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Glory Hog: A Burrowing Pundit Basks in the Media Glare

February 02, 2001|ROY RIVENBURG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Punxsutawney Phil, the famous Pennsylvania groundhog, crawled out of his burrow a few days early this year and traveled to New York City, where he appeared on "Live With Regis" and addressed a special session of the United Nations.

OK, maybe we lied about the U.N. In truth, Punxsutawney Phil has never spoken. Until today, the first Groundhog Day of the new millennium. We visited Phil at his sprawling Pennsylvania estate, where he was relaxing in his little groundhog Jacuzzi and sipping Scotch:

Question: How many Punxsutawney Phils have there been since Groundhog Day was established in 1886?

Answer: Quite a few. We're replaced regularly, like Lassie and Darrin from "Bewitched."

Q: What do you do once Groundhog Day is over?

A: Party with a few close friends--the gopher from "Caddyshack," Alvin and the Chipmunks, Rocky the flying squirrel and Shamu.

Q: Last year, the Justice Department sued your parent company, AOL-Time Warner-Groundhog Inc., for unfairly stifling competition from other groundhogs, such as Staten Island Chuck of New York and Gen. Beauregard Lee from Atlanta. Are you worried about the lawsuit?

A: I think the Bush Administration will be more favorably inclined to my case. In fact, I'm negotiating mergers with several other holidays--Columbus Day and Cinco de Mayo.

Q: During your trip to New York this week, what most impressed you?

A: The size of the groundhogs that dug that network of burrows underneath the city.

Q: You've been romantically linked with a string of celebrities over the years: Britney Spears, Cher, Dennis Rodman. Are you dating anyone now?

A: I'm in a long-term relationship with Sam Donaldson's toupee.

Q: Do you agree with the Fed's latest interest rate cut?

A: If it's combined with a reduction in the short-term capital gains tax and an earned-income credit, I think it's sound economic policy.

Q: Your full name is Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Forecaster Extraordinary. Do you make other predictions?

A: Call 1-900-ASKPHIL. Operators are standing by.

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