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Byline: Nancy Imperiale Wellons
He may be a sponge, but he is also da man.
SpongeBob SquarePants is the hottest sponge to rise to pop culture prominence since Kato Kaelin.
Soaking up monster ratings for Nickelodeon_it's the second-highest rated children's TV program, averaging about 3 million viewers a week_the show is a hit, but not only with its intended kid audience.
College campuses have gone crazy for SpongeBob. An A-list of celebrities, including Sigourney Weaver, Rob Lowe, Bruce Willis, Tony Bennett and `N Sync's Lance Bass, have either expressed public homage for SpongeBob or contacted Nick for SpongeBob goodies for their kids.
Those who mention an association with the program often find themselves besieged on airplanes and in shopping malls. The actor who voices SpongeBob has been hounded like Santa Claus by starstruck youngsters.
The show's namesake, a grinning yellow sponge, is the star of an ever-growing line of merchandise, including plush toys with removable pants. He has his own milk ad. He's even a Cheese Nip. This month, he's set for that ultimate honor_being dropped into every Burger King Kids' Meal.
The future looks even brighter for the gap-toothed character, with more SpongeBob prominence on the Nick schedule planned and a feature film being discussed.
The fact that some of you may be scratching your heads at …