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Originally published Friday, April 24, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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John Curley, "Evening Magazine" host, signs off

John Curley sits for an exit interview at the end of his 14-year run as host of TV's "Evening Magazine."

Seattle Times staff reporter

Tonight in Prime Time

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The timing is priceless:

A car pulls over and the eager-looking woman inside shouts a question at John Curley. He's used to this. He's Seattle's quintessential Local Celebrity after 14 years hosting TV's "Evening Magazine" and more public appearances than, say, hydrogen. He gamely turns and approaches the car with that Omnipresent Smile and a "How ya doin'?"

She only wanted directions.

We laugh riotously because we'd just finished what was effectively his exit interview. The tirelessly upbeat and jocular Curley, 47, said King 5 Television told him several months ago that his contract wouldn't be renewed, but he declined to go into further detail. His final show was Thursday. But he described what looks to be a busy — and public — future.

Q: Were people lining up to be your successor like the 1,400 for the meter-reader job in Tacoma?

A: How about that? I saw that today. And the sad thing is that we only got 600 people applied for my job.

Q: Have they decided who will be stepping into your ... teeth?

A: They haven't said. Maybe hiring from within, possibly from within.

Q: The first thing I noticed when I met you in person is that you give off palpable energy. What are you taking?

A: I get up early and I exercise like a maniac. I'm a weirdo for exercise, and it's one of the many things that friends hate about me.

Q: Are you always on, then?

A: No.

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Q: Is there a brooding John Curley who sits around in the dark with a bottle of single malt watching Fassbinder movies?

A: Oh, I wish. I wish I had a VCR at home. I do drink single malt. I love single malt Scotch. But I don't brood. But I have realized that if you're going to be on television, that if you're going to do something in the public, the public doesn't care if you don't feel well or if you have a cold or whatever. They want you to perform. They want you to smile, and they want you to be happy. And I remember some days shooting the show — I remember one particular very, really, really horrible day ... it was probably the worst day of my life and I didn't call in sick, and I shot the show. And I watched it at home the next night and I thought, you know what? You can't even tell. That's probably a little scary — that you can switch off and switch on.

Q: When you look back over the last 14 years ... here, would you mind finishing that sentence?

A: Here is the beauty of it: every single day I got to say pretty much what I wanted. I had to just stick to a certain amount of time. They gave me great rein to just be myself. The frustrating part is, having to rely on the ratings every single couple of months, to be always looking at the ratings and wondering: Oh my gosh, how are we doing? Are we still going to be around? Life on the bubble is really, really, really tiring and stressful, and eventually you become used to it. But I think I'll be free of it and it'll feel great.

Q: Favorite interview?

A: Sitting in a dirty, tiny little hut in Fiji with this old man who must have been anywhere between 80 and 6,000 years old. His hands were rough and dirty and he had this apple, and he cut the apple into sections sitting on his bare feet, sharing it with myself and John Stofflet. It's probably the only possession he had in the world. And he sat there and talked to us about, "This apple would mean nothing if I didn't have you to share it with." It was a great, great, great, great moment. I thought, This guy has got it.

Q: Now let's look to the future like Obama: One of your new ventures is www.ibeatjohncurley.com. Is this ...

A: No, it's great! Everybody can go. I'm taking the natural competitive juices and anger and resentment that is out there toward me, and all I'm doing is directing it to people that do races — 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, marathons. All you do is go to my Web site, and then you can see which races I'm going to do, click over as you normally would to those races, enter. If you beat me — and I know you like this part — you get a T-shirt with my face on it and then I go up onstage and I'll pull one name out of a hat and I'll write a check to your favorite charity for anywhere between $500 and $1,000.

Q: What is it about you that makes people want to take you down? Does J.P. Patches get this?

A: No, but I feel the same way. If I saw Dan Lewis in a race, I'd want to beat Dan Lewis. If I saw Steve Pool, any one of those guys, I'd want to beat them, sure. I perfectly understand that.

Q: You also have a secret life that involves gavel-wielding. Now's the time to come clean about that.

A: I raise a million dollars a month. I do more than 85 auctions a year. I learned how to speak very quickly because a couple of years ago I saw the writing on the wall and thought I'd better find a second career. Schools, charities, all nonprofits.

Q: And finally, sickest of all, you plan to get involved in something else in the public sphere. You say it because I can't.

A: I'm going to run for Sammamish City Council. There's going to be three positions that are going to be open. I hope to find an uncontested seat. I love my little community of Sammamish and I'm going to get in there and do my thing. I've always loved to listen to people, so I can listen, tell stories and help direct some of the growth that's happening there.

Q: What do a TV host and a politician have in common?

A: For me, it's listening to people. I love people. I love people.

Q: You love that guy over there? (I point to a man sitting at a table across the restaurant.)

A: Let me see, hold on.

(Curley walks over, stares. "You looking for someone?" "No, I thought I recognized you," Curley answers.)

Q: Do you love that guy?

A: No. I thought I did.

Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or mrahner@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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