John O'Hurley -- recognized as one of People Magazine's Sexiest Men Alive at one point in his long career -- couldn't get a date to the prom. Or so he claims. But now he's cavorting on stage in Chicago with supermodel turned Broadway actress Christie Brinkley -- another of People's beautiful people. And he's having the time of his life.
Brinkley and O'Hurley bring Chicago to Boston's Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre Nov. 1-4.
"Christie is lovely -- one of the sweetest, most genuine people you'll ever meet. She's stunning, too. And this is coming from a guy who couldn't get a date to his prom -- but now she's sitting on my lap," said O'Hurley last week by phone from Los Angeles.
O'Hurley plays the smooth-talking, give 'em the old razzle dazzle lawyer Billy Flynn to Brinkley's Roxie Hart, the merry murderess who turns the town on its ear in the Tony Award-winning musical.
They performed the show last spring on a West Coast jaunt and are now bringing it to the East Coast.
The suave, debonair O'Hurley, 58, is happy to be back in Chicago, he says.
"I think I may have played Billy Flynn more times than any other actor," he said. "I was just in the 15th anniversary show on Broadway."
While set in the 1920s, Chicago is completely relevant to today's tabloid headlines and celebrities getting away with murder, he noted.
"It's as much a statement of our jurisprudence as it is of the entertainment world today," said O'Hurley. "It's a comment on having the talent to be famous or having any talent at all."
O'Hurley, a Kittery, Maine native, who grew up in Natick, Mass., and West Hartford, Conn., certainly has a talent for acting. And he's known he's wanted to do it since he was 3 years old.
"People would ask me what I wanted to do, and I would tell them, 'Well, I am an actor and that's what I want to be.' It's all I ever wanted to do," said O'Hurley.
He had an affinity for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson growing up and would pretend to be a guest on the show.
"I was so attracted to it, but worried that I would not have any stories to tell Johnny. I would go and watch it on TV as a 10-year-old and get worried," he recalled.
When he finally got to appear on The Tonight Show, Jay Leno had taken over as host.
"During a break in the show, I was kind of in a fog and Jay asked me if I was OK. I told him, 'I'm just saying hello to a 10-year-old kid,' " said O'Hurley.
After graduating from Providence College with a degree in theater, he ended up in New York and got his first big break, so to speak, in Eternal Love, "an abominable musical set in the 13th century. But I got paid as an actor, got my Equity card and an agent, so everything was looking up. I was elevated and never looked back."
His second big break when he landed on Seinfeld from 1995-1998 as John Peterman, a mail order entrepreneur and Elaine's boss.
"That was the biggest thing, I was playing in the big leagues," said O'Hurley. "It turns out I liked the character so much that I bought the company."
Indeed, when J. Peterman Company went through bankruptcy about 12 years ago, he contacted O'Hurley, a venture capitalist, who put up some money. They have been partners ever since.
O'Hurley is truly a Renaissance man. Besides business and acting -- he's done Spamalot, Pirates of Penzance, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Brigadoon -- O'Hurley won Dancing with the Stars, provides his voice in numerous animated features and commercials, hosts the National Dog Show on Thanksgiving Day and composes music. He is the national spokesman for the Epilepsy Foundation, helps many other charities with his philanthropic foundations and serves on the board of trustees of his alma mater. He golfs and enjoys traveling with his wife Lisa and their 5-year-old son William Dylan. And given his New England roots, he's a die-hard Red Sox fan.
He wouldn't have it any other way.
"We're up at 5 a.m. every day and spend a lot of time in planes. I love it," he said.
Nancye Tuttle's email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Hart-breaker
Brinkley by the books
- Christie Brinkley, 58, born Christie Lee Hudson, is an American model and actress.
- First discovered in 1973 by American photographer Errol Sawyer in a post office in Paris, where she was studying art.
- Gained world-wide fame in the late 1970s with three consecutive Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue covers.
- Spent 25 years as the face of Cover Girl makeup.
- Appeared on over 500 major magazine covers.
- Married four times, most notably to musician Billy Joel, from 1985-1994, who wrote "Uptown Girl" in her honor, and to Peter Cook from 1996-2008, with whom she had a widely-publicized, acrimonious divorce.
- First role as an actress in the 1983 hit National Lampoon's Vacation as "the girl in the red Ferrari," opposite Chevy Chase.
- Reprised her role in the 1997 sequel Vegas Vacation.
- Appeared as herself in the documentary King of the Hamptons, which premiered at the 2010 Hamptons International Film Festival.
- Hosted Celebrity Weddings InStyle on Lifetime and Living in the 90s with Christie Brinkley on CNN and appeared on NBC's Mad About You.
- Made her stage debut in April 2011 in Chicago, playing Roxie Hart, reprised it in August 2011 for four weeks in London's West End and appeared in Los Angeles run in the spring of 2012.
- Garnered mixed reviews for her performances. The New York Daily News said she was "long on gams and short on stage chops, a Roxie without much moxie." But a Los Angeles critic praised, "What the supermodel lacked in dancing and singing ability, she made up for in charisma and was right on point."
'Chicago' fun facts
- -- Chicago is in its 16th year of girls, glitz and glamour on the Great White Way, making it the fourth longest-running production in Broadway history.
- -- Tells the story of Roxie Hart, a 1920s housewife and nightclub dancer who murders her on-the-side lover after he threatens to walk out on her.
- -- To avoid conviction, she dupes the public, media and rival cellmate Velma Kelly, by hiring slick criminal lawyer Billy Flynn to transform her crime into sensational headlines, akin to today's tabloids.
- -- Creators include Fred Ebb, John Kander and Bob Fosse.
- -- Won six 1997 Tonys, including Best Musical Revival and Grammy Award for Best Musical Cast Recording.
- -- Tickets for Boston performances are $48.75-$128.75 at www.citicenter.org or call 866-348-9738.