The iconoclastic movie star Bill Murray is always on the guest list for events celebrating anniversaries and the like at The Second City. But the famously unpredictable actor invariably does not show up. On Monday night, though, there was Murray on Navy Pier, singing with his fellow alumni of the famed comedy troop. Murray had come to Chicago to honor Bernie Sahlins, the man who gave him his first important job.
Indeed, a veritable who's-who of Chicago theater, and of American comedy, gathered Monday night at the packed-beyond-capacity Chicago Shakespeare Theater in tribute to Sahlins, the co-founder of The Second City, who died last June at the age of 90. Along with the heads of most of the Chicago theaters and other cultural institutions, big names in attendance at the celebration included William Petersen, Joan Allen, John Mahoney, Amy Morton and the British actor Geoffrey Palmer, who is married to the sister of Jane Nicholl Salins, Bernie Sahlins' beloved wife.
Speakers lauded Sahlins' smarts, his generosity to family and friends, his enormous influence on his field and his zest for living. From the various heartfelt eulogies, and the videotaped words of the honoree himself, one could distill the Sahlins secrets for a long, happy life: hang out with young people; exercise; cultivate a plethora of friends; assume the curiosity of a child; be constantly engaged and learning new things; and, most importantly of all, make no separation between work and play.