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Actor John O'Hurley is probably best know for his role on Seinfeld. He's also the beloved host of the National Dog Show in Philadelphia held each November. The show takes place this year at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks from November 16-17. The National Dog Show is hosted by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia and airs on NBC10 on Thanksgiving Day following the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
How does an actor get involved with canines? When did you start hosting the National Dog Show?
I started in 2002 in almost a practical joke way. I had no idea about a dog show, didn't know anything about them. NBC asked, do you want to host a national dog show? My career has never been waiting for the phone to ring. The phone rings and all of a sudden it takes you for a left turn. Hosting the dog show has been a strange turn in my eclectic career. Actually, it’s just bizarre when I think of all the different things I’ve done as an actor and entertainer. It’s tough to hit a moving target like me.
Do you have a dog?
I have had a dog since I remember, my entire life. Our first family dog was named Taffy. I felt the dog was mine. It was my little companion. Now I have a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Havanese. I always have a great time with my dogs.
Share a lesson from your third book, "The Perfect Dog."
It's my first children's book. Dogs live in the present moment. They have no sense of past or future. They give you their full attention. I think that’s an extraordinary lesson. They are not trying to look for more engaging conversation in the room. Living in the present moment is the most important thing they teach us. When someone stops petting you, move on to the next.
When did you begin acting?
I set foot in New York City in 1981 after taking a five year break out of college. I went into public relations and advertising. I resigned after five years. All I wanted to be was a working actor. I would have been happy to be at any theater as an actor. Low and behold a lot of stuff started to happen.
Forty-eight hours after I arrived in New York City, I got cast in a Broadway show called “Eternal Love.” It was about as bad as it got, but it got me everything I wanted. I got everything out of it, an agent and into the union. It was such an Epiphany moment. Then, I went from Broadway to daytime television. In 1983, I was cast in my first soap opera, "The Edge of Night." Then, I went over to "Loving."
Did your family support your acting career?
They were very nervous for me. My dad is a doctor and my mom is in love with one. Gradually, they became supportive. When my mother would go into the grocery store and see my name on the cover on the soap magazines. Then they knew I'd be alright.
How has life imitated art for you?
Well, I thought playing the character J. Peterman on "Seinfeld" was just so much fun. J. Peterman is resurrected in other characters I've played like King Arthur in Spamalot, both are raving lunatics and legends in their minds. The irony is that I'm now a co-owner of the J. Peterman clothing company. It's one of the greatest acts of identify theft ever. I'm also a private venture capitalist. I own an energy company that takes waste and turns it into large amounts of energy with zero omissions. Energy Inc., there's nothing in the world like it. It's the cleanest of green tech.
When did you know acting was going to be your career?
I knew from the age of three what I wanted to do with my life. When people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would put my hands on my hips and point at the television and say, "I am an actor and that’s what I’m going to be."
Do you have any insecurities?
I grew up with an incredible sense of stage fright. I always battled that early on, even through the early part of my career. I had an anxiety about getting on stage. It disappeared one night. I gave myself an ultimatum and said to myself -- If you are going to continue being an actor, you are going to walk on stage and you are going to have fun.
I tell myself that I’m going to surprise myself ever time I go on stage. I really do think sometime each night I'm going to be surprised. This keeps me fresh. I say the same little prayer.
What show are you in now?
"Chicago" the musical on tour. I play the lead in my 8th year on tour. The role got so much deeper and complicated over the years. I’ve done over 1,000 performances and four stints on Broadway. I keep it fresh with the "surprise" mindset. I have no sense of predestination and know that something is going to hit me.
What's on your bucket list?
Reviving the play "Man of La Mancha" and playing in "Equus."