How Kelis and Bill Murray became the oddest of odd couples: TOM LEONARD investigates what brought a 72-year-old Ghostbusters star with a slew of bullying and sexual harassment allegations against him and a raunchy R&B artist 29 years his junior together
When American R&B star Kelis performed last week at the Mighty Hoopla Festival in south London, fans weren’t surprised to hear her belting out some of the old hits from a glittering career stretching back more than 25 years.
Rather more shocking was that watching her admiringly from the wings was a very much older blast-from-the-past.
Notoriously deadpan, the septuagenarian comedy superstar Bill Murray is probably the last person many would expect to find stageside at one of her concerts.
But love, it’s often said, is a mystery and it’s love that reportedly binds this unlikely pair together.
To the list of showbusiness odd couples that over the years has included Tom Cruise and Cher, Russell Brand and Katy Perry, Brad Pitt and Sinitta, and Michael Jackson and Brooke Shields, can now apparently be added the 72-year-old actor and 43-year-old singer-songwriter.
When American R&B star Kelis (middle, next to Bill Murray, right) performed last week at the Mighty Hoopla Festival in south London, fans weren’t surprised to hear her belting out some of the old hits from a glittering career stretching back more than 25 years
The twice-married Hollywood star and father of six has been in London filming a Ghostbusters sequel during which time the couple reportedly stayed at the same hotel.
Sources say the famously ‘rumpled’ actor and the glamorous singer 29 years his junior have been ‘getting close for a while’ after first meeting in the US.
It is claimed they bonded over their shared circumstances, notably the loss they’ve suffered over the recent deaths of their spouses, although in very different circumstances.
Kelis’s second husband, photographer Mike Mora, died of stomach cancer aged 37 in March last year. They had married in 2014 and had a son the next year followed by a daughter in 2020.
Murray’s second wife Jennifer Butler, a costume designer who’d met the actor on the set of his 1993 comedy Groundhog Day, died in 2021 after an 11-year marriage which produced four children.
But by then they had been apart for 13 years. Ms Butler – whose affair with Murray ended his first marriage to Mickey Kelley, a TV chat show guest booker – filed for divorce in 2008. She cited a litany of allegations against Murray – none of which he responded to directly – including domestic violence, infidelity and addiction to sex, cannabis and alcohol.
Murray’s private life was further complicated in 2022 when he was accused of inappropriate conduct on the set of the film Being Mortal, which had to be temporarily shut down as a result. He had reportedly straddled a female production assistant while they were wearing Covid protocol masks and kissed her through the face coverings.
The twice-married Hollywood star and father of six has been in London filming a Ghostbusters sequel during which time the couple reportedly stayed at the same hotel
Murray’s second wife Jennifer Butler, a costume designer who’d met the actor on the set of his 1993 comedy Groundhog Day, died in 2021 after an 11-year marriage which produced four children (pictured 2004)
She made an official complaint. He acknowledged what had happened but insisted it had been ‘jestful’. The younger woman countered that it had been ‘entirely sexual’ and she’d been ‘horrified’.
Murray paid her $100,000 to settle. His reputation was further tarnished when a few months later, actress Geena Davis published a memoir in which she accused him of sexually harassing her while they were filming the crime comedy Quick Change in 1989.
She alleged Murray ‘insisted’ on using a massage device on her as she lay on a bed despite her repeatedly saying no.
Thelma & Louise star Davis also claimed ‘everybody-loves-him’ Murray furiously berated her in front of crew after she had been delayed by a wardrobe issue.
She said Murray’s ‘very dark side’ was ‘hardly news’, although it came as a shock to many. Murray made no comment in response to the claims. Kelis Rogers also claims to have experienced the dark side of a man – her first husband, the combustible rap star Nas.
They married in 2005 after meeting three years earlier when she was 22. But in 2009, just three months before giving birth to their son, she filed for divorce citing irreconcilable differences.
She has since described their relationship as physically and mentally abusive. ‘It was dark. It was really dark,’ she told entertainment programme Hollywood Unlocked. ‘There was a lot of drinking. There was a lot of physical and mental abuse.’
She went on: ‘Did he hit me? Mhmm. Did I hit him back? Mhmm. He would black out. He would drink too much. He drank way too much. He will never admit it… so a lot of the stuff he may not remember.’
Born and raised in Harlem, the daughter of a Pentecostal minister and a fashion designer, Kelis Rogers was educated at a prestigious New York school for the performing arts and was still in her teens when she won her first record deal.
Kelis’s second husband, photographer Mike Mora, died of stomach cancer aged 37 in March last year. They had married in 2014 and had a son the next year followed by a daughter in 2020 (Kelis and Mora pictured 2014)
She went on to notch up a string of best-selling hits. In 2003 – two years after winning the International Breakthrough Act at the Brit Awards – she recorded her biggest hit, a raunchy single called Milkshake.
In the accompanying video she cavorts in a diner, writhing around on a countertop singing ‘My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard’.
Her output has matured since then, with collaborations with stars ranging from Bjork to Enrique Iglesias. In 2006, she started four years of part-time cookery training as a saucier and eventually graduated from the Cordon Bleu school.
She’s since starred in her own cooking TV show, written a recipe book, opened a pop-up restaurant in London in 2016 and appeared on a Netflix competition series called Cooked With Cannabis.
So what else might have brought her together with the irascible Murray? She admits she is ‘quirky’ – and he is certainly that. Both share a preference for living ‘off the grid’, well-detached from the hurly-burly of showbusiness.
Murray, who reportedly has five homes across the US, lives as a semi-recluse. He hasn’t had an agent or a publicist for years and can only be contacted through friends or by leaving a message on an answerphone.
Scripts, it has been said, have to be left in a phone box. It reportedly took director Sofia Coppola seven months to track him down to ask him to appear in the 2003 Oscar-winning film Lost in Translation and he’s lost a string of screen roles because film makers couldn’t reach him.
He doesn’t seem to care, once saying: ‘People say they can’t find me. Well, if you can write a good script, that’s a lot harder than finding someone.’
Born and raised in Harlem, the daughter of a Pentecostal minister and a fashion designer, Kelis Rogers (pictured) was educated at a prestigious New York school for the performing arts and was still in her teens when she won her first record deal
Convicted of selling cannabis at 21, he had another brush with the law 35 years later in 2007 when he was stopped in Sweden on suspicion of driving a golf cart while drunk.
Murray, who rose to fame in the early 1970s doing radio comedy, certainly has a reputation for being difficult to work with – Ghostbusters co-star Dan Aykroyd dubbed him The Murricane.
Austin Powers star Seth Green said last year he was nine when Murray, objecting to the boy sitting on the arm of his chair, picked him up by his ankles and dropped him into a rubbish bin. In 2021, actress Lucy Liu claimed he hurled ‘inexcusable and unacceptable’ insults at her on the set of Charlie’s Angels in 2000.
Richard Dreyfuss accused him in 2019 of drunkenly hurling a heavy glass ashtray at his head on the set of the 1991 film What About Bob?.
‘He put his face next to me, nose-to-nose, and he screamed at the top of his lungs, ‘Everyone hates you! You are tolerated!’, said Dreyfuss. Murray insisted that his on-screen rivalry with Dreyfuss never spilled over after the cameras stopped rolling.
However. the film’s producer, the late Laura Ziskin, said the actor once ‘playfully’ threw her into a lake and – less playfully – threatened to throw her across a car park. Murray didn’t respond to her claims. The star appears unrepentant. ‘I will dismiss you completely if you are unprofessional and working with me,’ he said in 2009.
Wherever their relationship is going, Kelis can at least reassure herself that it isn’t professional.
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