Billy Crystal received a hero's welcome Monday night for organizing free screenings of his upcoming comedy, "Parental Guidance," for more than a thousand Long Beach residents still grappling with the effects of superstorm Sandy.
His opening line, to a woman sitting near the front row: "What are you, too cool to stand up?"
Crystal, a Long Beach native, arranged the screenings at the UA Lynbrook 6 with the film's studio, 20th Century Fox, and help from local officials. Email invitations went out to first responders and community organizers; the Long Beach Facebook page helped spread the word. The studio provided free buses.
The movie, which stars Crystal and Bette Midler as grandparents, played in all six screening rooms at staggered times so that he could greet each audience.
"This is where I grew up, it's what formed me," Crystal said. "I had to be here. Plus, I'm too neurotic to say, 'How'd it go, how'd it go?' "
For Suzanne Fennech, 61, the movie was a welcome distraction after losing her job as a pharmacy technician at the shuttered Long Beach Medical Center and depending on the National Guard for her family's food.
"It's a very nice gesture," Fennech said. "We didn't lose everything like some people. But for all of Long Beach and other towns, it was devastating."
Crystal will be at Wednesday's "12-12-12: Concert for Sandy Relief." He also promised future relief efforts for storm-affected areas in the coming year.