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Nearly 30 years later, “Groundhog Day” still casts its spell

On the fateful evening of August 8, 1998, two of the greatest characters this city has ever known shared a microphone at Wrigley Field. This marked the first night game in Wrigley history and the conversation was lively.

Harry Caray asked, “Have you ever considered broadcasting baseball as a thing after you got tired of being the big star of movies, stage, television?”

Bill Murray replied: “I think when I lose my mind completely, I’ll come back to the cabin with you.”

These two only talked for a few minutes minute. Murray talked about his upcoming movie “Scrooged,” and Caray asked about Murray’s mother, Lucille.

Murray was several years away from making what many consider his best film, “Groundhog Day,” which was shot in Woodstock and released theatrically in 1993 and remained a part of the fabric of this quaint northwest suburban town for many years. engraved metal plaques symbolizing key scenes from the film and host celebrations each year.

Years festivities It starts on February 1st and continues until February 4th. There are walking tours, movie screenings, breakfast and dinner dancing, storytelling, bingo and, of course, prophecy on offer at 7 a.m. on February 2nd. when a mole gets into a big crowd and a lot of noise and looks for his shadow. (You may have forgotten, if the groundhog sees its shadow, that means six more weeks of bad winter; if you don’t, then that means six more weeks of fine weather).

There will be a groundhog in Chicago that day, too, because there’s a new “Groundhog Day” celebration this year at the Harry Caray oasis at Navy Pier. The movie, which will start on February 2 at 15.00, will feature actors such as Brian Doyle-Murray, Stephen Tobolowsky, Marita Geraghty, Robin Duke, David Pasquesi, Peggy Roeder and Richard Henzel. The mole named Chicago Harry will make the “prediction”. Councilman Brendan Reilly will read a proclamation declaring Harold Ramis Day in Chicago, and there will be a film screening, other events and film-related food and drinks.

This Navy Pier party was born to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the death of Chicago native Harold Ramis, who directed and co-wrote (with Danny Rubin) the film.

The idea for this event came from Grant DePorter, who as CEO of Harry Caray’s Restaurant Group oversaw the operations of seven restaurants, was a tireless and creative supporter of those restaurants, and was a keeper of the publisher’s flame, who died in 1998.

“I grew up here at the Hyatt Regency (her father, Don, was a manager at the hotel chain),” she tells me. We had access to something called SpectraVision. This was before broadcast, so I was the only person I knew who had uninterrupted access to the movies. “I watched the movies to the point where I could quote every line.”

Ramis’ films — including “Animal House,” “Caddyshack,” “Stripes” and “Ghostbusters” — were his favorites, and his favorite was “Groundhog Day.” When Harry Caray’s opened on the pier in 2010, Ramis was understandably excited when he became a partner.

“Harold passed away 10 years ago this February and I thought this would be a great way to celebrate his life.”

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Ramis’ widow, Erica Mann Ramis, is also scheduled to attend the event. She is the mother of two sons. He also had two daughters with his first wife, Ann Plotkin. One of them, Violet Ramis Stiel, lives in New York with her husband and children. She is a fascinating person and the author of a wonderful (honest, funny and touching) book about her father. with title “The Ghost Hunter’s Daughter: Living with My Father, Harold Ramis” (Blue Rider Press), released 2018.

He writes that when he was 14 years old, he spent a chilly April week on the set in Woodstock during the filming of the movie. When I met him years later, he told me that “Groundhog Day” was “probably the most beloved and respected film of my father’s career.” But in the book, he details how the film shattered the friendship between his father and his godfather, Murray.

“(Bill) and my father disagreed about the tone of the film,” he writes. They had several arguments on set; One of these was when my father lost his temper in an unusual way, grabbed Bill by the collar and pinned him against the wall. “Eventually, Bill completely shut out my father for the next 20-plus years.”

This upset and confused Ramis, but there was a compromise. Stiel writes: “In classic Bill fashion, he arrived home unannounced at 7 a.m. with a police escort and a dozen donuts. “Dad couldn’t talk much at that point, so they didn’t get to the bottom of what was going on or go back and rehash old things, but they spent a few hours together, laughed a little and made their peace.”

It’s a heartwarming story and perhaps people will share it at upcoming celebrations. Remember that Bill Murray is among the most difficult celebrities to find in the world. It shows up in the most unlikely places and is often nowhere to be seen where one might expect it. He is refreshingly unpredictable. Both he and his “Groundhog Day” co-star Andie MacDowell were invited to the Harry Caray event. Some hope they come, some hope the mole doesn’t see their shadow. There are no guarantees in this life. Or, as Stiel once told me, “Perhaps the simplest and most useful thing my father taught me was: Life is messy.”

“Groundhog Day: Celebrating the Life of Harold Ramis” on February 2 at 3 p.m. at Harry Caray’s Tavern Navy Pier; More information at www.harrycarays.com

rkogan@chicagotribune.com

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