Looking for Bill

The night of September 9, a Sunday, a hopeful crowd of young Houstonians gathered at

War'Hous Visual Studios

(4715 Main). The city's biggest Bill Murray-themed party was in full swing, waiting for the guest of honor.

Earlier in the summer, tongue-in-cheek Web site Super Official News began swirling rumors that the Stripes, Rushmore and Lost in Translation star would take his offbeat party-crashing tendencies — well-known in the New York City area — on the road. Details included a press release and list of tour dates, naming Houston the second-to-last stop on the aptly named "Party Crashing Tour."

Naturally, party animals and naysayers alike began weighing in on whether there was any truth behind it, but despite a few skeptics, Houston seemed certain he would show up for a party.

Which one he would end up at was the mystery this Sunday.

War'Hous welcomed partygoers with an oversize, hand-painted banner that read, "Bill Murray can crash here" across the front of the Midtown/Museum District gallery. Inside, the walls were lined with the portraits of Murray by 22 different artists, while a DJ spun music in the back parking lot.

"Who hasn't heard of Bill Murray?" asked Kelly Kielsmeier, one of the show's artists. "We all grew up watching his movies, and he seems so into talking to regular people."

Perhaps Kielsmeier is one of thousands who have heard about the time Murray reportedly stole the fry off of someone's plate before leaning over and whispering, "No one will ever believe you." Or another story floating around the blogosphere — this one backed by photographic evidence — about the time he got behind the bar of an Austin hot spot during SXSW, or when he washed dishes at a house party when no clean cups were available.

War'Hous was full of a selection of Houston's most interesting haircuts, karaoke singers and smells, but the groups huddled about comparing whose Steve Zissou hat was most authentic-looking missed out on conversation with the most amusing guest, a guy dressed up as Santa Claus.

"I realize he's an actor, but I want to know if he really doesn't believe in Christmas," said the man, who assured me he was really Santa. "And he's always asleep when I visit him, so I wanted to meet him in person and thank him for the work he's done."

Of course, this unkempt Santa with the Southern accent seemed a better fit for the set of Bad Santa than the jolly, candy-coated North Pole.

As the night wore on, it didn't look like Bill Murray was coming to War'Hous. So as the Ghostbusters theme song faded into "I Got You Babe," a guest named Vivian began to wonder where Bill Murray would go if he were in town. She went through a list of venues that would be suited to host one of comedy's best actors before deciding on Poison Girl.

However, nothing seemed out of the or­dinary for a Sunday night at Poison Girl (1641 West­heimer). Even so, Bill Murray was the topic on a few inquiring minds.

"[Not] since I got here," said the lounge's bartender, Stacy. "But I did hear that there's another Bill Murray party across from Rudyard's at The Treehouse."

Another patron, Anthony, mentioned that the nearby Royal Oak Bar & Grill (1318 Westheimer) was also hosting a Bill Murray party. That bar had already taken its sign down, though.

"From what I heard, the only way he'll go is if there's a sign out front," said Anthony. "I bet he'd be more likely to stop in if there was a sign that said, 'Fuck Bill Murray!'"

Anthony turned to his phone in search of clues on various social-media sites, eventually giving up on that and heading to Royal Oak to try his luck. But Murray wasn't showing up there anytime soon, either.

The crowd didn't look promising at Royal Oak, but the sign was still up at The Treehouse across from Rudyard's British Pub (2010 Waugh). One step inside the doors made it clear that this wasn't a bar, but someone's house. Fortunately, Davey and Nathan, the hosts, were as welcoming as their friends and guests.

Surely, if there were any chance Bill Murray would crash a party in Houston this Sunday, this would be the place he'd come.

"We just moved in, so this is kind of a housewarming party as well as a party for Bill Murray to crash," said Davey, giving a tour of the literal treehouse apartment. "I heard about it online through Reddit and knew we had to at least try."

Their party featured two kegs, a dog named Eleanor and karaoke. Miley Cyrus and The Eagles were the only options.

Late night turned into early morning, and three friends shared a microphone for an explicit version of "Hotel California." What Vivian had said earlier in the evening at War'Hous was true — even if the actor wasn't in town, "he got a bunch of people to party."

Indeed, Bill Murray was never in Houston that Sunday. He was in attendance at the Toronto Independent Film Festival for a screening of his new movie, Hyde Park on Hudson.

While everybody had read the fine print on the flyer circulating the Web — there was plenty of alcohol and karaoke to go around — they hadn't been as attentive about all the details. As Windy City Web site Chicagoist discovered, the "Party Hotline" listed in the supposed press release was actually the number to Kansas's infamous Westboro Baptist Church. Furthermore, Chicagoist reported that despite Super Official News' claims, Bill Murray does not have a manager or an agent.

Hoax or not, at least Houston got a reason to party. And for that, Bill Murray would be proud.

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