obviously plays a part, but the story does not revolve around him. I was surprised to find out that his Uncle started his own jazz label – the first privately owned jazz label in the world – recording with such artists as Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, and Sammy Davis, Jr. (Familiar with the impression of Sammy Davis, Jr. that Crystal did during his stint on SNL? Well, he developed it by hanging around the guy.) Crystal’s dad organized jazz concerts in New York all the time, and he spent many a night emceeing these events. In the book, Crystal recalls the first time that he saw his dad working the crowd at one of these concerts. How comfortable his dad seemed up on stage. How he held the audience in the palm of his hand. Young Crystal was in awe. (This sheds some new light on Crystal’s willingness to host the Oscars on a fairly regular basis.)
Since the subject matter was quite literally his father’s untimely death, there were portions of the book that were very sad and moving. The sections dealing with the night that Crystal’s dad died was particularly affecting. But the book was also very funny. Of course, it was funny. It was written by Billy Crystal.