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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: April 17, 2018

Bill Murray will be at Merrill, but where else might he show up?

Written by: Ray Routhier

Photo by Peter Rigaud

Are you ready for your Bill Murray moment?

Murray, the actor and comedian with the razor-sharp wit and goofy everyman persona, is coming to Portland to sing and recite with a classical group – Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends – at Merrill Auditorium on Monday. But that’s not the moment we’re talking about. People who buy tickets to that show know they’ll get to see Murray. There’s no mystery in that.

It may seem slightly mysterious that Murray would be performing with Vogler, a German cellist. But the answer is completely in line with Murray’s persona: The two met randomly on an airplane and struck up a friendship. Murray sings a little, including “When Will I Ever Learn To Live In God” by Van Morrison. And, backed by musicians, he recites prose, including from Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn.” They also made an album together called “New Worlds.”

But the classic Murray moment is when people don’t expect him, don’t pay to see him, don’t invite him and suddenly – like groundskeeper Carl stalking gophers in “Caddyshack” – he’s there. Or better yet, it’s like when Richard Dreyfuss’s character drives his family hundreds of miles to a lake in New Hampshire to escape Murray in “What About Bob?” and, bang, there he is.

The real-life evidence is convincing. The internet is full of examples of Murray, 67, involving himself in people’s daily lives when they least expect it. While walking through a park on Roosevelt Island in New York he joined an adult kickball game. At a restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina, he saw a bachelor party happening, so he went over and gave a toast to the prospective bride and groom. He was in the stands at a Cornell-Harvard football game, fairly anonymously, when the Harvard band started playing the theme from “Ghostbusters.” So, he went on the field, climbed a podium and became the conductor.

Photo illustrations by Pete Gorski

So where in Portland will he show up? He has been an owner of several minor league baseball teams, so a Sea Dogs game would be a good guess, except they’re out of town until April 27. He likes whiskey and talking to folks, so maybe a bar?

But don’t invite him to the bar in advance and don’t make a big deal over him. That’s what some folks involved with Portland Beer Week did in 2014. It didn’t work.

More than a dozen local brewers made special beers inspired by his movies, including Sebago’s Ned Ryerson RyePA (“Groundhog Day”) and Rising Tide’s Bejeezus Belt IPA (“Caddyshack”). Then local beer folks took to social media to let Murray know what had been done in his name. But they never heard from him.

The idea to brew Murray beers started with Shahin Khojastehzad, co-owner of Novare Res Bier Cafe in Portland. Khojastehzad said he thinks now that maybe Murray didn’t come because he was invited, since he seems to prefer to show up randomly. So, this time, there is no invitation, no special beers.

“Some people told me we should do it again, brew some more beers, but I don’t want to turn this into a marketing ploy,” said Khojastehzad. “I respect his gonzo look on life.”

Murray’s show in Portland is his last tour date for a while. The tour resumes in June in Germany. So, he may end up spending an extra day or two here, or a week, who knows? He may end up spending a few days here and taking long walks, which he’s known to do.

Murray was taking a long walk around Paris more than 30 years ago when he bumped into Kate Schrock , a singer-songwriter from Falmouth.

Schrock was working as a model at the time, and had been living in Paris for several months. She came out of a Paris post office, spied Murray and said, “Bill, what are you doing here?” To that, he said, “Trying to avoid my life.” He then asked her for directions to some sights he wanted to see, and they ended up walking and talking together for much of the day.

Murray told her about how he had hitchhiked through Maine once. They talk about their lives and explored big picture questions about what matters. They also talked about writing and Elvis Presley. Schrock, who was 20, said at the time she was disillusioned with modeling and was happy that Murray was listening to her. She said she was used to photographers and agents telling her to “shut up.”

Schrock, now 53, said Murray told her she was actually a writer. That was the first time anyone had ever told her that, she said. He also told her to go the Greek islands. So she did.

After that encounter, Schrock focused her career on song-writing and music, something she’s been doing ever since. She never saw Murray again.

“He altered my life by encouraging me to step outside the modeling world and become a writer,” said Schrock. “I adore the guy and think he’s just an amazing force of nature.”


WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Monday
WHERE: Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $58 to $283

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