Tampa native Josh Murray's family and friends weigh in on his 'Bachelorette' win
Editor's note: Josh Murray's family and friends gathered at CineBistro in Tampa during Monday's 'Bachelorette' finale to cheer him on. We sent Times reporter Robbyn Mitchell to see how they reacted to his big win.
Lauren Murray smiled as an acquaintance handed her a rose in the lobby of CineBistro Hyde Park Monday night.
“Finally, I get one of these,” she laughed.
The 50-year-old mom has spent the summer watching her son, Josh Murray, get roses from Andi Dorfman on ABC’s The Bachelorette. She and 98 others gathered at the theater to watch the live finale and celebrate one of the worst-kept secrets in Bachelor history.
“I’ve become so politically correct these last two months,” Lauren Murray said. “My answers are so cryptic these days.”
The gathered crowd cheered Josh’s every appearance and good-naturedly jeered his competition, making this watch party one of the most personal in the nation.
It’s been an interesting few months for the Murray family, as they watched the romance blossom between Josh and Dorfman until he was one of the final two men standing Monday night. “It was wild especially seeing it happen on the big screen,” said Denny Murray, 53, Josh’s father. “I never thought I would see my son propose to a girl.”
Lauren said she wasn't weirded out watching her son compete on the show.
“I guess I’ve got a little of a voyeur in me because nothing he did was really awkward for me to watch,” she said. “The kissing and stuff didn’t bother me. I just thought, ‘Wow. He’s got game. He’s like his dad.’ ”
Natalie Scott, 52, a family friend and fellow member of First Presbyterian Church in Tampa, said when she first met Josh more than three years ago he proclaimed that he was looking for his life partner.
“From the moment she laid eyes on Josh, their chemistry was so obvious,” Scott said of Dorfman. “He is so sincere, and what you see on TV with Josh is who he is.”
Though not everything about The Bachelorette experience was totally positive.
“It annoyed me in the editing that they called him a former baseball player and made him look like a jock, because that’s secondary,” Lauren said. “Josh is a financial adviser and accountant and he graduated cum laude. He has always been a great student not just an athlete.”
The Bachelorette wasn’t even something Josh chose for himself. His cousins from Philadelphia actually applied for him to be on the show, and he had to be convinced to join even after getting a call from producers.
“He was apprehensive about it. He thought maybe he’d never get a date again in his life or all his clients would abandon him. I wasn’t worried. He’s already so much of a good guy, how could they edit him to not be?” Lauren said. Meeting Andi was a bit of an experience for Josh's mom, but not for the reason you might expect. “We were all taken aback about how much she looks like us,” she said. “She just fit right in with our family.”
Her hopes weren’t riding on Josh winning the show, but Lauren said she’d be lying if she wasn’t ready for her son to be married. “I want grandbabies already,” she said. “I have been so ready and Josh is almost 30.”
Lauren Murray plans to meet Dorfman’s parents for dinner Thursday after she takes her daughter back to college in Georgia. The wedding details aren’t set yet but she was elated with her son’s touching public proposal. “It was really heartfelt,” she said. “They both just said what was in their hearts.”
The party at CineBistro Monday also served as a fundraiser for the Murray family’s church, First Presbyterian Church in Tampa’s homeless outreach ministry. With the help of Metropolitan Ministries and six other local churches, First Presbyterian spends roughly $15,000 a year feeding and clothing the city’s homeless population through its Saturday morning breakfast, daily bag lunch giveaways and “Hope Depot” clothing donations.
“My whole family has worked with the ministry,” Lauren said. “We thought it was an awesome opportunity to do something great for the community and raise awareness about the homeless situation not just locally but nationally.”
Viewers paid $15, the same price as a movie ticket, to sit in the plush dine-in theater and clap and cheer Josh’s success.
The finale viewing party idea sprang from the reality TV show's annual hometown visits. Lauren asked the producers if Dorfman could come with Josh to First Presbyterian to feed the homeless on a Saturday morning. Producers didn’t like the idea, but Lauren kept it alive with the help of Pastor Rev. Fitz Conner and his wife, Rev. Kathy Conner. The church leaders had been watching the season at the Murray’s home and at the offices of church members with multiple TVs.
Pastor Conner suggested turning their weekly viewing parties into a party with a purpose for the finale. "We raised over $3,000, our initial goal," said Rev. Kathy Conner. "The ticket prices only covered the cost to rent the room. People gave cash and check donations on top of that. They were very generous."