Out of the some 7 billion people that populate this earth, Bill Murray is perhaps my favorite. This statement, in and of itself, is of course nothing remarkable. Over the course of his 40-year career, the irreverent, self-effacing Bill Murray has become almost everyone’s favorite person. Off screen, his antics—everything from crashing bachelor parties to stealing French fries off people’s plates—have become the stuff of legend. Around the time The Life Aquatic was released, I once spotted Murray donning his bright-red, Steve Zissou beanie in Midtown Manhattan, bobbing down West 41st Street with a bushy, grey beard and a pair of sunglasses stuck to his face. Then, like a mirage, he vanished seemingly into thin air.
Well, on Friday night, a lifelong dream of mine finally came true. To celebrate the opening of his son’s new restaurant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Murray signed on as a guest bartender for the weekend, agreeing to humor nearly a hundred twenty-somethings as they tried to order glasses of Suntory whiskey from Dr. Peter Venkman. The news made headlines this week—"Bill Murray Is Bartending In Greenpoint This Weekend But You're Not Invited”—and fans showed up in droves, wearing Bill Murray t-shirts and renting party busses as they crowded the cul-de-sac at the end of Greenpoint Avenue.
I have to admit, I was skeptical. Generally, at these kinds of press events, a celebrity might duck his head in for a few moments, pose for a couple photos, and then he’s gone. But Bill Murray is no ordinary celebrity. At roughly 8 p.m., Murray jumped behind the bar to cheers from the crowd, and for hours he dutifully poured drinks as songs from the Rolling Stones, the Faces, and the Temptations played from the speakers. When “My Girl” came on, he sang every word.
Eventually, Bill handed me two shots of Old Grand-Dad whiskey, giving a brief synopsis of the history behind the Kentucky bourbon label, before scurrying off to tend to a group of women waving from the other end of the bar.
After an hour on the job, he paused to give a brief toast.
"This is my first born-son, Homer. I am so happy for myself, and his brothers and sisters and mom, and all of you, that he has not continued in the family business.," Murray said. “Instead, he has taken the joy of the family—to have a drink, and have a meal, and have friends together in one place—and made it his life's work. To my son, and his friends, and his work, and all of his partners.” He raised his glass proudly in the air before knocking it back and giving his son a giant bear hug.
Like all things with Murray, it was difficult to tell whether one was supposed to laugh or cry. At the end of the night, I went searching for Bill to say thank you. I found him in the back of the restaurant, giving a stranger a shoulder massage by the bathrooms.
“I hope you enjoyed yourself,” he said, and we shook hands.