Sometimes these interviews happen by accident - this interview, for example.
For weeks and weeks, I was prepping for a Robert Urich interview during the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester, Virginia. I knew that the Festival folks sometimes had celebs of the past and present who showed up unannounced, but it was usually a long-shot if the celebrities had connections to TV Single Dad shows.
This year, the celebrity list showed three candidates for interviews: Robert Urich, Ben "Cooter" Jones from The Dukes of Hazzard, and Diahann Carroll (not a TV Single Dad but a pioneer TV Single Mom). I ponied up a few questions for each star and I figured on no surprises.
I get all the interviews out of the way, and I head to one of the press rooms to pack up my gear, when I notice a pair of reporters interviewing a man who is the spitting image of Brian Keith.
"Who is that guy?" I ask one of the radio crew.
"Oh, that's - umm - that's Jody - that guy from - - ummmm"
"Jody from Family Affair? Johnny Whitaker?" I finish.
"Yeah, that's the guy." The radio guys continued packing their gear. "He's just in. They added him to the parade late."
Jody. Family Affair. The mother lode of questions to ask. This man was on what was arguably THE iconic TV Single Dad show. Other than interviewing Brandon Cruz from Courtship of Eddie's Father or Ron Howard from The Andy Griffith Show, I couldn't think of another child star actor I'd want to interview.
But the press conference was OVER! Everyone was packing up and the evening Firemen's Parade was about to begin. Could I sneak in and get just a couple of questions? I slid into a chair next to Johnny Whitaker and put a microphone on the conference table. Johnny was in the middle of answering another reporter's question, so that's how
Johnny - I was in New York at the - at an autograph/memorabilia/comic book kind of card show, and they lined up for our autographs. Fans are an interesting group - they love to meet you. You know, I wouldn't pay ten bucks for my picture and all that - but other people do, and if I can make a little bit of a living that way, on a weekend here or there, well, hey! I'm going to Novi, Michigan for a convention - right outside of Detroit. Not next weekend, but the weekend after that. I do that about four or five times a year.
Other Reporter - Are you still recognized as Jody?
Johnny - Well yeah - it was really interesting. Were you in the big gala this afternoon?
Other Reporter - No.
Johnny - When they introduced me - I was kinda feeling - definitely, the crowd that knows who I am are 27-to-45 - you know, that's the people who know who I am.
Other Reporter - I'm 30, so -
Johnny - You're right in my demographic!
My Son James - 16!
Johnny - That's okay! But if you are 6-to-9, or 10 - - or maybe 16 - - and if you've watched Nick at Nite, or TV Land, then you also know who I am.
Other Reporter - So there's a gap, like his age?
Johnny - Oh yeah, there's a gap, but that's perfectly fine - I'm not offended in the least!
Other Reporter - So, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters has been making a comeback of sorts, because of cable?
Johnny - Oh definitely, yeah - and the funny thing is with Sigmund is people either absolutely loved it - it was one of their favorite shows growing up, or else they had absolutely no idea that it ever existed. And those are the people that watched The Jackson Five. Because Sigmund was on at the same time as The Jackson Five.
Other Reporter - Was it on Saturday morning originally? Because I saw it in reruns - - it was on at 4 o'clock in the afternoon.
Johnny - On The Kroft Super Show. [sings] "Kroft! [stomp stomp] Super - - Show!"
Other Reporter - So, it got syndicated. Land of the Lost - was that one of the Kroft shows too?
Johnny - Yeah.
Other Reporter - Oh, wow.
Okay, enough of the history lesson. Johnny needed some really chewable questions, so I butted in, explained the site, and so
I've counted over 160 TV Single Dads shows, in the history of television. You've been in the thick of it. Why the appeal of Single Dads on TV? From what you've seen...
Johnny - Well actually, just last night, I finished - I got in - - I'm doing The Dr. Zod & Johnny Show - which is a former child star and his psychiatrist. We have a radio talk show, we take questions from the audience, questions from the Internet and others. Last night was our premiere broadcast at The Museum of Television and Radio in Beverly Hills. I left on the red-eye - - as soon as I finished that, my nephew ran me to the airport and I came here. So, I don't know what the reviews are yet. Hopefully, they were good! But, at The Museum of Television and Radio, I saw right after the show - - I had about 45 minutes before I had to leave - - and some friends that came to see the show wanted to see the pilot episode of Family Affair. And I watched that... and Brian Keith was just - - I mean, in his day, he was THE Hunk. You know, he was the gorgeous male hunk of the day. And - - - to be loving and caring, and still - - - to see this gruff man turn with just a "yes, sir. No, sir," - - making him turn into just this - - - loving , wonderful man. To see the depth of his acting - - I mean, that was Brian Keith - who made all the women of his demographic fall in love with him over and over again. Being a sweet loving person. Of course, the fact that there were twins - - I mean, Buffy and Jody made Family Affair - I mean, the little kids in any show are why people come back and watch again. But definitely, Brian Keith was definitely a beautiful, beautiful man - - and because of his gruff, western, cowboy-rugged persona - - that he then turned into being this loving uncle - - - America fell in love with him again.
Johnny had to go - - with just ONE question from me! He was kind enough to record an elaborate ID, which you can hear by clicking here.
The website for Johnny's new program, "The Doctor Zod and Johnny Show" - is www.drzodandjohnny.com . Check it out!
Someday our paths will cross, and I'll get a more in-depth interview. Until then, I've got time to work on more questions!