Here’s another Bill Murray story for you (man we love these). It was September 21, 1970 and we had ourselves a young Bill Murray, a 20 year-old Bill Murray to be exact.
Murray was having a family celebration in Chicago and the pre-Saturday Night Live comedian was set to fly back to Regis College in Denver (he was there as a pre-med student). While waiting in line for the flight at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, Murray was joking with a passenger in line and cracked that he was carrying two bombs in his suitcase. Remember, this was air travel in the 70s and security was a bit more relaxed, but it’s still a terrible idea to make this statement.
An agent at the ticketing counter overheard Murray’s joke and took it very seriously. Two U.S. Marshals were called and they pulled the comedian out of line and searched his luggage. No explosives were found but were about to find five two-pound bricks of marijuana in the luggage weighing a total of 10 pounds. At the time the weed had a street value of $20,000 (about six times more today).
Murray frantically tried to avoid this discovery by stashing the bags in a locker, but Chicago vice cops arrived on the scene and arrested Murray. Murray was able to swallow some evidence of a customer (a personal check) before the suitcase was confiscated. Murray later said about the situation, “That guy owes me his life and reputation.” Vice cops would later state they were already tipped off to Murray’s drug muleing and were already on hand planning to arrest Murray regardless of the joke.
The bust made the front page of the Chicago Tribune and Murray was charged with possession of marijuana and had to appear in narcotics court the next day. He saw no jail time because he was a first-time offender but he did get 5 years of probation for the ordeal.
Murray decided to drop out of college before his criminal record got him kicked out. This situation did cause him to stay in Chicago where he’d eventually find Second City which led him to his comedy career, so maybe it was all worth it?
The funny ending to this story is that Regis College did award Murray with an honorary doctorate in 2007. Murray accepted the doctorate, and did so wearing pajama shorts and top with a blazer over top. Always classy.