How Bill Murray “owns” the X20 bar

I’ve been meaning to post this for a long time now, but somehow I misplaced the original post. Again, I blame Media Temple for everything.

The always brilliant Esquire writer Tom Chiarella had a great column back in September all about Sneden’s Landing comedic god Bill Murray. In it, he recounts more or less the same type of run-in I had with Bill Murray a few months earlier at X20. As with my experience, Murray was instantly likeable and just as any lifelong fan would imagine him to be in real life—a ball-busing, wise-cracking riot. Here’s part of Chiarella’s account:

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Murray was drinking lemon juice, with cayenne pepper in it, and maybe something else — I don’t remember — like a splash of maple syrup. He said he was coming off a fast. It made him look ragged. Every time he sipped the drink, he raised his eyebrows, pinched his lips, and glanced sideward. Only then did he look like the movie guy. I kept thinking, What makes this guy so watchable?He looked bolted to the frame of the world, like he controlled the space he stood in. He was completely aware of everything around him, even me watching him in the mirror. After a while, I nudged into the conversation and asked about the time he had playfully taunted my friend in the middle of a golf game — something about not spilling orange Gatorade on his white shirt.

Bill Murray looked at me hard. I actually felt a little scared, not because the question was inappropriate, but because the moment was so in his control that I didn’t have the least little idea what he was about to say. I hadn’t even asked a question, but I was waiting for an answer. “That wasn’t about golf,” he said. I believed him. He had something.

Presence.

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Nicely done. Couldn’t have summed it up better.

The rest of Chiarella’s piece—one of his new “Influence” columns for the magazine—is even better. After the Murray encounter, he seeks out Jeff Daniels to give him a lesson on having “presence.” And The Dude abides. Awesome.

I  don’t know if literary “presence” is as elusive or desirable as Muray’s live-action variety, but Chiarella certainly has it. Another case in point: His brilliant profile of Halle Berry, written entirely by Berry and heavily annotated by Chiarella. Quite simply, it’s the most fascinating, revealing celebrity profile I’ve read. Ever. And it does all this without revealing anything remotely newsworthy about Halle. Here’s the link to the online version, but trust me: You really need to see this one in print.

OK, wait, somehow this post has metastasized from a Murray thing into shameless ass-kissing of a non-LoHud writer. I’ll stop.

“How to Own the Room” [Esquire]

Ted Mann

Ted Mann aspires to join Stephen Baldwin’s Breakthrough Ministry, more commonly known as “skateboarding for the savior." Before becoming a Senior Editor at InTown, he worked at The Atlantic Monthly, the Philadelphia City Paper, and the University of Pennsylvania Press. His writing has also appeared in The New York Times, The New York Press, and The Pennsylvania Gazette.