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Being Bill Murray

From Caddyshack to Lost in Translation, Midwestern-born Bill Murray has created some of Hollywood's most idiosyncratic characters.
Elvis Mitchell
From the Print Edition:
Bill Murray, Nov/Dec 2004

(continued from page 1)

"No. Not by Big John's standards, or anybody else's for that matter. Well, playing at Pebble Beach is so different because it's a celebrity pro-am and it's not like anything else on the tour. The history of it is that it started as a fun event; it was a Bing Crosby clambake. He put that thing together back in the day just to keep the pros alive. It started down in Rancho Santa Fe in the off-season. And he was friends with a lot of the pros, and there just wasn't as much money at stake. So it was a much wilder party then—you know, guys like Phil Harris and comedians and showbiz guys who would play half-baked. With something like three-quarters of a million dollars at stake, it's a little more serious now. And it's a bigger TV draw than everything but the Masters, I think.

"I shot one of my best scores there two years ago—an 82. And recently, I shot my best ever, a 75, a few weeks ago," he remembers, "and I was hanging out with Sofia and a couple of her friends and we ran into one of the Olsen twins. So it became a really fun celebration."

Cigars, which can be found in Murray's possession on the golf course, also helped to bring him into Garcia's movie.

"Apparently, they have cigars down there [in the Dominican Republic], so I smoked some. Actually, I'd met Carlos Fuente Jr. at an airport years ago. He came up to me and introduced himself to me. 'I want you to try some of my cigars,' he said, and reached into his coat. Now usually, people give you a couple, but he gave me a dozen out of his pockets. Most people don't carry that many on 'em. And down there, Carlos had planted a special field, out of rotation, for Andy to use as a location. Which means they're gonna lose that field for two years, which is an incredibly generous thing to do. It's the kind of gesture I admire."

Recounting his Dominican Republic journey triggers a story involving less grand circumstances for Murray: his first cigar. "It was a broken cigar, thrown into a trash bin at the golf course where I caddied. I remember seeing this cigar that hadn't been smoked, but it was broken in two pieces. And I thought, 'When I finish this round of caddying, I'm gonna walk back here and smoke it.' And I did. I don't remember the brand name, but I do remember it's hard to smoke a cigar that broken. And it was only when I got past the break," he says with a laugh, "that I found out what a cigar tastes like. But I liked that feeling. I was probably thirteen, and I was gonna work to make enough money to pay my way through high school. Which I did.

"I was already working for a living, paying my own way—being a man. And one of the perks of being a man is smoking a cigar. It's one of the things you do; you get to live a little more expansively when you're paying your own way. Now, smoking a cigar might not be acceptable for an ordinary thirteen-year-old, but if you're paying your own way, you've earned it.

"I had serious romantic crushes on the Irish waitresses at the clubhouse restaurant. I could've walked up to this gorgeous red-haired Irish girl and begun a full-blown romance, because I really felt like I was a man. Now, she wasn't completely aware of my existence. But at that point, I felt like I was ready for the pleasures of a man.

"And you know what? Bringing cigars to the golf course is a part of that. Because people bring various levels of performance anxiety to the golf course and one of the things having smokes around says is that, this experience is gonna be a lotta things but not something so serious that you can't smoke a cigar. I love just sharing cigars. I don't have to smoke 'em so much to enjoy 'em. I've been giving the prop guy on the shoot some of my Cuban stash, and he just gets ecstatic. My favorite cigar is whichever one my friend is smoking, because I'll always say, 'I got some cigars. Which one would you like to smoke?' And he'll choose the one he'd like to smoke. And that's my thing — to me, it's something you do with someone. To me, it's not important that I smoke a cigar so long as someone does."

Elvis Mitchell is a former New York Times film critic and host of the popular culture public radio interview show "The Treatment."


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