Standing on a new chunk of boardwalk before hundreds of cheering, swimsuit-clad beachgoers, actor-comedian Billy Crystal gave Sandy-scarred Long Beach a million-dollar boost on Saturday.
Crystal, whose family moved to the "City by the Sea" when he was a toddler, mostly refrained from cracking jokes as he talked about the terrible damage the October storm did to his hometown.
"On CNN, when we saw the devastation, I was in California sitting with my mouth just agape," he told the crowd.
Crystal and fellow actors and friends, including Steve Martin, Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, responded by raising money for Sandy relief at Muhammad Ali's annual Celebrity Fight Night event, a charity gala that benefits Parkinson's research and other causes. The retired boxer and Crystal have had a close, decades-long friendship.
The March 23 event generated $888,000 for Long Beach. Crystal and his wife, Janice, added a personal donation of $112,000 to bring the total to $1 million.
"A million sounds a lot better," he said to gasps and applause. He added with a grin: "Don't spend it all in one place."
City Council president Scott Mandel wasn't sure how the money would be spent, but he said it would go toward recovery and relief efforts still under way eight months after the storm.
"It's going to be utilized in some facet to make the city stronger and safer," Mandel said. "We were thrilled when we thought it was just the $888,000 and with the Crystals rounding it up to an even $1 million . . . this is just beyond generous."
Crystal, who hosted a free screening of his comedy film "Parental Guidance" in December for Long Beach residents still rebounding from Sandy, said Saturday's homecoming was emotional.
"It's starting to come back little by little," he said of Long Beach. "You never forget where you come from."