Have I ever told you about the time Bill Murray sang “Happy Birthday” to me? Oh, please forgive me. I thought I’d told everyone.
It was back in 1990, and Bill was filming What About Bob at Smith Mountain Lake, Va. He agreed to do a fundraiser for Roanoke’s historic Grandin Theatre, which was the area’s only venue for smaller independent films. Bill’s movie Quick Change was screened, in which he starred with Geena Davis and Randy Quaid, and then the legend himself came on stage to take questions from the audience.
I was there with my friend Sandy Murray, and we were trying to think of a question. It happened to be just before my birthday, so I said, “Let’s ask him to sing Happy Birthday to me in the style of his SNL character Nick the Lounge Singer.” Sandy asked him, and he said to me, “It’s not really your birthday, is it?” I assured him it (almost) was, and he sang “Happy birthday to you, you crazy birthday guy, you…” A very cool thing.
But then, Bill Murray is an exceptionally cool guy. You have to admire the arc of his acting career. He made his reputation with broadly funny movies such as Caddyshack and Ghostbusters, and now gives solid and subtle comic performances in such films as Rushmore, Lost in Translation, and The Royal Tenenbaums.And especially Groundhog Day, one of the best comedies ever made and probably the most underrated movie of all time.
But his greatest performance was that night at the Grandin Theater almost 20 years ago.
Of course, I may be a little predjudiced.