Billy Crystal talks about the iPhone curse while promoting ‘Parental Guidance’

Billy Crystal and Bette Midler co-star in "Parental Guidance" — in theaters on Christmas Day.

An early scene in “Parental Guidance” finds Billy Crystal’s baseball announcer Artie Decker confused by a barrage of Twitter and Facebook-related terms lobbed at him by his boss. While Crystal himself has become an avid and adept user of Twitter, he does share some of his character’s misgivings about technology. Pulling out his iPhone, he says, “The thing about these things — and I just got one — as a parent and a grandparent you can get called when things happen. But I hate seeing families in restaurants and they’re all [looking at their phones]. They text the waiter what they want. They look so sad. The art of conversation is gone.”

That condition extends beyond the family dinner hour, Crystal warns. “What kills me also is people walking around town looking down at their phone assuming everyone else is going to stop and get out of the way,” he says. “We have a world looking down.”

That early scene, by the way, ends with Artie getting fired at age 58 after being a minor league baseball announcer for decades, always dreaming of calling major league games for the San Francisco Giants. Luckily, 64-year-old Crystal hasn’t had to see any dreams go unfulfilled himself.

“I’m shocked I’ve done as many things as I’ve done,” he says. “I’m so grateful for having a long career. And I hope it gets longer. I don’t take anything for granted. I’m so fortunate and lucky in my life. I met somebody who I fell in love with when I was 18. I’ve been married 43 years. I have two great kids, four grandchildren and another on the way. This was a dream of mine to get made and we wrestled it to the ground and got it made. If I stop now, every dream I’ve ever had is great. I just keep dreaming.”

Past parental guidance

When it comes to advice he received from his parents that meant the most, Crystal has one particular music-related memory that sticks out. “My dad died when I was 15 and he had worked a lot, way too much. So much of my influence came from my mother,” he says. “When I was about 21, just about out of college at NYU and Vietnam was raging and I’m a frustrated musician, and she said, ‘You should really take clarinet lessons because if you get drafted you can play in the band and you don’t have to fight.’”


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