Award winning actor John O’Hurley of Seinfeld and Dancing with the Stars champion is also a successful writer. The Family Feud game show host and Broadway performer has a New York Times Best Seller called It’s Okay to Miss the Bed on the First Jump. The book helps us understand the lessons that humans can learn from their dog’s behavior. John talks about the book’s personal message, Dancing with the Stars, a great charity in Golfers vs. Cancer, and his thoughts on what happened with fellow Seinfeld cast member Michael Richards.
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Chris Yandek: Does having a son and a best selling book in the same month put everything into perspective that I should enjoy life for what it is no matter the ups and downs of my career and the past?
John O’Hurley “Well, that’s a very good point. It’s even more concentrated than that because my son was born at 11:18 one night on December 6th. The following morning, the first call I got was at five o’clock from the East Coast telling me that the book had hit the top fifteen on the New York Times Best Seller List. The two things came within a space of a few hours. Obviously the birth of my son is something I will always…always remember and cherish that one instant that he entered the world and the book is wonderful and I enjoy that, but certainly the birth of my son is the most permanent.”
CY: What I learned by reading this book is that this is really your message about what you’ve been through professionally in the entertainment industry, but also your struggles in life. How do you put those two together when you are telling people about these lessons about dogs, but giving your personal message of what you’ve been through?
JO: “Well, I think the personal message at the core of the book really is that dogs live in the present moment and people tend to forget the present moment and they absorb themselves in the past and the future in terms of expectation and regret and dogs don’t have a sense of that. They just live in the present moment. I think the happiest times a human being can have are when they forget about the future, forget about the past, and just live in the relaxation of moment to moment to moment and let everything take care of itself. Certainly keep both oars in the water and keep rowing, but just trust that there is a direction in your life and that things that you do in the past are to be enjoyed and also forgotten if they are too painful.”
CY: Did you learn anything from your fan base on the book tour or did you learn anything about yourself?
JO: “On the book tour, it’s been extraordinary. I have had some extraordinary moments that people have confessed to me, moments that involve their dogs and private things. There was one gentleman who was interviewing me on a talk show on a radio show, as we took the commercial break he said he never told anybody this before, but three months ago my wife was killed. He said, ‘She and I were talking on a beach and sadly she was hit by a flying tree limb believe it or not that had broken off from a tree, hit her on the head, and killed her.’ It was just eye opening. He said, ‘The dog that was with me, the Golden Retriever knew what do while I ran for help, and he put his neck right on her neck to keep her warm.’ The paramedics had to pull the dog off the woman, he wouldn’t leave her. It’s just an extraordinary story about a dog knowing what do.”
CY: Would you have learned many of these life lessons without the dogs you have come across that you talk about in the book?
JO: “Well, I truly believe that God has planted life lessons in everything that’s around us. If you look at the way the flowers bloom, if you look at the way the weather works, if you watch the ocean. All creates great and small, the lessons of life are out there. I just happened to have chosen what I think is an easier exposition and that would be the world of dogs.”
CY: One example early in the book you write, “But to make the journey, to go through life and call it at your own, you have to be heard. You have to bark.” Is the bark the ability to speak up and communicate or is it something more than that?
JO: “Well, it’s a sense of presence. I think one of the saddest things is to go through life like it’s a dress rehearsal. When I say have a bark, it’s about developing your presence in the world and saying, what I choose, what I imagine, how I speak, my concerns are important or as important as anyone else’s. That’s what I mean by having a bark. Every dog has a bark naturally. They all have a presence in the world and they know that just instinctively that the bark is their sense of hey I am here, I exist, my concerns are important, listen to me. I think that’s kinda the deeper message about developing a bark.”
CY: What’s the one message you feel people would take away from this book overall?
JO: “I think as I say, the core message is to live in the present moment and that’s the thing dogs teach us. We spend so much time in yoga and in meditation and vacations and trying to remove ourselves from the compression of time. If we just look to the way our dogs react to us, they live moment to moment to moment, because of that, they are able to give everything. The wonderful gift you can give from one human being to another is attention, just to look them straight in the eye and make them think that this moment is the most important in the world. It’s what a dog does to you 24 hours a day. The give us all of their attention and we give them spare time.”
CY: You were part of the first season of Dancing with the Stars which was pretty much being tested to see if it could succeed. How does it feel now looking back to have been the beginning of something that has become so big and is going to a fourth season in March?
JO: “Well, between that and Seinfeld, I think I am the luckiest human being on Earth to have been in the presence of two great pieces of television. It was a life changing experience for me both in terms of the mental exhaustion and physical exhaustion and also the chance really to take a leap. Whether I missed the bed on the first jump or not wasn’t important it’s just that I took the leap. I think that’s what I walked away from Dancing with the Stars with. It was ok no matter whether 25 million people were watching, you’re with your Achilles heel out there and your inability to dance. The fact that you just went there and tried it and you can look at the world and say at least I galloped when did you?”
CY: You and your dance partner from the show Charlotte Jorgensen have even made a three part instructional dance DVD which you can get at www.johnohurley.com. Tell me about the DVD and how did having Charlotte as a dance partner help you overall besides the weight loss?
JO: “Charlotte is one of the most gracious artists I have ever met and or performed with. She’s a pure artist. She loves the art of dance and has given her life to it. She is one of the top ballroom dancers in the world and certainly retired now, but she was number one in several dance forms, and to get to that level and the top of the world, you have to have an extraordinary sense of discipline and on top of that she is an extraordinary teacher, probably one of the best. I think she alone was the reason I did as well as I did in Dancing with the Stars. The fact that she was able to communicate everything about dance at the level I understood it.”
CY: Tell me about your charity work that you do with Golfers vs. Cancer which is one of those charities that’s really close to your heart.
JO: “Golfers against Cancer was probably the most unique organization that there is in terms of fundraising for cancer right now. What we provide is the seed money, the early money for the most promising cancer research projects, and that is the big bottleneck in the entire world of the search for cure for cancer that many of these wonderful ideas are slow to get off the ground because it takes two or three years to get a government grant just for the initial 100,000 or 200,000 dollars they need to get going. We remove that bottleneck and instead of taking two to three years, now it takes two to three weeks so we can get them the money directly. We have a team of some of the best doctors in the country that are advising on what are the most promising projects. The beauty of this organization is that there is no infrastructure, there is no paid staff, it’s all volunteers, and every cent, every single penny that is raised is targeted right to cancer research.”
CY: We all know you for your award winning role as J Peterman on Seinfeld. Was it hard to move on when the show ended?
JO: “It was so hard to move on from Seinfeld because I always knew the best part of my career would happen when Seinfeld ended with the exposure from the show and the syndication. It had given me a level of recognition that I could use and move on with. It made me sad to kind of give the character up because I love that character. I thought he was one of the most interesting. It was such an enjoyable thing to walk into the table and reading each week and see a brand new script and some writer’s brand new idea on the foils and adventures of J Peterman and I miss that. That is the part I miss the most.”
CY: I am sure you spent some time with him while on the show. What do you think happened to Michael Richards?
JO: “Well, it’s tough to say what happens to any one person at any one moment in their life. It’s like some people handle anger differently and sometimes we say things that we don’t mean. I know Michael to be a very intense and one of the most talented physical comedians I have ever worked with in my life. I like to remember him that way. I don’t like to think about the rant that he threw on stage that night. I don’t think it’s indicative of him at all. It’s so uncharacteristic of him, but it was said and sadly Michael has to live with the consequences of it now, but as I say, my memories of him are very fond and one of the most extraordinary comedians that I have ever worked with.”
CY: Finally, how are you enjoying Family Feud and what else do you have coming up career wise?
JO: “I am enjoying Family Feud immensely. It is one of the great joys I have stumbled upon. I was lucky to get it and the ratings are up about 40 percent now so it’s nice, the brand new look of the show and the gamble that Fremantle took on the show is paying off. I think it’s a show that will be around for another 20 years and I hope I am still with it. In terms of new projects, I will be moving out to Las Vegas in a few weeks and I’ll begin rehearsals for the Broadway musical Spamalot, which I will be opening at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. I will be there through early September. I am looking forward to that because now I have spent half my year on television and half of my year on Broadway and this year I am lucky to have Broadway come to me to Las Vegas.”
You can purchase a copy of It’s Okay to Miss the Bed on the First Jump and find out more information at the following link:
John O’Hurley will be playing King Arthur in the Broadway Musical Spamalot starting March 31, 2007 at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.
John O’Hurley is also the host of the long running game show Family Feud. You can check out www.familyfeud.com for more information.
You can find further information about John O’Hurley at his official website www.johnohurley.com.