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That new host on 'This Old House'

October 09, 2003|Chris Erskine

One minute you're scraping wallpaper off the walls of your first home, an 1894 Victorian. The next, you're the new host of "This Old House." Congratulations, Kevin O'Connor. At least now you've got some real help.

"In Kevin, we found the perfect mixture of optimism and energy, two ingredients an old-house owner must have to survive," says Russell Morash, the show's creator.

O'Connor's life turned around with a simple plea for assistance. He sent an e-mail to the experts at "Ask This Old House," a spinoff that helps viewers with specific problems. He and his wife, Kathleen, were struggling to remove layers of wallpaper in their Queen Anne-style home in Boston. Could the pros offer any help?

Weeks later, the crew showed up, hammers and cameras in tow. As they spent the day filming, O'Connor peppered them with questions. "It was a dream come true," the former banker says.

The timing proved perfect. The producers of "This Old House" were searching for a new host to replace Steve Thomas, who left after 14 years, and O'Connor, 34, landed the job.

"We were sitting in this basement, in a couple of beach chairs," O'Connor says, recalling the moment the producer offered him the job. "I called my wife with the news, and she screamed so loud it frightened the dog.... We were thrilled."

"His curiosity was refreshing," Morash says. "Who better to host the show than a first-time homeowner and a loyal viewer who grew up watching the show?"

The show's 25th season, and O'Connor's debut, is Saturday at 5 p.m. in Los Angeles on KCET-TV. It will feature the conversion of a barn into an in-law cottage.

-- Chris Erskine

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