10 Questions with… John O’Hurley

You’ve hosted The National Dog Show Presented by Purina every year since 2002. Why do you keep coming back year after year?

My wife and I look at the day, which is usually around Nov. 18 or 19 in Philadelphia, as the greatest day of the year. We get to spend it with 2,000 of the best-trained dogs in the country — over 200 breeds! The energy is always powerful and upbeat. 

Why do you think dogs are so special?

Dogs give off wonderful vibrations, and I think we, as humans, pick them up. When you’re in an elevator with 10 people and one dog, everybody focuses on the dog. He makes everybody smile, and everybody’s got something nice to say. Dogs do wonderful things for us. 

Are you a dog owner yourself?

We’ve always had a dog. I wrote in my first book that I’m a better person with a dog in my lap. Right now, we have two rescues and a purebred that we’ve had for about 14 years.

You’re famous for playing J. Peterman on “Seinfeld,” and you’re a part owner of the company today. Do people mistake you for the real J. Peterman?

I refer to it as the world’s greatest act of identity theft. For the many years that the real John Peterman and I were on the board of directors of the J. Peterman Company together, we would have our board meetings in New York. He and I would go out for lunch and walk up Madison Avenue. Sure enough, it wouldn’t be more than 50 feet before some cop would roll down his window and scream, “Hey, Peterman!” And he was talking to me, not John Peterman.  

A new generation became familiar with you from “Dancing with the Stars.” What has that been like?

Yeah, I’ve been lucky to put my fingers through the belt loops of some incredible franchises. Starting with “Seinfeld,” then “Dancing with the Stars,” “To Tell the Truth,” “Family Feud” and then finally, the National Dog Show. Any one of them would make a career, and I’ve been lucky to join a long rumba line with all of them.

Out of all your credits — you’ve hosted game shows, voiced animated characters, written three bestselling books and put out two albums — is there a highlight?

I had a Broadway career for 15 years. I did over 2,000 performances as the lead in “Chicago” on Broadway, and over 1,000 as King Arthur in Monty Python’s “Spamalot” on Broadway and also in Vegas. I think my stay in Las Vegas, when I was doing King Arthur for two years at the Wynn Theater, was one of the most remarkable times in my life. 

What made that role so special?

I was doing “Family Feud” at the same time, so I was flying back and forth twice a day to get those things accomplished. It was also shortly after the birth of my son, so it was a wonderful, emotionally fulfilling period. To have a newborn grow up backstage was fun, too, because he picked up a lot. I think a lot of his personality comes from being around colorful people.

You’ve been involved with the nonprofit Childhelp for many years and come to Arizona frequently for it. How did you get involved with the organization?

Through going to their Drive the Dream fundraising gala. Once invited, I was overwhelmed by the calling that these two women have taken on in their lives — the challenge of becoming the most forceful child abuse resistance in America — in the world, actually. It’s extraordinary what they’ve accomplished with the millions of kids they have saved over the 60-plus years they’ve been doing it.

When you come to Arizona, what do you like to do?  

I married into a golf family, so golf is a big part of our dynamic. My wife’s parents have a place at the Biltmore Estates, so golf is always in the mix.

You’ve written three books of dog-related observations. What’s the most important lesson dogs have taught you?

If you look at all the stress in human life, it’s always because we are too concerned about the future or too worried about the past. Dogs live in the present moment and help to quiet us down. When you have your hands on a dog’s back, just quietly petting them, you have a tendency not to think in terms of time. You let the present experience become what’s important.  

About Karen Werner

Karen Werner is the editor of Frontdoors Media. She is a writer, editor and media consultant. She has interned at The New Yorker, worked at Parents Magazine, edited five books and founded several local magazines. Her work has appeared in Sunset, Mental Floss and the Saturday Evening Post.
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