When we catch up with Johnson he’s in the north Queensland town of Mackay, on day 61 of a fundraising trip he estimates will take him two years. He’s been hitting local schools; his infectious enthusiasm winning over wide-eyed students. Right now, Johnson is where he needs to be. “I’m very happy,” he beams. “I love my life. It’s perfect. I don’t need to change it. I’ve chased the demons away for now. Until the next dance. That dancing caper really helped me sort my s--t out.”
There might be another reason he’s joyful. In May, there was speculation Johnson had found love with Connie’s best friend, Emma Rooke, after he posted a photo of Emma on Instagram with the caption: “This koala makes everything with me. We have built some unusual dreams together over many years. Without her heart and brain, my dreams would remain just that. Thanks for building all the things with me little miss koala. I hope to build one more, as always, but as we know, it’s not up to us.”
Addressing his rumoured romance with close friend Rooke, who is also a LYS team member, for the first time since the post, Johnson says: “I’ve been too scared to be in another relationship since my girlfriend died 13 years ago.”
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In early 2006, his former girlfriend Lainie Woodlands took her own life hours after he broke up with her. “I’m lucky to have good friends around me,” Johnson adds. Being on the road has meant Johnson hasn’t been able to see Connie’s children, Willoughby and Hamilton, as much as he would like. But it seems Willoughby is taking after his uncle when it comes to fundraising.
“He raised $1000 at his school this year, so he wanted to know whether his mum would be proud of him,” Johnson says.
Certainly, she would. And Connie would undoubtedly be thrilled to see the path her brother has blazed. “Connie would be proud of the fact that I didn’t stop when she died,” he says. “There was part of her that thought I’d stop and that maybe I was just doing it for her. And maybe that was true at the start. But I think she would have really loved Dancing with the Stars and the work I’m doing to follow it up.”
He hasn’t quite hung up his dancing boots, by the way. “I’m getting tap lessons in every town I go to,” he says. “What I do can’t just be about the cancer, otherwise it’s too sad. So, I’m constantly looking for ways to keep it cheerful.”
Johnson says his sister would be interested to see he recently knocked back a couple of “really big” acting jobs in favour of his current road trip. “I turned down a cracker role with Cate Blanchett,” he reveals. But he doesn’t regret the path he’s chosen.
“I’ve had moments in my life where I’ve been pretty f---ed up,” he admits. “I think I’ve just made enough good decisions over the last few years for life to have become thoroughly wonderful. It’s pretty hard to feel down in the dumps when you’ve got people everywhere lifting you up. As Connie said, this is bigger than us. So I enjoy chasing the bigger things because it makes my own issues seem so much smaller.”
Johnson has spoken previously about his battle with drug addiction. But he certainly doesn’t blame showbiz for luring him down dark alleys.
“I found my drugs and my problems in life, not in showbiz,” he says. “It’s not like I got sucked into showbiz and they were shoving cocaine in my face. I was going to find that stuff anyway. Showbiz is not to blame for the mistakes I’ve made as a kid. “In fact, generally speaking, the people in showbiz tried to put the brakes on me and tried
to look after me.”
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