Bill Murray is about the least-Hollywood Hollywood star ever. He communicates via landline, he doesn’t have an agent, and he’s notoriously selective about the projects he takes on. So it makes sense, then, that Murray takes up residence in down-to-earth, oozing-with-Southern-charm Charleston, South Carolina.
The art of “Bill-spotting” (as the Charleston City Paper calls it) has become a sport, not only in Charleston, but all over the world. (Case in point: This stalkery-yet-awesome Twitter account, on which people share pictures of Murray gamely posing with them everywhere from South by Southwest to Scotland.) I discovered this phenomenon firsthand on a recent trip to Charleston; as the days went on, I became obsessed with snagging a coveted sighting of him.
Here’s what I learned about the best places to score a Murray sighting when visiting the belle of the South—and have some fun while you’re at it.
Murray’s love of baseball is no secret—the eccentric actor was once a pro baseball player and also serves as part-owner of several minor league teams (including the St. Paul Saints, Hudson Valley Renegades, Brockton Rox, and of course, the Charleston RiverDogs). Check out a RiverDogs game, and you might spot the team’s self-proclaimed “Director of Fun” in the stands, sometimes with famous friends like Anthony Bourdain and Danny “Kenny Powers” McBride. So grab a Pig-on-a-Stick (a footlong, bacon-wrapped corn dog), some Chipotle Chicken Nachos, and your binoculars, and get to Bill-spotting.
RUTLEDGE CAB CO.
Ever the entrepreneur, Murray is also a part of the team at Rutledge Cab Company (continuing his train of whimsical titles, this time as “Chief Fun Officer”). Of course, it’d be hard not to have fun at a place that serves breakfast all day, every day. Check out one of the standouts of Charleston’s red-hot culinary scene, and get your comfort food kicks on the covered patio.
THE GIN JOINT
Mint juleps and Murray sightings are what’s on tap at this popular Bay Street hang, where they serve strictly pre-prohibition liquors. (Translation: authentic craft cocktails made from gin, whiskey, and rum—with the standout being the Gin Basil Smash.) Still learning how to navigate your way around a cocktail list? Choose adjectives that appeal to you off the “Bartender’s Choice” list, and let the mixologist show you the way. Need to soak it up? Order the ever-addictive Pad Thai popcorn to munch on before you go, yet another reason the Gin Joint was named to Eater’s list of “38 Essential Cocktail Bars Across America.”
SOUTHERN GROUND MUSIC & FOOD FESTIVAL
If you’re a “little bit country” and a lot hungry, you’ll fit right in at this annual fest spearheaded by the Zac Brown Band. Past performers have included Willie Nelson, Band of Horses, Kenny Rogers, and Blues Traveler. (Side note: Lead singer John Popper tweeted that he hung out with Murray at last year’s festival, a reunion of sorts since Popper once made a cameo in Kingpin). Splurge on a “stage box” and nosh on privately prepared gourmet meals by local chefs—or just hit up the food trucks for some Southern-style sustenance.
It’s not exactly a secret that Murray resides on tony Sullivan’s Island; thanks to his 2008 divorce filing, the actor’s address is pretty much public domain. But there’s enough to do on the island that resisting the temptation to knock on Murray’s door should be easy. Get your history fix by visiting the Fort Sumter and/or Fort Moultrie national monuments, or relax on the island’s pristine three miles of beachfront. At night, hit up Middle Street’s lively nightlife scene for some lowcountry cuisine; Poe’s Tavern and The Obstinate Daughter are sure to satisfy.
Any worthwhile diet should include the two essential “C’s:” coffee and craft beer—and Kudu Coffee has both bases covered. Enjoy your drink of choice in the courtyard, where live bluegrass bands often provide the day’s soundtrack. And keep your eyes open for Murray, who’s known to frequent this local favorite.
The Washington Post just named Charleston one of “America’s Best Food Cities,” and there’s no doubt that chef Robert Carter has had a heavy hand in shaping the hot local culinary scene. Known for his stints at Peninsula Grill and Rutledge Cab Company, Carter recently opened buzzy Barony Tavern inside the Renaissance Hotel in Charleston’s Historic District. “Southern inspired, simply prepared, and graciously served” is the credo here, with selections like crawfish stuffed shrimp and Dijon-crusted rack of lamb.
I’m also somewhat embarrassed to admit that Barony Tavern is the site of my own ill-fated Murray sighting…which I completely botched. (Cue What About Bob?–style breakdown.) On the final day of our Charleston trip, I ran into some of the other writers I know in the Renaissance lobby, where they excitedly told me I had just missed Murray by minutes. I was bummed, but decided to console myself with some Barony brunch. While eating, I glanced up and saw a white-haired man wearing a bright blue Cubs pullover standing in the restaurant doorway. My lone, lame thought? “Everyone wears those sports pullovers on the East Coast.”
Later, I was comparing notes with another journalist about our day and learned that Murray had been wearing the same outfit. (What can I say? I’m near-sighted.) I’d hate for any fellow Murray fans to make the same rookie mistake I did, so let this list lead the way when visiting Charleston. And if at first you don’t succeed, do it all over again tomorrow—in true Groundhog Day style.