Billspotting 

Sightings and run-ins with Bill

Playing It Cool: Song sharing with Bill Fucking Murray
By Doug Walters

It seems like everyone in Charleston will cross paths will Bill Murray sooner or later. I had the pleasure of meeting him one night last October at a grocery store in West Ashley. I walked in and there he was in the produce section. He was being schooled on all the latest, exciting vegetables and greens by a very helpful produce guy. I didn't want to dork out on him, so I casually moved on and let him be. But I must admit I was quite star-struck.

There was a boyish youthfulness about him. He was dressed like a regular dude: jeans, tennis shoes, long sleeve shirt. No cape, no crown, no scepter, no posse. He was extremely laid back, exuding a mellow vibe. I had the urge to grab him and say, "I LOVE YOU, MAN!" He probably gets that all the time, though I'd like to think Charleston doesn't get all stupid on him.

I was talking to a young lass at my car a little later when Mr. Murray walked to his ride, which was parked next to mine. He was alone, and the parking lot was nearly empty, so I figured it was cool to approach him. Being in showbiz myself (albeit on the small potato level), I know the difference between giving and taking when it comes to interaction. I grabbed three of my albums and walked up to him. He saw me coming and immediately assumed an air of approachability. He smiled warmly as we shook hands (great handshake, by the way). I said, "Hello, Mr. Murray, I'm Doug. I just wanted to say hello and thank you for all your great work. You're an inspiration. I'd like to show my gratitude and give you some of my music. Maybe you'll connect to it." I figured he was a busy man and probably didn't have time to be yucking it up with random nobodys in grocery store parking lots, but he was quite receptive — gracious, modest, and humble. He said, "Hey, my name's Bill." (Duh!) He thanked me for the CDs and seemed genuinely interested. "What are these all about?" he asked. I nutshelled them for him and thanked him again. He smiled and said he'd check them out. I felt his warmth and his heart, and there was a lot of love in his eyes, not necessarily for me, but seemingly for life in general. I bet it's cool being Bill Murray. How could it not be?

I wanted to lavish praise on him like Woody Harrelson's character in Zombieland, but I kept it cool and brief, then went back to my car, sat down, and tripped out. Bill fucking Murray. I began to daydream. He would listen to my music, fall in love with it, make movies just to have some of my songs in them. We would hang out and become best friends and do all kinds of unimaginable A-list things together. Forever. Yep, that seemed highly plausible. I rushed home to check my e-mail. He hadn't written yet. I looked him up on Facebook and sent him a friend request. He hasn't responded yet. But I check it every day.

Bill Murray came to McCrady's once after we were closed, and when the server told him we were closed, he said, "OK, I'll come back some other time." I walked into the dining room as he was leaving. I said, "Was that Bill Murray? He is my favorite actor! You go chase him down and tell him to get back here and eat!" Bill said, "You are closed and I wouldn't do that to you, I'll come back some other time." That night, Bill Murray scored major cool points with me. —Sean Brock

Non-Blonde Ambition: A member of the paparazzi confesses to her crimes against Bill Murray and her boss
By Susan Cohen

Erica Jackson Curran, the arts and scene editor for the City Paper, is standing in front of me, peering over my shoulder. "Hey, that looks like Bill Murray," she says. Then she reconsiders. "Oh. That is Bill Murray."

I don't believe her. It's a warm May evening at the Gibbes, and I've only been living in Charleston for three months. Under the guise of serving as her photographer for a Scene write up, I've joined her at the Gibbes for a soiree hosted by the museum's Society 1858 organization. I'm carrying around a big ole Cannon that I'm pretending to know how to use. Really, I'm there because I have nothing better to do on a Friday night and I've been promised free food.

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Since I moved to Charleston, I had heard that a Bill Murray sighting is an essential item on the Holy City bucket list. I'm surprised it has happened to me this quickly.

The camera has put me in a terrible predicament. I'm supposed to be here shooting photographs, a slideshow's worth preferably, and I've already got all the photos I need. I was done for the evening, that is, until we spot Bill Murray.

Erica insists that I need a picture of him, and I insist that I don't. She is right; the ultimate money shot for this event would be one of Bill Murray. We could have been at a drum circle in the middle of an abandoned rail yard, but if we told faithful City Paper readers that Bill Murray — the star of Groundhog Day and Lost in Translation — was there, well, then that event immediately has cred.

So I stand there bickering with Erica, but really I'm just trying to build up the courage to go over there and ask him if I can take his picture. A random shot of him talking to people or partying it up wouldn't do. I have to engage Bill freaking Murray and ask if I can do the one thing that TMZ has taught me that celebrities hate: Take their picture.

Crap. I finally suck it up and make my way over to him. He's looking pretty casual, wearing a black polo. A guy in a lime-green polo is telling Bill Murray the history of tea plantations in Charleston — you know, important stuff that everybody needs to know. It must be difficult for Bill Murray to deal with guys like this getting in your face and talking your ear off. Then again, I'm worse. I have a camera.

I stand for there a minute, listening to the tea story, and finally find a moment to interrupt. I blurt out some words asking if I can take his picture.

"I hate to do this, but I have to," I plead with him.

"No, you don't," he replies.

"Yes, well, my boss is right over there." Which isn't a total lie. Erica, in her capacity as the editor of the Scene section of the paper, is, at that moment, my direct supervisor.

"Who is she?" Bill Murray asks.

I point her out. "She's the blonde one over there."

And Bill Murray looks over in Erica's direction and says, "If she's a blonde, I'm a dog."

And then someone starts talking to him, and it's like I'm not even there. I quickly snap a photo. It's passable for print even though it is taken at an odd angle, and then I walk back over to Erica.

When I get back, I recount the story to her, while I take out my cell phone and furiously send a text to a couple of friends: "OMG I'M AT A PARTY AND BILL MURRAY IS HERE." Yes, in caps.

Erica and I are ready to leave. There's really no reason to be here any longer, especially since I have already annoyed Bill Murray. But before we go, I tell Erica that she has to take a picture of me with Bill Murray. Not actually with him, but with him in the background. She begrudgingly agrees.

Later, I pass that picture around. I use it on my Facebook profile for a while. Not to brag or anything, but I had, after all, spoken to Bill Murray.

There I stand, grinning like a fool and giving a double thumb's up, the strap of the Cannon bearing down on my shoulder. And there's Bill Murray, standing in the background. Laughing. In a conversation with someone else.

"So one time I ran into Bill Murray at Moe's Crosstown. He was sitting there having some dinner with friends, and he got up to go to the bar. I kind of intercepted him and was like, 'Hey Bill.' I didn't know what to do so I shook his hand and he said something to me. I don't quite remember what he said, but I was trying to get him to take a picture with my friend and used her as bait. I was like, 'My pretty friend wants to get a picture of you with her,' and he's like 'Oh.' I made up that she was too shy to do it and he said, 'Well, that's too bad.' And then he shook my hand, walked away, and smiled. —Mike Ledford

Trivial Encounter: The night Bill Murray played trivia at Mellow Mushroom
By Lorne Chambers

For nine years I've hosted the Pop Culture Trivia game every Sunday night at the Mellow Mushroom. Only once has an actual pop culture icon ever played along.

I'd heard stories of people bumping into legendary comedian and actor Bill Murray in Charleston at local watering holes, ball games, or wherever. I hoped one day that I too would get a chance to meet the man who has entertained me for years.

On Sept. 26, 2010, I finally did. I arrived at my trivia game uncharacteristically early so I grabbed a beer at the bar. That's when I turned around to see Bill Murray at the table right behind me — Carl Spackler himself, Dr. Peter Venkman in the flesh, Ernie McKracken live and in person, Dick the Lounge Singer right there eating pizza at Mellow Mushroom ... and on trivia night!

My star-struck excitement was suddenly overtaken by an acute sickening feeling when I realized that in less than five minutes I'd be on the microphone, attempting to be entertaining in front of a man whose body of work over the last 35 years has been a master class in comedic timing and searing wit.

So what was I to do? Play it safe. Don't try to be too funny. Just read the questions, play the music. Don't be cute and ask any Bill Murray trivia questions or play "I'm Alright" by Kenny Loggins (which I do have in my iTunes). Don't screw up!

I managed to do all of this right up until the last question of the first half. As I was reading it, I realized that while it was not directly a Bill Murray question, it did have very few degrees of separation. As it was coming out of my mouth, I began to worry that it might make him uncomfortable if everyone started looking in his direction and realized that the older-looking man sitting against the wall was not just some schlub drinking red wine with his pizza, but actually one of the most brilliant comedic minds around. Too late. I was already reading the question.

"In its most recent issue, who did Rolling Stone magazine dub the Godfather of Studio 8H?"

In my nervousness — once I realized I was asking a Saturday Night Live question with an actual former cast member in the room — I flubbed it. Instead of saying "Studio 8H," I said "Studio 8-11." The "H" just turned into an 11 in the moment and I forgot about all the countless times over the years I'd heard "Live from Studio 8H in Rockefeller Center, it's Saturday Night Live!" Despite my inadvertent misdirection, Bill Murray's team still got the question right. I guess he should know, considering he worked at Studio 8H for several years.

The correct answer, of course, was "Lorne Michaels," the creator of SNL and Murray's boss early in his career. On his answer sheet, in his wobbly handwriting, he wrote "Studio 8H!" in bold letters and circled it just to let me know I had screwed it up. But even still, to have one of my entertainment heroes write out my first name on a piece of paper was pretty cool. It was like some kind of weird, reverse autograph where a celebrity signs your name instead of his (even if it was actually someone else's name).

I often tell people I was named after Lorne Michaels, the man largely responsible for introducing Bill Murray to the American public. But that's not true. I was born the year SNL debuted, so Lorne Michaels was hardly a known commodity. Truth be told, my mother named me after the tough-love patriarch of the Cartwright family and the steely cool admiral of Battlestar Galactica. Yes, I was actually named after Lorne Greene, not Lorne Michaels. And people still spell it wrong constantly, but this one time, on this night, someone spelled it right. And that someone was the great Bill Murray.

Just after halftime, Murray got up, gave me a wave, and left the restaurant with his kids. For the whole second half of the game, I asked Bill Murray questions and played that damn Kenny Loggins song.


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