People of the Year — 11. Peter Kelly

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Kelly was already a legend in Rockland thanks to Xaviars, Freelance, and Restaurant X—all perennial Zagat darlings. But when he took down celebrity chef Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America, all of a sudden he became famous to a national audience. Then the May opening of X20 in Yonkers further cemented his rock-star status. As for those people just discovering our hometown hero: What took you so long?

Prediction for 2008: It would be tough to top 2007, but we do have two ideas: First, how about an X20 in Haverstraw? Second, after making mincemeat of Flay, it’s time to do battle with Mario Batali.

Ed. Note: Kelly was one of the only celebrities to score a “People of the Year” trifecta — making our lists for InTown Westchester, Rockland Magazine, and Suburbarazzi. Well done.

(Photo: Tom Nycz / The Journal News)

People of the Year — 13. Bill Murray

rm_people09.jpgThe Sneden’s Landing smart alec may like to joke about retiring, but if 2007 proved anything, an out-of-work Murray is a restless Murray. While playing golf with Will Smith in March, he ripped off his shirt and began running up and down the fairway flapping his wings (he later explained that he’d been stung by a bee). Then in May—at the opening of good friend Peter Kelly’s X20 restaurant in Yonkers—he celebrated by hoisting the restaurateur onto his shoulders and doing a victory lap. And then picking up another Kelly, brother Ned, for a second lap. In July, he showed up for his graduation from Regis University 30 years late … and accepted his honorary diploma wearing shorts. And in August, the weirdest incident of all: Police in Stockholm, Sweden, pulled him over for a DUI. The vehicle? A golf cart.

Prediction for 2008: Fortunately, Murray is back making movies again! Keeping him out of trouble right now is City of Ember, a fantasy flick in which Murray plays the mayor of a brightly lit city with a failing generator. It’s set to arrive in theaters by October 2008.

Adapted from “People of the Year,� Rockland Magazine, December 2007

(Illustration by Ismael Roldon)

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]

After two years of semi-retirement, Bill Murray returns to the movie biz

AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau

iF Magazine reports that Sneden’s Landing’s Bill Murray has finally, after two years missing from the big screen, signed on to star in a movie called “City of Ember.” When I met Murray last month at the opening of x20, he was mum about what his future movie plans, preferring instead to crack jokes and carry around restaurateurs on his shoulders.

The new movie sounds interesting, if a bit of a departure. He’ll play the mayor of Ember, a once powerful, bright-lite city that has a now failing generator. With the lamps around the city starting to flicker, two teens set out to save the city. It has an expected October 2008 release and is supposed to begin filming this summer in Belfast. Hear that, all you Irish college students? Murray’s coming to town, he like to party, and he’s got an itch to clean some dirty dishes!

“Bill Murray to govern ‘City of Ember'” [iF Magazine]

Peter Kelly slays Bobby Flay! X20 opens in Yonkers! Bill Murray parties like a rock star!

UPDATED WITH NEW PHOTOS

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It was a wild, wild first night at Peter Kelly’s new Yonkers restaurant, X2o. The festivities began at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, for the ceremonial ribbon cutting with mayor Phil Amicone, and culminated with Kelly’s 9 p.m. battle against celebrity chef Bobby Flay on “Iron Chef America.” It’s hard to say that there was just one star of the evening — the new restaurant, the TV battle, or the night’s most notable celebrity guest, Bill Murray — so I’ll talk about all three after the break.

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But I will say this up front: Having Bill Murray sit down next to me for dinner (literally, right next to me!) was the biggest treat of the night. Having helped Peter write “Diary of an Iron Chef,” I already knew who won the battle, and I’d already visited the restaurant before for an RNN segment. But getting to booze with a lifelong idol — I think only this quote from “Groundhog Day” can sum up my sentiments: “Whatever happens tomorrow, or for the rest of my life, I’m happy now.”

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