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Crystal balls the Oscar

Sure, Billy Crystal watched the Oscars (at home). And sure, he’d spoken with Jon Stewart–several times before the show. Talking about the opening number where Billy made a surprise (taped) appearance- — along with the other former hosts — “Jon ran it by me. I thought it was a good idea.” And Billy says it was then his idea to duo with Chris Rock. “I hope we gave Jon a good sendoff.”

Did they ever! It was a tough act for any new host to follow. Crystal headed the Oscars eight times, second only to Bob Hope. He declined this year because he was fully occupied with his terrif one-man show,”700 Sundays” at the Wilshire Theater in Beverly Hills. It wound with its 300th performance Oscar eve, Saturday night, March 4.

It was only natural that I’d ask if Crystal would return to host — next year?” At some point, maybe. But we (the Oscars) have to figure out how to do something else. I’ve talked with (producer) Gil Cates many times about it — and we agree.”

He recalled, “It (the Oscars) was originally a dinner party. It’s blown out of proportion. When I was a kid we had only the Oscars and the Emmys. Now every one has an award show. By the time the Oscars come on, everyone’s had it.” He admitted this was a tough year for the Oscar show because of the tone of the nominees. “I had a year like that — when ‘The English Patient’ won.” It was 1997 and the nominees were: “Fargo,” “Jerry Maguire,” “Secrets and Lies” and “Shine.” Do they strike a familiar note?

And talking about this year’s nominees, I asked Billy his thoughts about the winning song, “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp.” Crystal’s answer: “George and Ira Gershwin sat up and asked, ‘What’s that’?” And what would Billy have said on camera?

What’s next for Billy? He’s talking a filmed version of “700 Sundays,” as well as other live dates for his show. And he’s still debating about playing Wilbur in the filmed version of “Hairspray” — as John Travolta’s husband (!). Crystal: “I never thought I’d say that.” That’s showbiz, Billy.