Illustrations by Brittany NorrisYou really shouldn’t believe everything you read so feel free to not bite into any of the following stories we uncovered when putting together The Bill Murray Issue. That said, even if a portion of these run in favor of the truth it has helped restore faith around the Whalebone global HQ, at the top of the Empire State Building, that being in the moment, to this day, is still better than being anywhere else.
“My hope, always, is that it’s going to wake me up. I’m only connected for seconds, minutes a day, sometimes. And suddenly, you go, ‘Holy cow, I’ve been asleep for two days. I’ve been doing things, but I’m just out.’ If I see someone who’s out cold on their feet, I’m going to try to wake that person up. It’s what I’d want someone to do for me. Wake me the hell up and come back to the planet.”
A few tales of Bill Murray from some people that we’d like to believe:
October 2011: Ithacans have a surprising encounter with the legendary actor Bill Murray.
Unbeknownst to the majority of the Cornell-Harvard football game spectators, Bill Murray was secretly anonymously in attendance. Per usual, at the end of the game, the Cornell marching band stuck around to jam and play a few sets. I was just a high school student at the time and found myself tossing around a football on the field after the game. I noticed the band yipping and cheering for seemingly no reason, so I walked over, joining a crowd of shako-wearing, brass-wielding college students.
Atop a podium where typically a bandmaster would stand to conduct, stood Bill Murray in salmon-pink trousers swinging a red jacket about, mock-conducting the band, likely with little to no experience doing such a thing. He had a jaunty attitude that embodied the word ‘pep’ in pep band. It came to my attention that the Ghostbusters theme song was what instigated Bill’s interest in entertaining the band. He had come out of nowhere into plain sight to treat everyone who hung around after the game to witness. We were a lucky bunch that saw Bill that day.
I had known Bill Murray from his Wes Anderson roles and his time on SNL but didn’t delve much into his social life. Well, this occasion was more than an acquaintance with Bill Murray’s social life; it showed me exactly how free-spirited and unrestrained he was and still is. It’s evident he spends his days making others’ days.
This is Shea, she doesn’t have her form, but would it be ok if we just went through anyway?
So, the story goes like this: I had just picked up my luggage off of the carousel from my flight from Paris to Atlanta when I saw him. I knew it was him, and I knew I had to speak to him. He was waiting on a rather large trunk to come off of the carousel. We talked for the next 20 minutes, while he waited, about various subjects that included his love of marching bands, The Razor’s Edge, his ability to play the tuba and his recent trip to Cannes to promote Moonrise Kingdom. When he finally got his trunk, we began to walk through customs, but I realized I had left my form on the plane. Bill said it would be fine. We walked up to the inspectors, and Bill said, “This is Shea, she doesn’t have her form, but would it be ok if we just went through anyway?” The guy asked if we were together, and Bill said: “We’ve been talking for the last 20 minutes, so I’d say yes.” And with that, they let me through. We then asked a lady working at the airport to take pictures (she told Bill he looked like someone famous, he said “Eddie Murphy?” “No, you look kind of like Bill Murray.” Bill: “I can’t see it.” After this, he was off to his connecting flight to Canada, and I was off to a bus. Before we parted ways, he hugged me kissed both of my cheeks (as I did his) and we told each other “arrivederci.”
Also, I tried to get him to sign a copy of The Razor’s Edge, which he declined because he “didn’t want to desecrate a library book.” Instead, he signed a card for one of his favorite restaurants in Paris. While he was signing, I let slip that I’m writing my undergraduate thesis about him, to which he responded “Oh really? Well, if you need to do any research, this is where you can reach me.” So, that happened.
July 2012: “YOU ARE ON FIRE!”
It wasn’t a surprise to me or anyone else that we would see Bill Murray around in Southfield, Michigan in October 2006. He was scheduled to talk at a college there for some film students. What surprised my best friend and me was when we saw him riding a children’s bicycle inside of a WalMart.
I thought that maybe the store had hired an impersonator to cash in on the local publicity, but when I got closer to him, I knew that this was the real Bill Murray. I was surprised to see him, and, had he been dressed in normal clothing, this would have been a normal “I saw Bill Murray riding a bike in a WalMart” story. But, the fact that he was wearing an obviously heavily used firefighter’s uniform, complete with oxygen tank, made the moment a little too surreal for my tastes.
As my mind was attempting to comprehend what I was witnessing, he shouted at me, “YOU ARE ON FIRE!” and started to pedal slowly and laboriously towards me all the while yelling “WOOOO WOOOO WOOOO!” I looked around to make sure he was yelling at me and locked eyes with my friend standing next to me, who was staring back with an astonished grin of disbelief. Like someone whose best friend had just won the lottery.
When Bill pulled up to me, he pulled a small water gun out of his pocket and sprayed me once in the face. Then he got off his bike, dropped all of his gear on the floor, and said, “My work is done, but yours is just beginning. Spread word of this good deed to inspire others, but be warned: No one will ever believe you.”
Hey, don’t fuck with that shit if you don’t know what you’re doing.
October 2010: Sometimes you should hire a professional
About eight or ten years ago, I had a job with a contractor named Mike who specialized in restoring old houses. Although we operated throughout the Northeastern part of the United States, we did most of our work in upstate New York. Most of these jobs were simple, such as renovating kitchens, installing energy efficient windows, repairing dry-rotted wood. One job, however, would prove to be a lot more difficult than we could ever expect.
It all started when we received a call from a man named Greg, who lived and worked in the city with his wife Linda. Both in their early 40s, Greg was an analyst at some big insurance firm, and Linda did something that involved accounting, although I never really understood what. Although they were happy with their careers and their place downtown, they had always wanted a nice place in a quiet area to spend their weekends and time off.
After looking at their options and their financial situation, they decided to buy a small two-bedroom “fixer upper” in Ulster County. Shortly after realizing the house needed more repairs than they could handle they called and made an appointment for us to come and look at the place. Because we were already working on a project about an hour away, I stayed behind while Mike my boss drove out to give them an estimate.
Later that day, we met at a diner to discuss what he found and whether or not we wanted to take on the job. Even before we sat down, I could just tell that the meeting would not go so well. Whether the house needed more work than he felt comfortable with, or whether he could already tell the owners were going to be a pain to deal with, Mike did not think much of this prospect.
As I sat there, calmly drinking my diner coffee, Mike began to list the things that needed mending. “The roof needs some work, the fuse box needs to be replaced with circuit breakers, and they want a new bathtub,” he said simply. “Well, what’s the problem?” I asked, still not sure why he had that perplexed look on his face. “It’s haunted… they say the house is haunted,” he responded, incredulously. “Like that’s my damn job, to play ghost hunter for their amusement.”
The man eating a slice of coconut cream pie at the counter across from our table suddenly put down the newspaper he was reading and abruptly turned to face us. Mike and I both looked up, shocked to discover the man was none other than Bill Murray! “Hey, don’t fuck with that shit if you don’t know what you’re doing,” he said with a straight face. I could not tell if he was joking. “Oh wow, how about that! It’s Bill Murray, the Ghostbuster himself,” Mike chuckled, “I can’t wait until my wife gets a load of this.”
“She isn’t going to believe you. In fact, no one… no one will ever believe you,” he explained as he counted out cash from his wallet, setting it down on the counter with his check. Then he stood up, put on a black fedora, and made his way towards the exit. “And besides, I’m not in that business anymore. There was a time, though,” he added with a sly smile before walking out the door.
No, it’s just not right unless you mix it in with the steamed milk first.
December 2015: Bill Murray and the Whiskey Eggnog Latte
Earlier this week I was out shopping for Christmas gifts when I decided to stop and get some coffee. Last Friday someone at work gave me a gift card redeemable at this particular coffee franchise (which may or may not have been Starbucks), and I planned on getting a plain coffee to go. After parking my car, I checked twice to make sure all of the doors were locked; the last thing I needed at this point was for someone to steal all the gifts I’d just purchased. I pulled the collar of my coat up in a feeble attempt to guard against the cold wind that swept across the parking lot, adjusted my wool hat, and quickly jogged into the warmth of the coffee shop.
Safely inside, my heart sank when I saw how many people appeared to be standing in line. After seven hours of shopping, it seemed like everywhere I went there was a line to stand in. “So what’s one more?” I thought as I stepped up and waited behind a really worn out looking woman; her kids were, at this point, having a tug-of-war with the retractable belt barrier that organized the line leading up to the counter. She just stood there with a blank expression on her face.
“Shouldn’t be too long. They keep these lines moving pretty fast here,” I reassured myself while checking the time on my cell phone. This is, of course, unless someone gets really particular about their coffee order. Soy milk. A couple of ice cubes to cool it down a bit. Two shots of decaffeinated espresso in addition to the two caffeinated ones. Hazelnut syrup. No, wait. Caramel. Can I get both? Small, but put it in a medium cup with room. No, I’m not planning on making a ghetto latte. You need to restock the Splenda. That sort of thing.
I look ahead and it appears one man is causing the “barista” that very sort of hassle. “What do you mean you can’t do it?” the man asked loudly–more surprised than annoyed that the woman behind the counter was hesitant to accept an airplane bottle of Crown Royal and use it in preparing an eggnog latte. “I’m sorry. Can’t you just add it yourself afterward? I can leave room for it,” she offered as somewhat of a compromise. “No, it’s just not right unless you mix it in with the steamed milk first,” he responded as he scratched his head. By this point, another employee behind the counter blurted out “Wait a second! You’re Bill Murray, aren’t you!?” At that moment, everyone in the store turned to look at him. “Yeah. I guess I am,” he responded.
“Oh, well, in that case,” the woman began as she took the whiskey from his hand. “I guess we can do it. Just this once.” She handed the Crown Royal to her coworker, who dutifully poured it into the stainless steel pitcher of steamed milk he already had prepared. “I really appreciate it, guys,” Bill Murray said, putting a $10 tip into their jar. “Even if word gets to your boss, it’s not like anyone will ever believe it.”