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Billy Crystal, Oscar: Together again

Actor, writer, producer, comedian and film director Billy

Actor, writer, producer, comedian and film director Billy Crystal grew up in Long Beach. Credit: AP

Call this the safe choice, or the obvious choice, or the only choice, but Bill Crystal is returning to Oscar host duties.

The Long Beach native announced he'll anchor one of TV's biggest nights via Twitter yesterday afternoon, with the Motion Picture of Academy Arts and Sciences' putting its official imprimatur on the appointment a short time later.

A surprise? Only to those easily surprised: Crystal had earlier reportedly expressed an interest in doing the show but was passed over for Eddie Murphy.

However, Murphy dropped out Tuesday after friend and Oscar co-producer, Brett Ratner, was sacked for making a homophobic slur during a press junket for his film "Tower Heist."

To avert a not entirely well-founded impression in the trade press that the 84th annual Oscar ceremony - to be held Feb. 26 - was suddenly in chaos, the Motion Picture Academy quickly hired veteran producer, Brian Grazer, to replace Ratner.

You now know who Grazer's first call was to.

Chaos, in other words, averted.

Crystal is an old hand at this and to many fans of the show, a particularly reliable one as well. A song-and-dance man who has a comfortable, insidery rapport with the stars and industry titans arrayed in the theater audience, his Oscar turns have been among the most memorable in recent years - or the least objectionable.

His last ceremony was in 2004, and before that Crystal was a regular in the early and mid-90s. This will mark his ninth time as host. Only Bob Hope (19) has done more.

In his tweet today, Crystal wrote, “Am doing the Oscars so the young woman in the pharmacy will stop asking my name when I pick up my prescriptions. Looking forward to the show.”

And in his official comment, he said: “Some of the best moments of my career have happened on the Oscar stage. I am thrilled to be back there. Actually, I am doing this so that the young woman in my pharmacy will stop asking me my name when I pick up my prescriptions."

Don't worry - he'll hire writers by the time the show rolls around.

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