Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, the middle of three siblings, Johnny began performing from the age of 5 at a small performing arts school, making his debut as a Chanukah candle.
Pursuing the acting profession, he appeared with success in many TV and film projects, handling both drama and comedy with finesse.
Johnny was what used to be called a Renaissance Man. He was not only a superb actor, but excelled in the other arts as well. He was a prolific writer, poet and painter.
He also was a philanthropist, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to worthy causes, as well as being an active member of a number of charitable organizations.
He had seen too many of his friends succumb to the curse of drug abuse, and so he became an outspoken advocate against drugs, using his celebrity status to speak to large groups of educators and law enforcement officials about the dangers of street and psychiatric drug abuse.
He created friends everywhere he went. And he went everywhere. Europe, Asia, South America. He slept with natives in grass huts in Southeast Asia, and was the first white man allowed passage to a sacred lake in Laos.
Of his many talents, one that he treasured was the mentoring of other artists. Many successful performers, some of whom have reached the top of their profession have ascribed their success to Johnny.
His most recent work includes Sons of Anarchy (two seasons), Felon, The Runaways, 186 Dollars to Freedom and Lovely Molly.
In late October 2011 he suffered head injuries from a motorcycle accident. Immediately thereafter his thinking and behavior took a serious turn for the worse. He was arrested on January 3, 2012 for allegedly trespassing at a neighbor’s home. He was beaten violently in the head approximately 17 times before the police arrived, causing further injuries. In jail, following additional head injuries he was diagnosed by the prison medics as suffering from internal bleeding in the brain. Despite the diagnosis of Traumatic Brain Injury and despite never testing positive for drugs that year he was treated for psychosis and chemical dependency. Two more arrests followed, including near drowning (another traumatic brain incident). Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury include impaired judgement, sensitivity to light, and sudden inexplicable violent behavior. Typical of the misperception on the part of law enforcement officials was the often-quoted remark by the probation official who expressed that Johnny suffered from mental health issues as well as chemical dependency. Prior to his injuries Johnny had never had a brush with the law. And the toxicology report following his death revealed absolutely no drugs whatsoever in his system.
In late May of 2012 the Santa Monica Superior Court allowed his admission to Ridgeview, a drug rehab center in Alta Dena, California. Though a drug rehab facility, the rest and quiet were a tonic for him, and he gradually, over the summer, regained himself. He wrote, in a journal entry, “Felt more whole today. . .more complete. Like parts of myself had been stolen in my sleep and scattered all over the world and they’ve begun to return. So I think better, my thoughts aren’t being sent off on their own.” He began planning for a return to acting, via the stage, and spoke of possibly bringing Shakespeare to inner city kids. In August he tragically accepted the DA’s offer to serve “just a couple more days in jail,” in exchange for his freedom. The “couple days” became nearly two months, during which he suffered additional abuse and a violent downturn in spirits and health. Finally released in late September, he died in sad and disturbing circumstances on September 26, 2012.
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