I hadn’t planned to. I actually thought I was going to fall apart on the airplane ride from Denver to New York, but for some reason, the person in the travel department at Time Inc booked me a ticket in first class. I am a coach kind of girl so losing it in first class didn’t seem right. If I was going to let go, I wanted to be with my people. I was on my way to interview Bill Murray for the cover of LIFE magazine. So instead of losing it, I maintained. I was able to hold it together until the next morning when I was standing in Bill Murray’s kitchen and he said “So how are you doing, Kate?” And I just started crying. Really crying. I mean sobbing uncontrollably to the point where no man—even one in my family, actually especially one in my family— would know what to do. It was the year of the D (my daughter’s word for our divorce) and I had just had my heart ripped out and handed to me by the first inappropriate man I could find. I was not sleeping or eating and every time my kids stayed at their dad’s house, I would get under my comforter and cry. It was a pity party extravaganza.
So that’s what Bill Murray faced in his kitchen— a 42 year-old woman whose foundation was crumbling. He spent the next two days trying to calm me down. He talked to me about life. We shot hoops on his court. We went outlet shopping (we had done this once before in Florida). I told him he wasn’t allowed to buy me anything and he said, “You are SOO controlling.” That made me smile, Bill calling me controlling. He did manage to buy me an Elmer Fudd-type hat and some sparkly blue sunglasses. He bought gifts for many of his children. He posed for pictures with people who recognized him. We bought soup and pie and bread and lots of whipped cream. I interviewed him somewhere in between the cheering up. He told me magical stories about his life growing up and Saturday Night Live and his career. We saw this jacket in the window of Armani that I thought would be so cool on him, but they didn’t have it in his size. They did however have it in my size and he insisted that I put it on. He encouraged me to buy it. He even offered to chip in. I explained that as a working mom I was lucky to get in a shower and put my ponytail atop my head. The idea that I would ever be going anywhere that would necessitate an Armani jacket (stunning as it was) didn’t seem realistic. I’m also perpetually broke so it wasn’t on budget either. But it cheered me up to the point where life didn’t seem quite so scary. At some point we did a more formal interview in Bill’s den. I don’t remember if it was before or after I taught his boys to spray whipped cream straight into their mouths (just like my dad used to do with me).
This was an unusual interview and an unusual time in my life. But I have been lucky to find that people often appear when you need them and it’s not necessarily the people you think. Bill Murray was the first-ever cover story of my career. It was more than ten years before the above two days and I had been working late on a Friday night in midtown Manhattan. One of the editor’s at Entertainment Weekly called me down and asked me if I would like to fly to San Francisco in the morning and interview Bill Murray and go with him to the Super Bowl the next day. As job opportunities go, this was not a lame one. I think all I came up with by way of response is: “Are you kidding?” I spent the rest of that night and the entire plane ride reading a massive file of research, cramming for my Bill Murray Ph.D. I was told that Bill could be “difficult” to work with and I was supposed to get to the heart of it. The word difficult was not used. Something harsher was used. I had no idea how I would approach this part of the story, but I knew I couldn’t pass up the gig itself. The way I did deal with it was to ask him straight up, while we were eating sushi on the Sony jet (he was promoting Ground Hog Day) “Some people say you’re difficult, what’s difficult about you? Why are you difficult?” He answered me in a long, genuine way and he wasn’t just talking about his career. I liked the cover story. I loved being with Bill and talking bout football and watching him make everyone nervous because he often arrives at the last minute. Over the next ten years I only saw Bill a few times, mostly revolving around golf tournaments. I won my first ever golf bet with him as my partner. We beat his brother Brian and Brian’s wife Tina. I saved that five-dollar bill for a long time.
People ask me if I am “friends” with the people I interview. And the answer is almost always no. We meet for a professional interaction. They are plugging something and I am writing about them because they are plugging something. People always ask me if they are nice and I almost always say yes, because most people are nice. Sometimes I think, well, if that person lived in my neighborhood, we’d be friends. But usually, it’s just an interesting process—getting to ask questions and learn about someone’s life. I do it even when I’m not getting paid. I wouldn’t say that Bill will ever be my friend in the traditional sense, but he was a tremendous friend when I needed it.
(We just love Kate Meyers! You can find more of her fabulous writing on her blog, IAMMINIVAN)