Johnny Whitaker

Johnny Whitaker

Screening Host

Johnny (John) has been on screen, stage or in front of an audience from the age of “3 ½ ” and now at “61” hasn’t stopped yet. At 14 years old, Johnny Whitaker as a teen heartthrob, had a successful clothesline named after him, was the associate producer and star of his own television series, produced an album along with the series “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters” and making the equivalent of about $500,000 a year in today’s money. A t 14 , he had recently starred in the classic feature film, “Tom Sawyer” the musical, wherein he gave the then 10-year-old and future double Academy Award-winning actress, Jodie Foster, her first on-screen kiss. He had completed four Walt Disney films and was the male half of the television twin’s sensation “Buffy & Jody” who had become world-wide super stars from the CBS series, "Family Affair". During all of its' 5-year run. the show always aired in the Neilson's top 10 in the U.S. from 1966-1971. It was well received all over the world especially in Germany, France, Israel, and in Italy American-Looking boys were given the nickname “That’s a Jody!!”

For nine months, Johnny and the "Family Affair" cast filmed 5 seasons with Brian Keith as Uncle Bill and Sebastian Cabot as Mr. French. However, while on hiatus (the other 3 months of the year), Johnny continued to work and in 1969, he starred in the Star-studded Cast of “The Littlest Angel” a Christmas Musical directed by Joe Layton costarring Fred Gwynne, Connie Stevens, Tony Randal, Cab Calloway and E.G. Marshall to name only a few. He was also asked to do guest-star roles on other series including, "The Virginian", "Bonanza", and 3"Gunsmoke" episodes playing the ever-present orphan waif. He guest starred on "Bewitched", "Marcus Welby M.D.", "Adam 12" and two episodes of "Green Acres". He also worked with the then newcomer, Stephen Spielberg on his 2nd Movie Of The Week, “Something Evil” wherein Johnny played a boy possessed and was recognized with an honorable mention Emmy nomination.

In 1976, while touring the Western United States with his younger brother and sisters in “The Johnny Whitaker Show A Family Salute to the Bicentennial” Johnny found out that his screen sister, Mary Anissa Jones “Buffy” died of a drug overdose. This tragedy caused Johnny to rethink his successful career and return to 'regular' school where he became the Sylmar High School mascot, Sammy Spartan and starred in the High School plays. Johnny continued College at Brigham Young University where he studied International Studies learning, French and Russian. Later that year Johnny accepted a call to the ministry where he was then sent to Portugal as a proselytizing missionary for the LDS Church.

After his mission, John received his B.A. and graduated Cum Laud in Communications from BYU with emphasis in Film Direction & Production studying under Tad Z. Danielewski an Emmy-Award-Winning film director and renowned Director of The Professional Actors Workshop in New York City and Los Angeles, whose students included Martin Sheen, James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson and Mercedes Ruehl. While at BYU John married a pretty young convert but after only 4 years of marriage, divorce was eminent and shortly thereafter she married the man who gave him his bachelor party. John’s then girl friend who became pregnant chose to take her own life and that of John’s unborn child. John calls this his “precipitous event” in which he quickly went from a faithful member of the LDS church into a tailspin hooked on a life of drugs, illicit sex and drug sales. For the next nine years he lost jobs, cars and apartments and at 37 returned to live in the home he helped to purchase as a child star. His close-knit family had an intervention and he either got clean and sober or excommunicated from the family. Half-heartedly agreeing he entered into an Intensive Outpatient Program where John was introduced to treatment & recovery.

John became hooked on recovery. He started a non-profit, Paso Por Paso, helping non-English-speaking addicts and alcoholics find treatment and recovery. He took some Addiction Studies classes and was addicted again, not to dope, but to hope for himself and his ability to help others. He started working as a certified counselor and has been for more than 19 years and has become a well-known advocate for prevention, addiction treatment, restorative justice, and prison reform. He celebrates more than 24 years as a person in long-term recovery. Paso Por Paso, Inc., is poised to help those who are monolingual speakers and John, a polyglot will assist in Portuguese, Spanish, French and American Sign Language.
John has produced and directed several stage plays and short films. He gives acting workshops and master classes throughout the U.S. John is a well-received documentary subject on Child Stars and growing up in front of the cameras. This is one more Directing experience for John. He has recently (pre-covid) co-directed a film, “first foray into documentary film making, his history of course proceeds him, and he is excited and will give his all to this project. Speaking, reading, and writing five languages including Portuguese, John will be returning to Portugal for any reason. He s currently working on a documentary about the drug policy in Portugal and hopes to have the ready for release before the end of the year.