I’ve talked before about how some of the best stuff happens once the cameras stop rolling and I’d have to say that once we were done shooting the meal scene with Bill Murray for Monday’s Hudson Valley show, what happened next was one of those times: He had to be in New York pretty quickly. I was headed home. Producer Tom Vitale had a rented SUV parked outside for just that situation and the three of us piled into the car, Tom at the wheel, me riding shotgun, Bill in the back.
It is very likely that Tom might have been driving a little more conservatively than usual that day. A desire to NOT cause the death of beloved icon and coolest guy ever Bill Murray was, no doubt, foremost in his mind.
After 5 minutes of this, however, Bill has had enough. There is a quick Chinese fire drill (When Bill Murray says he wants to drive, one tends to agree immediately), and suddenly, I find myself pressed back in the passenger seat by powerful G-forces, with the eerily familiar sight of Bill Murray next to me at the wheel (Groundhog Day coming most troublingly to mind).
You should probably know that I don’t know Bill Murray. We’re not bestest buds or anything. Before the meal we had on camera, I’d never met him before in my life. To this day, I have no idea, how or why he agreed to sit down with me and have lunch on my crummy little cable show. Only a few days earlier, had I passed him in the street, I would, like you, probably have said to myself, “Holy Shit! It’s Bill freakin’ MURRAY! He is so totally awesome!” – and then never dared approach him or say anything.
But now, somewhere between Yonkers and the city, we’re going…fast. I believe that Mr. Murray was steering with one finger. It is my recollection that, perhaps, he is fond of 2nd gear. In fact, I believe that was the subject of the impromptu tutorial he was giving us while driving down the Palisades Interstate: How To Drive A Rented SUV For Peak Performance — making, I have to say, a whole lot of eye contact while talking-for a guy at the wheel of a fast moving automobile.
Let it be said, that Bill Murray is a Very Good Driver. Though I am not certain — it was my impression — that perhaps, not every speed limit or conventional rule of highway safety was, at all times, observed.
It was thrilling. Not so thrilling, but illuminating, was receiving a copy of Eliza Liebler’s high school essay, titled “The Man That Kidnaps My Father.”
As you surely know by now, Todd Liebler, Eliza’s dad, is one of the Emmy Award winning veteran cameraman on the show. In fact, other than me, no single member of the No Reservations family has worked on more shows or had more stamps punched into their passports than Todd. I believe he’s been to well over 70 countries by now, worked on nearly every show since the very early part of the very first season.
I know well-from spending a lot of time in far away hotel lobbies listening to Filipino cover bands with Todd, how much he misses his family. We brag or commiserate about our kids all the time while on the road. What I forget, of course, is how much they miss him.
So, I felt really guilty reading the story below. Working on this show is a notorious crippler. It may be the best job in the world, but it’s hell on the civilians:
“The Man That Kidnaps My Father” -By Eliza Liebler
Once a month a group of people come and take my father away. I know its not actually like that, but it seems to me it is. He says goodbye like he knows he’s being taken away. Then he’s gone. They don’t hurt him and he comes back fine. But I don’t worry much because I know that he’s O.K. and it’s just for work. The man that takes my father away is named Anthony, I know because I’ve met him. There are other guys too, and sometimes girls. Sometimes they come alone. Sometimes together. When he comes back, he brings us gifts from where he just was. Now I have something from all over the world. I know it’s just for a while. I know it’s just a job. But he’s gone so often sometimes it seems like he isn’t there at all. Sardinia, Italy, Mexico, Chile, France, Japan, Russia, Ireland, Canada, Texas, California, China, Brazil, Peru and Egypt. He’s been to all of those places. Those and more. Sometimes I get upset when he leaves. Sometimes I don’t.
Where’s your father now? They’ll say. I’ll tell them. What’s the name of the show he works on? They ask. I’ll tell them.
That’s right! Anthony. They say. And I nod. I’ve met them before. They are nice people. I don’t blame them for wanting my father. My father is a nice person too. But I want my father more then they do. But I can’t have him because we need the money to live in our house and buy our food. He always says that he loves traveling all over the world, but the worst part is leaving home. I agree. I want to travel. But I don’t want to leave home. My father even has a little blue book filled with all the places he’s been to. He says the best ones are the return stamps home. Sometimes he wakes up early in the morning when it’s still dark out, and they come and kidnap him.
Sometimes he will leave in the hot afternoon, while I’m at school. My friends always know when he comes or leaves. They always sleepover and laugh at his jokes. I know that they think of him as their dad too. My father does everything while he is here. From coaching first base at a school softball game to playing guitar for me and my brother before we go to bed to ordering in Chinese for dinner because he can only cook Mexican and we had that yesterday. Whenever he is home we always go to Maria’s even though I hate it. My entire family seems happier when my father’s home. He’s their father too. He’s programmed into my phone as Daddy, not dad or father but Daddy, because he’s better then your average dad-name. But once a month a group of people come and take my father away. I know its not actually like that, but it seems to me it is.”