Willard Scott May Someday Feel Heat from a Frisky Competitor—Oregon's Bob the Weather Cat
07/18/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT
Every Friday night, thousands of VCRs in the Portland, Ore., area are programmed to record station KATU from 6:50 to 6:52 p.m. That's when weatherman David Apple gives his weekend forecast, but it isn't Apple the viewers have taken a shine to. Instead, it's Bob the Weather Cat. While most stations show beautiful sunsets or breathtaking scenery as a backdrop to the forecast, Channel 2 shows Bob. A 16-lb. gray feline of uncertain ancestry, Bob dresses for the weather—perhaps sunglasses and a sailor suit if sunshine is predicted, or earmuffs and a scarf if snow is on the way. Bob also makes sartorial note of special occasions. At Christmas he dresses as Santa, on St. Patrick's Day as a leprechaun, and recently, when members of the Bolshoi were in town, he was ready for a paw de deux in tutu and ballet slippers.
Bob's rise to cult fame is purely nepotistic. A stray, he was found in 1983 by KATU news cameraman Bob Foster, 30. Three years ago, while Foster was trying to come up with a picturesque weather shot, he filmed the cat sitting under a tree. Audience response was such that Bob's filmed segments have appeared nearly every week since.
The sole exception occurred two years ago, when his appearance was deemed too lighthearted for a report on a tidal-wave warning. "By 7 o'clock the switchboard was jammed," says Apple. "One lady said, 'I just want you to know you ruined my evening because I invited six couples over for a Bob party.' " Other signs of Bob's celebrity: his bumper stickers, buttons and a new line of greeting cards; his own P.O. box number; and the 4,000 letters he has received so far, including several marriage proposals from feline fans who apparently can't resist a guy in uniform.
Bob's competition tends to get a little catty. "He's had no impact on us," asserts KOIN weatherman Phil Volker. "Channel 2 is so far behind us in the ratings, I'm sure the cat hasn't helped them one bit." But Bob earns grudging respect at his own station. "You really have to keep your ego in check," says KATU anchorman Paul Linnman, "when you realize a cat is getting more mail than you."