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That time Bill Murray turned bartender at SXSW festival

by Pierce King. Published Tue 02 Feb 2021 08:16, last updated: 02/02/21

SXSW is mainly famous for being a music festival, it involves a manic few days spread across the Austin, Texas, who's city creed is 'Keep it weird.'

The festival features a range of eccentric showcases from punk bands playing unofficial shows outside to up and coming artists in pop-up venues and well-established acts on official stages.

But before all the bands swarm onto the city, SXSW also hosts a film festival. Actors and directors will premiere their movies, then enjoy the week-long party atmosphere afterwards... so it’s not unusual to see a movie star soaking up the vibes with the music fans.

Back in 2010, the master of the unexpected appearance - Bill Murray was that film star.

Hanging out with his friends GZA and RZA from Wu-Tang Clan, who he met in 2003’s Coffee and Cigarettes... The Ghostbusters legend was wandering around the east side of Austin when he spotted a welcoming dive bar called Shangri-La.

As writer Gavin Edwards describes in his book The Tao of Bill Murray, the actor had a couple of drinks and got talking to an off-duty bartender called Trevor Rathbone.

They chatted for a while, but before too long Bill was getting mobbed by enthusiastic fans and made an exit to watch some music.

But a few hours later, the actor returned, along with his pal GZA. One of the bar staff immediately sent a text message to their boss, Tyler Van Aken, who was serving at the bar upstairs.

‘Bill is back looking for Trevor,’ it read. As the nights at SXSW draw on, the bars get busier and busier. Tyler replied, ‘See if Bill will get behind the bar.’

A few seconds later the reply came: ‘Bill is bartending!’

Tyler dropped what he was doing and ran downstairs to witness one of the world’s greatest comedic actors serving drinks at his bar.

Jesse Cates, a bartender at the time, said: "All of a sudden, Bill Murray’s standing next to me behind my bar. I found myself bartending with a Ghostbuster. It was pretty flipping sweet."

When a customer would lean in and tell Bill their desired drink order, he would listen, nod and grab the nearest bottle of tequila and pour them a shot.

If people tried to pay, he would just give the money to the nearest bartender and move on.

As Tyler put it: "Bill Murray’s obviously not going to open the drawer and give you change! Why are you even trying to pay him?"

Afterwards, Tyler remembered: "I think he had fun, or else he wouldn’t have been doing it for a full 30 minutes, and he wouldn’t have been pouring shots of booze into some kid’s mouth!"

As Bill eventually made his way to leave, Tyler made sure to say something before he left. He said: ‘Sir, I really can’t tell you what you did meant to me. Me and my dad built that bar.’

Bill stopped, looked back at Tyler and said: ‘Tell your dad I said hello,’ before walking away.


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