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  • 19 Dec 2014

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Bits&Pieces: His kind of town

John O’Hurley, an actor who you would recognize immediately when seeing his face on television, says he likes the description of “renaissance man” — which he is.

“I absolutely do,” he says, before adding jokingly, “but it gives renaissance a bad name.”

Television shows, including sitcoms (“Seinfeld”), soap operas (“All My Children”) and game shows (“Family Feud”), movies, voice-overs, commercials, “Dancing with the Stars” champ, musicals, books, albums, charities, entrepreneur, husband and father, single-handicap golfer, a member of People magazine’s “Sexiest Men Alive” — you name it, the 58-year-old New England native has

done it. He comes to Portland playing Billy Flynn in the Broadway production of “Chicago,” Sept. 3 through 8 at Keller Auditorium.

It’s a role he has played about 1,000 times, a well-meaning attorney representing the notorious performers Velma and Roxie. And, it’s a role he thoroughly enjoys, although he sees the irony in the law protecting celebrities — it happens all the time in Hollywood, he says.

“It’s a very engaging story about gray morality,” he says. “Not about right or wrong, but gray morality. People are much more forgiving of celebrities. If you can turn a criminal into a celebrity, it doesn’t seem as bad. “So, it’s very contemporary. ‘You can do that, if you’re a celebrity, you’re forgiven.’ ”

Indeed, O’Hurley, the common man’s actor, says Hollywood has become rife with the “cheapening” of celebrity.

“There’s a bad boy mentality in Hollywood,” he says. “I try to play against that. I try to be elegant and well-spoken and live my life that way. Now, (Hollywood) is grungier and tattoo-ridden.”

But, it’s been part of his career, which extends back 30 years. You’d know him best from “Seinfeld,” on which he played J. Peterman — and then he bought into the real J. Peterman’s catalog business. He also hosted “Family Feud” for six years. His list of credits extends seemingly forever, as he calls the likes of Scott Bakula and Barry Bostwick among his “competition” for the male actors who have endured and “developed images of themselves.”

He enjoys the stage, also starring in productions of “Spamalot” in the past.

“It’s extraordinarily rewarding,” O’Hurley says. “I love the ambiance, the elegant way to work. TV and film are more editors’ mediums, not actors’ mediums; it’s not gratifying, although financially remunerative. The excitement of (stage show time) 8 o’clock rolling around — once it starts, it doesn’t stop. There’s an authenticity to it.”

Rally against Alzheimer’s

On National Grandparents Day, Sept. 8, the Alzheimer’s Association Oregon Chapter puts on the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which includes education on the disease, advocacy opportunities, clinical trial enrollment, and support programs and services. Walkers will be given an opportunity to do a testimonial and receive a “Promise Garden Flower” to remember/honor/care to fight Alzheimer’s.

Registration begins at noon, with the walk beginning at 2 p.m. at Portland International Raceway, 1940 N. Victory Blvd. There’ll also be a classic car show, kids zone and care community bus parade. For info: alz.org/walk.

Crossing the Willamette

The Portland Challenge returns Sept. 8, as folks traverse the Willamette River without the use of money, motors or bridges — meaning, they’ll swim.

Registration begins at noon at the Slammer Tavern, 500 S.E. Eighth Ave., and river crossing will be from 3 to 4 p.m. An afterparty at the Slammer features Karaoke From Hell, Big Duck, Los Chinches and Le Onde Del Cielo.

Proceeds from the event — donations — will help launch “Nangu’s Grocery,” an income-generation gathering place and store in Babati, Tanzania, as well as fund a theatrical production in Portland, “Diary of a Madman.”

The Portland Challenge was conceived by Jay Boss Rubin and Liakos Ariston in 2003, and it went through 2007.

For info: portlandchallenge.blogspot.com.

KISS and football

KISS, which includes guitarist Tommy Thayer from Beaverton (featured in last week’s Tribune, portlandtribune.com), recently became part owners of a new Arena Football League team in Los Angeles — the L.A. KISS — and have promised to make games a rock ‘n’ roll atmosphere.

Thayer will be partly involved.

“To a certain extent. We’re all involved,” he says, of famous bandmates Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, and drummer Eric Singer. “I’ve always been a sports fan and aficionado. I grew up loving baseball and, of course, basketball with the Trail Blazers. I’ve always loved golf. I love the major sports; haven’t spent a lot of time watching Arena Football. It’s a quicker game, I understand.”