Long Beach native Billy Crystal wrote simply, “No words,” on Twitter early Tuesday morning, reacting to the loss of his good friend Robin Williams, who died on Monday at age 63 in an apparent suicide.
Crystal was among the many celebrities who expressed grief and shock at the loss of the Oscar-winning actor and comedian.
Crystal, Williams and Whoopi Goldberg hosted the groundbreaking “Comic Relief” specials on HBO from 1986 to 2006, which raised funds to help those in need, especially the nation’s homeless. Williams and Crystal appeared together in the 1997 film “Father’s Day,” as well as an episode of “Friends.” A decade ago, the two shared a memorable comedic exchange onstage at the 76th Academy Awards, which Crystal hosted, and they appeared together at a number of charity events.
“Billy Crystal is right … there are no words,” Goldberg tweeted on Tuesday.
Crystal was on vacation in Europe with his family when he learned of Williams’s death, said Crystal’s brother, Joel, a former Long Beach City Council president. “They were quite close,” said Crystal, who now co-chairs a local New York Rising Reconstruction Committee. “As a matter of fact, Billy was on vacation … and is on his way back.”
When Crystal’s mother, Helen, died in 2001, Williams attended the funeral.
“[H]e was someone who was always at our family functions, and the Robin Williams that my wife and I knew was a very quiet and thoughtful person, not the person he was onstage,” Joel Crystal said. “And we are very saddened — Billy and he had a long friendship, and we’re all really upset.”
Williams and Crystal were both young comics in the 1980s who went on to become “powerhouse” Hollywood stars, Joel Crystal added. They shared a love of the classic comedy style of Jonathan Winters, among others, he said.
“I always felt that Billy and Robin were the links to the old comedians that my age group grew up with, like Bob Hope and Jack Benny,” Crystal said.
Local residents also expressed shock over the news of Williams’s death, saying that he was beloved by generations of fans.
“A lot of times there’s a loss in the movie world that’s specific to a generation,” said Ingrid Dodd, a co-founder of the Long Beach International Film Festival, “but Robin Williams has been in everything from Disney movies to ‘Good Will Hunting,’ and he’s beloved by so many parents and their children. It’s ironic that someone who made people so happy for so many years was so sad on the inside. Young and old, we all feel the loss.”