Monday, September 14, 2015


"It just doesn't matter! It just doesn't matter!" ~ Trip Harrison

Such has been the rallying cry of my nerdy family and friends since the dawn of Meatballs in 1977. A friend and I still do a Todd DiLaMuca/Lisa Loopner routine and laugh like idiots every time one of us says the name Todd. Bill Murray has been a large and welcome part of my pop culture life for, well, the majority of my life. So it should come as no surprise that I ran around handing out noogies when I saw that Robert Schnakenberg had put together The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray: A Critical Appreciation of the World's Finest Actor.

I'm going to delve into a few issues raised by that title and subtitle a bit later, but for now I am going to do the written version of standing on my feet and clapping with everything I've got. I loved this book. It was everything I was wanting and expecting and more. So let's dig into the kind of goodies you're going to get with the BBBBM, inside and out.

On the outside, the BBBBM is an off-sized (~7" x 9") paperback, but it's not your usual paperback. The cover is thick card stock with flaps on the inside, just like a hardback dust cover. I consider this a coffee table book, and mine will be sitting just so whenever you want to come over and look at it.

The insides are beautiful, even setting content aside. Printed on thick, glossy paper, with tons of colorful graphics and photographs, it reminds me a bit of Amy Poehler's Yes Please in style and format.

The Big Bad Book is an encyclopedia of Bill; an alphabetical trip through the wacky and wonderful world of Bill Murray. Each letter section is filled with items on a variety of subjects - movies, co-stars, personal facts (i.e., "B" includes an entry about Bill's dog named Bark), likes, and obscure movie/role tidbits, to name just a few.

The letter sections are also peppered with photos and quotes, from Bill and others who know and/or have worked with him. Some are funny, others are serious, all shed a little light on the inside of Bill.

Just like Bill, the entries are not all a laugh riot. There are some tough, direct thoughts on subjects such as (to take "A" as an example) awards, agents, assassination, and Murray's infamous 800 telephone number.

Between each section is a page called  Tales From Murrayland, containing a wild story from Bill's life. These bits have titles such as "The Night He Tried To Choke Martin Mull," or "The Texas Tequila Bar Takeover."

Tales of Murray out and about are legend. Locally, I recall a story about a year ago when Murray was in Oakland and got in a taxi to head to Sausalito. The driver mentioned he played the saxophone and also drove 14 hours a day.

Figuring the driver could use the extra practice time, Murray switched places with him, driving the cab all the way to Sausalito while the driver played the sax in the back seat. They also stopped for barbecue along the way. All of this at about 2 in the morning.

Stories such as this seem to come to light quite often. Bill Murray presents to the world as a fun-loving man who enjoys being around and interacting with the public. But there's really very little known about the private Murray. This book is no different. Author Schnakenberg notes that Murray's "true nature remains shrouded in mystery."

What Schnakenberg has tried to do is create as detailed a record as possible of the life, career, and philosophies of Bill Murray, using "insights from published accounts as well as Murray's own on-the-record utterances dating back to the mid-1970s."

The book is subtitled "a Critical Appreciation," yet it's probably not the right resource if you're looking for critical or in-depth analysis of Murray's film roles. While the book does provide a rating and short discussion of each of Murray's performances, they're just that - short.

To that end, I thought the subtitle was a tad misleading. The book is an appreciation, no doubt, and I loved every appreciative minute of it. I'm just not sure it's properly characterized as a "critical analysis." But if you're a  Murray fan and simply want to know about all there currently is to know about the man, this book truly is the Big Badass Book of Bill Murray (I took a little liberty there).

STREET SENSE: This book is a must-get for fans of Bill Murray and his work. I've parsed it out a letter at a time and am still enjoying it in bits and spurts in order to stave off that last page. It's jam-packed with great stuff, some bringing back great memories and others providing me with information I was clueless about and have greedily absorbed. All in all, it's been a blast to work through.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE:  It's hard to be an artist. It's hard to be anything. It's hard to be.

COVER NERD SAYS:  Definitely a hole-in-one.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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