At a recent screening of City Slickers where he appeared, comedian Billy Crystal talked about the possibility of returning to the Oscars, which he had hosted eight times between 1990 and 2004. Crystal admitted that the enthusiastic reception he’d received for his cameo performance at the most recent Oscars had made him “itchy.”
The story reminded me of a moment I remember from camp. After a few years’ absence, a former swimming instructor named Paul returned to camp for an overnight visit. Paul had been extremely well liked.
In the morning, after breakfast, the traditional “Sing-song” was held, where we sang a bunch of songs before “Clean-up”, the scheduled time when campers went back to their cabins and cleaned them up. Everyone wanted “Sing-song” to last as long as possible, less because they liked “Sing-song” than because they hated “Clean-up.”
Now, a number of people – both campers and staff – had certain specific songs that were identified with them, and when those songs were included in that morning’s “Sing-song” repertoire, the person associated with that song would be enlisted to come up in front of the camp, and lead it.
Having your own song to lead was a special honor. Not everybody had one. I had a song. My brother had a song. Paul, the visiting swim instructor, also had a song. Paul’s song was “The Big Rock Candy Mountain.”
Oh, the buzzin’ of the bees in the cigarette trees, near the soda water fountain
At the lemonade springs where the bluebird sings
On the Big Rock Candy Mountain.
It’s a nice song. And when he was at camp, Paul used to lead it during “Sing-song”. The thing is, Paul hadn’t been at our camp for some time, and after he left, “The Big Rock Candy Mountain” kind of fell out of the playlist.
Now, since he was visiting – and since, I guess, one of the old-timers remembered – Paul was called upon to once again lead us in his song, and he graciously agreed. I remember watching him, as he got up from his seat, and excitedly headed to the front.
Paul had a girlfriend named Linda, whom he subsequently married. Linda was still working at camp, and she knew what was what. To this day, I can hear her anguished voice, as, calling after her boyfriend, she semi-cried,
“They don’t know it!”
She was right. We didn’t.
It was an uncomfortable moment in “Sing-song.”
Though he may feel “itchy”, Billy Crystal should not return to host the Oscars.
He had his “song” – call it his comedic sensibility – that people really liked.
But they don’t know it anymore.