MIDTOWN – A bevy of celebrities walked the red carpet Monday evening at the Ziegfeld Theater. The Friars Club hosted the start-studded event to honor the one and only Billy Crystal.
Crystal received the Club’s Entertainment Icon Award; he's only the eighth person in the Club’s 114 year history to receive the tribute. The award has been bestowed upon Douglas Fairbanks, Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Tom Cruise, Robert de Niro and Mexican telecommunications giant, Carlos Slim.
“It’s kind of extraordinary that it’s only been eight,” said Crystal. “I’m very grateful that they asked me, it’s been an amazing experience to have this kind of life and career and still be out there working, doing all kinds of new things.”
Crystal shot to fame as a cast member on Saturday Night Live. He’s also become known for hosting the Academy Awards, as well as for his roles on "City Slickers," "Princess Bride," "Analyze This" and, of course, "When Harry Met Sally."
His "When Harry Met Sally" co-star, Meg Ryan, walked the red carpet, as did their director on the movie, the legendary Rob Reiner.
“We’ve been very close friends for a long time, for over 40 years,” said Reiner. “Most of the fun I have with Billy is just being with him, hanging out with him.”
PIX11's Marvin Scott, a long-time member of the Friars, was a part of the festivities.
“Billy Crystal is an icon comedian who we all have enjoyed for so many years, why not give him the icon award,” said Scott. “We’ve only had a few icon awards and Billy is one who has been a member of the Friars Club for some time.”
Crystal says he remembers when one of his uncles was a member of the Friars.
“He would tell us about going to the club and it always seemed so mystical," Crystal said.
Deana Martin, daughter of singer Dean Martin, was also honored.
“Billy deserves it of course and I remember him from my father’s show 'The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast,'” said Martin. “I’ve been a Friar for a very long time, in fact, I’m getting an honor tonight I’m one of five Trobairitz.”
Crystal has been making us laugh for decades.
“One of my favorite movies of all time is 'Mr. Saturday Night,'" said actor and comedian Robert Klein on the red carpet. “Why a movie about an old Jewish comedian would interest an old Jewish comedian is beyond me,” Klein joked.
Born in Long Beach, Crystal is the quintessential New Yorker, and Yankees fan! A mainstay at games, several Yankee legends – former manager Joe Torre and slugger Bernie Williams, were on hand at the event.
“I used to see him running around catching fly balls and things like that,” said Williams. “We had the opportunity to spend some time with him so he was definitely a part of our team. He tends to be more serious in person but his personality is one that makes you feel warm, he’s a cool guy and I enjoy talking to him about different things.”
Torre was introduced to the Friars Club years ago by Milton Berle. “I’ve been roasted out in California at a luncheon, it's quite an organization.”
Long before he shot to fame, Crystal actually made his television debut on PIX – in the 1950s – on the kids’ show “Officer Joe’s Clubhouse.”
“I remember it vividly because I got nauseous and threw up on the show that was my first time on television, WPIX,” said Crystal.
Crystal already has the Billy Crystal room named after him inside the Club’s East 55th Street townhouse. He was also roasted by the Friars Club back in the early 90s. But Monday night is so much more special.
“To be a member for a long time and to get this honor from them and recognition and it’s raising a lot of money from tonight’s benefit dinner means a great deal,” said Crystal.