John O'Hurley is best known for playing J. Peterman for nearly five years on Seinfeld, but if that is all you know, you are missing out on many great facets of this amazing man. Post Seinfeld he has written two best selling books, two best selling CD's and hosted Family Feud for four years, starred on Broadway, oh, and somewhere in there he became part owner of the J. Peterman Catalog. In researching him I found out two things, there is nothing this man is not good at, and he is a really nice guy. I caught up with John at his home in L. A.
O'Hurley was a part of what many people consider the greatest sitcom of all time and he tells me they knew what they were doing was great. “If you think of Jackie Gleason looking back over his shoulder years afterwards people claiming The Honeymooner's was the greatest show of all time, they didn't know that while they were doing it. The thing about Seinfeld is while you were there you just had a feeling you were just in a different show. You just had a sense you were walking into the cathedral of comedy.”
On Seinfeld, O'Hurley played J. Peterman the eccentric owner of the catalog bearing his name that sells rare clothing and accessories with extravagant prose as descriptions. “The Catalog was parodied by the show without permission and they literally had to go back afterwards and say 'is it ok if we do this' and Peterman was smart enough to know that it was great press for them.” So good in fact that Peterman rapidly expanded and began opening storefronts. The expansion was to aggressive and the company didn't survive.“Six Months after Seinfeld ended they went into Chapter Eleven and lost the intellectual property. They got it back and about a year later John Peterman called me and said we are putting the company back together, you want to do it from our parallel strengths? I said 'sure' and we have been up and running since 1999.”
Since his teen years O'Hurley has been composing music for the piano which he taught himself to play. “It is probably the most personal part of my life, I am a self taught musician and I don't read music especially well, I just sit down and compose in my head, as long as I have been composing, they are all just sitting on the hard drive in my head.” People told O'Hurley they was an audience for the music in his head and he began thinking of a project that would bring his music out of his head and into the world. “I met one of the top electronic cellist in the World, a very unusual man named Marston, and I just found that listening to his music was a nice blend with the stuff I did, so we merged our stuff together.” In 2004 he released a two CD set called Peace of out Minds which showcased his original compositions in tandem with famed cellist Marston Smith. “I literally produced and distributed everything myself, and no one was more surprised than me when I got a call saying you debuted at number thirteen on Billboard.” His follow up CD made it to Number Two.
As famous as his role as Peterman on Seinfeld is his love for dogs. “I have had a dog in my lap ever since I was a child.” His own dogs inspired his writing two best selling books, including It's Okay to Miss the Bed on the First Jump: And Other Life Lessons I Learned from Dogs. I love this because on most days I would prefer to be with dogs over people, I find dogs generally smarter, more considerate and compassionate than most people I encounter on a daily basis. Lessons found in his book bear me out. “One is a chapter called When Someone Stops Petting You, Move On. As human beings we have a tendency to become addicted to bad things, in relationships especially. Dogs are very good about that, when someone stops petting them, they just move on to the next person. It's a sense of being able to let go and that is a very important lesson I think they teach us. The other lesson I think is important is a chapter called Every Fifteen Minutes is a Brand New Day. Dogs have no sense of past or future, they live totally in the present moment. To me that is just about the greatest gift you can give another person, to just keep them in the present moment, rather than worrying about all the phobias and all of the problems we have in our lives because we are dealing with the compression of time. If you are either worried about what's gone on in the past or you are worrying about what may happen in the future you are totally missing the electricity and the vibrancy of the present moment. Dogs don't know any different, they live every second as it passes by.”
As if that weren't enough, add to the resume Dancing With The Stars. O'Hurley won the inaugural season of the hugely popular show, and confirms the rumors that it is an extremely tough experience. “I describe DWTS as nine parts Marine boot camp and one part cocktail party. It is the most difficult thing to do and every once in a while you get to dress up and dance around the floor. The video clips that you see on television don't give you an indication of how hard it is. I would wring out three t-shirts everyday soaking wet, I lost twenty pounds, it just rips it right off you.”
Next for O'Hurley is this summer's tour of Kander and Ebb's Chicago in which he reprises the role he played on Broadway, Lawyer Billy Flynn. The two month tour brings him to Fort Worth and Bass Hall. “I am really excited about going into the Bass Hall, I hear that is just an extraordinary place to perform, I am really excited about that.”
Chicago has everything that makes Broadway great: a universal tale of fame and fortune; one show stopping song after another; and choreography by the legendary Bob Fosse. Chicago starring John O'Hurley comes to Dallas' Winspear Opera House August 14th-26th. Tickets are $30.00-$150.00 and are available at www.attpac.org
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