“I’m not sure there’s really much point to it,” he says, dejected, between slurps of a foamy latte. A pillow of white clings to his upper lip, and he wrinkles his brow. Two shows have come and gone since 5am, with two more to go. In another two hours there will be a charity event to benefit breast cancer patients, then an environmental activist march and a lunch with junior high school volunteers. The afternoon is just as crowded: teas, coffees, happy hours, toasts, DJing, MCing, posing, lobbying, hand-shaking. The pages on his dog-eared DayMinder don’t see white until 11pm.
“There’s these events, I know, and I get up with my salt-and-pepper blazers and stained white V-necks and prance around like I own the place.” His cheeks flush momentarily with embarrassed frustration, then fade back to their trademark creamy white hue. “I love my job, but sometimes it’s the fucking worst.”
It’s a sad state for an icon flown so high: head slumped over a pink tee-shirt, eyes empty from exhaustion, and fingers nervously tapping at the side of a coffee cup. This is DC’s up-and-coming social paragon—at 26.
To many, Johnny has the ideal job. Though he suffers agonizingly early morning hours, he spends his work time schmoozing with celebs and supporting worthwhile causes. And, in the midst of a politically-rabid capital, he is somehow able to leave government antics alone. For him, it’s about the city, the people, and the possibilities of DC.
But with all these pros come a fleet of cons. J, as his friends call him, rarely gets more than four hours of sleep a night. By his own confession, he hasn’t been on a date in three years. And family? He’s lucky if he sees them at Christmas.
“It’s shameful,” he says. “They live in Maryland, just an hour or so outside of DC. I should be able to see them more often. They understand I’m busy, but my job is no excuse for being so distant. It’s a big downside to this business.”
Johnny says his surrogate family—the one industry has loaned him—is made up of co-hosts on the radio, colleagues who share his office—even the janitors who often find him in the studios bright and early, prepping for a show. “Sometimes, that’s what keeps me going—those early morning conversations with our office janitors, Jake and Rio. It’s one of the few moments of my day when I can be real. I can be half-asleep and they don’t give a damn. We just talk about life, about baseball. We tell dirty jokes.”
Then there’s J’s beloved dog, Dexter. “He’s my really salvation,” J admits with a sheepish grin. “To be honest, there are days when I want nothing more than to go home and crash with Dex. We have this amazing bond. I honestly don’t think anyone gets me like Dex does.”
Perhaps that’s a sad statement, and perhaps it’s not. For Johnny, though, it’s just a fact of life. His life.
“I chose this career. I knew what I was getting into. And yeah, it sucks sometimes. But I’m still exhilarated about meeting new people and maybe making a little bit of positive change. It’s a powerful drive.”
As he says this, the indefatigable Ann Curry ambles over and gives J a friendly nudge. “Weren’t you going to say hello?” she quips. Instantly, he lights up and a smile spreads across his boyish face. “Ann!” he shouts, jumping out of his chair to give her a hug.
She laughs as they dive into industry gossip and news about family. With a king’s politeness, Johnny pauses mid-sentence to introduce me to Ann—THE Ann Curry, mind you. She smiles and shakes my hand as if I’m just one of the gang. And from that moment on, I kind of am. The three of us meander out to the set. J suggests lunch before shooting. Ann yelps an enthusiastic yes, and turns to me. “How about you, Jeff?” she asks, as though me lunching with them were the most natural thing in the world.
“Why not?” I muster, suppressing a school-boy delight. Before I know it, I’m chatting about the next big show with the country’s brightest radio and TV personalities. I’m walking and talking with set directors and media moguls. I’m deep inside the juggernaut of DC fame and fortune, living the dream from the inside.
And all this before lunch.