I Gave a Cigar to Bill Murray

Photos/Gabi Porter


I was standing at the bar waiting for Bill Murray to arrive. The famous actor who once graced the cover of Cigar Aficionado was slated to play bartender at the grand opening of a new watering hole in Brooklyn called 21 Greenpoint. But an hour into the event on Saturday night, the comedic giant was nowhere to be found. Bill Murray was late.

Nobody seemed surprised. 21 Greenpoint is owned by Homer Murray—Bill Murray's son—and the establishment has a decidedly easygoing vibe. The new bar replaces Homer Murray's previous drink spot, River Styx, which closed in August for a brief hibernation before opening again last weekend with a new name, new look and an improved menu. The elder Murray offered to help tend bar last Friday and Saturday night during the invite-only grand opening celebration. The event kicked off at 7 p.m. each evening, but it was closer to 8 on Saturday when Bill finally strolled into the bar wearing a white linen blazer and an easy smile on his face.

The crowd went wild.

Murray immediately stepped behind the counter and reached for a bottle of tequila. He took a shot with a tall blonde woman and a man wearing a Panama hat. The music went up and Murray went to work, moving down the bar, taking drink orders. Mostly he kept the tequila going. Only a handful of people asked him for a cocktail or a whiskey, and Bill Murray politely obliged and made the drink, but you could tell his heart wasn't in it. His love for tequila shots was too strong.

Bill Murray
Bill Murray pours a shot of tequila at 21 Greenpoint, a Brooklyn bar owned by his son Homer.

I watched him work for a while before stepping up to the rail.

"I'll take a tequila," I told him. He nodded his head in approval.

"Bill, do you still smoke cigars?" I asked him.

"Occasionally," he said.

I went into my pocket and took out a Romeo y Julieta Romeo No. 1 Tubo. I handed it to him. Bill Murray looked at it a moment, then broke into a laugh.

"Thanks," he said. "I really appreciate it."

I shook his hand and he gave me a tequila. I took the shot and walked away from the bar feeling accomplished. Yes, I had given Bill Murray a Cuban cigar. My work here was done. I went towards the rear of the bar and found Homer Murray working the crowd and standing by the exposed kitchen, where chefs ran back and forth in front of a large, wood-burning pizza oven. I asked him about the change from River Styx, and what he hoped to achieve with 21 Greenpoint.

Bill Murray
Murray on the cover of Cigar Aficionado's December 2004 issue.

"River Styx was great, but we wanted to step it up a notch. Improve upon the concept," Homer Murray said. "We've completely reworked the menu."

Murray and his co-owner, Sydney Silver, have brought on chef Sean Telo to create a daily-evolving menu based on locally sourced, in-season ingredients. Some of the highlights from the menu include steak tartare on roasted marrow bone, oysters on the half shell and neapolitan-style pizzas.

"Any chance of getting a photo of you and your dad together?" I asked him.

Homer shrugged. "It's hard to say," he said. "If he makes his way over here...The timing has to be right. If it happens it happens, you know?"

I understood. Bill Murray was a busy man. Everytime he stepped out from behind the bar, even briefly, the cameras would flash and he seemed to be instantly surrounded by beautiful women and devout fans. I went back to the bar and ordered a few more shots of tequila from Bill. It seemed the appropriate thing to do.

Bill Murray
Murray behind the bar with his son Homer.

As I was leaving the bar, I noticed the bouncer out front was still struggling to keep the horde of rabid Bill Murray fans at bay. Some had been waiting outside for hours, just to get a chance to see his face.

I started walking away and an eager fan from the line called out to me.

"How'd you get in there?" He asked.

"It's hard to say," I told him. "The timing has to be right."

Now open to the public, 21 Greenpoint is located at 21 Greenpoint Avenue in Brooklyn. The bar is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, with all-day service on Sunday.

Michael Corleone Sfld, MA, USA, September 24, 2016 1:32am ET
Meh. The adoration of this man is overkill. But so is the bloggers brown-nosing. Hard to see why this is even print worthy. The writing is fine, subject ( a few really ) is smug and bland. Like Murray.
BRAD GOLDMAN, MD FACEP Delaware, OH, UNITED STATES, September 25, 2016 4:13pm ET
Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

However, the main point is the electric connection of offering a fine (often Cuban) cigar to a celebrity, business personality or someone you respect in your profession. The feeling is undeniable. I've had the pleasure on several occasions from leaders in my medical field, high ranking General's and the occasional celebrity or two. :)

Kudo's for the article.

Patrick White Washington, DC, United States, September 28, 2016 1:03pm ET
The gift of a fine cigar is undeniably a good feeling, on both sides of the transaction. My boss once gave me a Romeo y Julieta for doing good work on a project. I later determined, with the help of cigaraficionado.com, that it was a counterfeit. I didn't have the heart to tell him. Some would say it's the thought that counts, although the experience did change my perception of him a bit.
BRAD GOLDMAN, MD FACEP Delaware, OH, UNITED STATES, September 28, 2016 2:47pm ET
Patrick,

I feel your pain and appreciate your "awkward" situation.

For friends and family that gifted me counterfeits, it was indeed the thought that counted.

For colleagues I trust and admire, I gently let them know and we share an authentic Habanos after looking over their gift and them trying to smoke one. It's a quick, entertaining & educational process that's reaped benefits of a stronger friendship.

My own journey into becoming a cigar aficionado started humbly enough with my supervisor Attending gifting me a Cuban quite early in my training. It's a ritual I've repeated countless times in my 20+ year career and still going strong :)
mjgough1111@gmail.com October 16, 2016 5:02pm ET
Personnally, I would be thrilled to recieve ANY cigar from ANYONE. The author shows how cigars can bring people together and bridge socio-economic gaps. It is nice to share a common love for one of life's greatest pleasures.

I just want to know if he paid for his tequila shots.
Hector Santaella Las Vegas, Nevada, Usa, November 13, 2016 7:22pm ET
Mjgough1111, I couldn't agree more! I have a passion for cigars and while I still serve in this great Nation for almost 17+ years I often pick up some Cuban Cigars when I come back from the sandbox. I always bring plenty of cigars with me in my travel humidor in case I do run into some cigar aficionados and share the wealth. In my humble opinion sharing a cigar with a stranger or a famous person such as Bill Murray is very much euphoric. It truly inspires camaraderie!
Sam Antoun Laguna Niguel, CA, December 16, 2016 12:44pm ET
I too have had the pleasure of giving away top cigars including a few Cubans. My favorite was a couple of years ago when I gave my dentist a Cuban. His assistant wanted to take it and put it in his office and he wouldn't let go of it. It was very funny. Giving away a premium cigar to someone who really appreciates it is a pleasurable and worthwhile experience to both the giver and receiver. It's the best part of being a cigar enthusiast.

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