How hard could it be to get Bill Murray to show up to at an annual Groundhog Day celebration in the nation's capital? Aaron DeNu says that, even with short notice, "I think we have a chance."
DeNu launched D.C.'s now-annual tribute to the soothsaying animal two years ago. He's hoping this year's event will entice Murray, who starred in the classic, and profound, "Groundhog Day," to attend.
"I think one in 100," he tells HuffPost, putting the odds that high because Murray is out promoting a new film -- "The Monuments Men" -- for which he's been undertaking some unorthodox publicity stunts, and because an exhibition relating to the movie will be opening at the Smithsonian on Feb. 7, a mere five days after the big day itself.
DeNu has convinced a handful of local businesses to donate goods and services which would make Murray's visit more appealing: a quirky boutique hotel has offered to put him up and a bookstore/restaurant frequented by the president has offered to feed him.
In 2011 when DeNu launched the event, he originally had a more feral star in mind: a live groundhog, which he planned to call Potomac Phil. DeNu thought he'd tell people that Potomac Phil is a brother of Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil; that the two are both genetically blessed weather-rodents.
That plan eventually petered out. DeNu contacted various groups he thought might have a spare to lend out, and learned that groundhogs may be common, but this time of year they are also mostly hibernating. A stuffed groundhog, purchased from a D.C. vintage store -- yet also said to be able to see its shadow, and thus to adjudge the sort of winter Washington will enjoy -- has stood in a live animal's place.
Regarding this endeavor, while DeNu doesn't mark his chances of luring Murray as especially promising, "I'm going to keep at it," he says. "As Bill Murray's best friend said, 'Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!'"
The attempts, thus far, have mainly entailed looking for the 1-800 number on which Murray is said to check messages. GQ reported in 2010 that the actor will return calls for propositions he finds "interesting."
Easy enough, except this time the problem is that DeNu doesn't know, specifically, what 1-800 number to call.
"So, I've been on a quest to find that number," he says. "Along the way, I've left some awkward messages on different 1-800 numbers that I believed to be his. I spoke into the AT&T toll free line for 30 minutes searching different names. Using search criteria such as names of characters Bill Murray has portrayed in film. And I've reached out to an accountant in New York that is rumored to be in contact with him. I try every day, but it seems like I’m having the same day over and over again."
Still, it could be so easy for Murray to help DeNu make things right. "Bill can email me at DupontFestival@gmail.com," he says, "and if he can be in Dupont Circle Park on Sunday, Feb. 2 at 7:30 a.m. it would be beautiful."