The Dunhill Links Championship is famous for a number of reasons: it raises millions for charity, it generates autumn tourism to the seaside towns of the Scottish East Coast and, most importantly for our young and hopeful student population, it collects celebrities from across the world and brings them to St Andrews. For one week Hugh Grant is ubiquitous, the Lizard VIP area hosts genuine VIPs and first years spend their mornings skipping lectures to Instagram themselves on the Old Course with the rich and famous.
This year has been no different, and as news broke that Olympic superstars Oscar Pistorius and Michael Phelps had arrived in our university town, hysteria soon followed. For me, it was on discovering that Hollywood legend Bill Murray was a member of this year’s celebrity cohort that I became truly excited. On Thursday morning I changed my Facebook status to “Just lost my virginity to Bill Murray on the old course. Casual”. Little did I know how fortuitous this status was to be.
That night I left the Lizard still thinking of the Lost in Translation star, when an American woman, drunker than me, pointed down a dark alleyway and said “Bill Murray is down there!”
While my friends were cooler and continued to walk on, I shouted into the darkness at the shadowy figure in the distance, “Bill! Bill! It’s me!”
“Oh, uh, hey there…I’m just gonna go play some golf,” he replied and continued to walk. Knowing the golf course was closed at one thirty am, I picked up the pace and began to chase him. Bill too started running, sweating, glancing back in abject terror every now and again. As he began to pant faster I knew I could catch him.
And then I did. “Bill! It’s me!” I caught his hand, tried to swing him round to face me, and asked if he would take a picture with me. “No. I can’t. It’s so nice to meet you, but I got to go play some golf! Goodbye!”
I wasn’t having it. Switching tactics I stroked his face, crinkled like cottage cheese, and whispered, “Bill… come and party with me”. Looking back, it comes as no surprise that the international superstar did not want to come back to the flat of a mad, shouting woman. At the time however, I was perplexed.
At this point the American girl had seen what was going on. She ran over and grabbed my phone, saying she was going to use its camera. Instead, the bitch ran off calling “Bill…Bill…if you’re a real man come and get the phone. Save this girl!”
I looked at Bill. “What’s your name?” he asked me. I told him. “I think you need to go get your phone, and I need to play some golf. It was nice meeting you. Have a good weekend.” And that was how I was rejected by a drunk, sixty-two year old man.
This is not the first time that I have been compelled to behave in an unusual way towards a celebrity. Aged thirteen I found out that my big celebrity crush of the time, Stephen Fry, lived round the corner and promptly located his house. What followed was a love letter campaign that lasted several months. The unusual thing was that wrote these letters in code… a code I had created especially for this purpose. Hence, the QI host would open his letterbox each morning and find it full of handwritten notes in unintelligible jargon.
Since Stephen’s house was on my way to the bus stop, I could conveniently post my letters, and also hide the cigarettes I was too young to smoke at home in his front garden. It just so happened that one morning as I was collecting the cigarettes, arse in the air as I rooted amongst the leaves to locate the plastic bag with my fags, I heard a door opening.
Unnerved and seeing the great man’s towering form locking up the door, I had little choice but to stand behind him, so that when he turned around he saw me, in my school uniform, grinning and winking, waving a plastic bag full of loose cigarettes. We had an awkward exchange in which I revealed my identity as the sender of the coded letters, got a cheeky autograph, and (as with Bill) scared him into insisting he had to leave.
That would have been the end of our faux-friendship had I not decided to send a further letter, twelve months later. This one was distinctive, written in English as it was. I did not expect a reply, but I got one, a month later on embossed paper, signed and sealed with a second-class stamp. Stephen Fry had written me a long advisory tract, offering tips for university success and applications. It was based on this advice that I decided to come to St Andrews, bringing my experience of stalking and celebrity full circle.