(photo: Rob Scher)

(photo: Rob Scher)

I always dreamed of crossing paths with Bill Murray at a Williamsburg diner, or maybe a bus stop in Peru. Instead it happened yesterday evening as he hosted Poets House’s 20th annual “Poetry Walk.” Murray led a bevy of poets and gawkers on the annual pilgrimage across the bridge, to be followed by a reading of Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.”
“The idea is to read poems about New York, in the places they celebrate,” Lee Briccetti, executive director of Poets House, said of the annual event. “So even for people who don’t like poetry, they have an experience of the built environment and how poetry can reflect that experience.”
As our lengthy procession made its way across the river, I was flagged down by a mustachioed man in a Tommy Bahama shirt and shades. “Hey there, could you do me a favor?” he asked.
Inadvisably, I approached him, cutting through the steady stream of cyclists, tourists, and poetry enthusiasts.
Somehow, the man made me nervous — with his Tony Clifton airs and graces, it seemed pretty clear he was neither there for the poetry nor the “built environment.”
“Could you get a picture of me, with him?” he asked, pointing towards Murray and beelining towards him before I’d barely nodded.
No way was I going to enable the next Mark Chapman. Having lurked around the actor for much of the evening, as part of the swarm of press in attendance, I decided this was the time to create some distance. Backing away like a receding groundhog, I soon found myself amidst a more distinguished group of Whitman groupies, remarking on the fine attendance of this year’s event.
“It’s quite something,” noted Wendy Larson, a Poets House board member and poet. “Americans really love their celebrities.”
Especially when that celebrity is Bill fucking Murray.
Murray (in hat) (photo: Rob Scher)

Murray (in hat) (photo: Rob Scher)

Further along the bridge, a clump of photographers were standing to the side of the arches, awaiting the money shot as Larson’s words still echoed through the air. With Bahama seemingly out of sight, I took up my own position a distance away from the rest of the herd, as Murray, visibly growing weary of the press, made his way around the bend.
“Hey watch yourself, you’re gonna get hit,” Murray shouted in my direction, drawing my attention to the line of frustrated cyclists, narrowly avoiding my outstretched limbs. It was like being rescued from the clutches of the Stay Puft man. I gratefully nodded in Murray’s direction and put my camera away.
I never did get a photo with Billy Murray, or (evidently) even a great photo of him, but I did manage to keep up my celeb photobombing streak. That’s me over his shoulder at 0:23 in the video below.