All the right moves
Actor John O'Hurley, fresh from conquering the dance floor, also has a stage show, a game show, a new CD and a clothing company. Oh, and a baby on the way.
By MARTY CLEAR
Published June 25, 2006
For most guys, being named one of the sexiest men alive would be a pretty huge accomplishment. For John O'Hurley, it ranks maybe seventh or eighth on the list of cool things that have happened to him of late.
"It's been really amazing," he said in a phone interview from California's Simi Valley, where he was running a charity golf tournament. "I have to pinch myself every morning."
Besides being recognized for his sex appeal by People magazine in 2005, O'Hurley, 51, has become perhaps the world's most famous ballroom dancer, thanks to winning top honors on Dancing With the Stars. He has just landed a gig as the new host of Family Feud. In a bizarre case of life imitating art, he bought the J. Peterman Co. after portraying J. Peterman for many years on Seinfeld. He has a CD of his original compositions coming out soon. And he's playing Billy Flynn in the touring production of Chicago, which begins a six-day run at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center on Tuesday.
It's heady stuff. But to O'Hurley, it's all secondary to the fact that he and his wife are expecting their first child later this year.
O'Hurley has been playing Flynn, the conniving lawyer in Chicago, on Broadway since the beginning of the
year. The Tampa performances will be among his first stops as he joins the road show.
"I love it," he said. "I think Billy Flynn is one of the great roles for the theater."
For an actor, he said, Chicago is a daunting but inviting challenge.
"It's all about the performances," he said. "There's no set, and the way the show is constructed, it's really completely shaped by the performers. So every production is different because the cast is different."
As thrilled as he is to be playing a role associated with Richard Gere, O'Hurley says he's even more psyched about stepping into the role created by Richard Dawson. In July, he'll start taping Family Feud. His first shows will air in September.
He spent two years as the host of To Tell the Truth, and he can't wait to get back into the game show saddle.
"People say, 'What was the best job you ever had in show business?' and I always say that it was hosting a game show," O'Hurley said. "I love the spontaneity of the moment that forces you to really listen to people."
But it was his role on Seinfeld that changed his life the most, bringing him widespread recognition and an entry into the business world.
No one involved with Seinfeld had contacted the real-life J. Peterman before O'Hurley started portraying him. Peterman's lawyers contacted the show about the parody but almost immediately realized it would bring the company more publicity than they could imagine.
A morning show on Fox decided it would be fun to have O'Hurley and Peterman on the show together.
"I didn't know him when I started doing the parody," O'Hurley said. "Actually, I met him onstage, on camera. They had kept us apart. But we became instant friends."
The J. Peterman Co. tried to expand rapidly while Seinfeld was on the air, O'Hurley said, and when the show ended, sales declined, leaving the company heavily in debt.
"I actually bought the company out of bankruptcy with the money I had made on Seinfeld," O'Hurley said.
Chicago at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center's Carol Morsani Hall, Tuesday through July 2. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 7:30 p.m. Sunday. $30.50-$66.50 plus service charge. (813) 229-7827 or www.tbpac.org.