In Memorium: David Johnson, Distinguished and Beloved Soap Journalist

As I write this, my heart is breaking.  David Johnson, my closest colleague and ally in the soap opera journalism business for 40 years, passed away Saturday, Oct. 29, in Los Angeles, following a long battle with cancer. He was 87.

David was born in Manhattan in 1935, the child of a single mother, his father having returned to England.  At an early age, David developed a passion for classic movies (one we later came to share) and especially movie musicals.  Music, especially movie music, was later central to his life.

After a stint in military service, David moved to Los Angeles and began his soap journalism career.   I met him in 1981 when I was editor of Afternoon TV magazine.   His writing was so intelligent, enthusiastic and thorough — exactly what I wanted in my first labor of love.

David was renowned for his letter-perfect copy. He (unlike me!) never, ever made a typo.  Plus, everyone he interviewed absolutely loved him.  He made so many friends in the industry! How I cherish memories of the zillions of hours he and I spent on the phone together in the next years dissecting everything and everyone in the soap world!

Eventually both David and I wound up on Mimi Torchin’s newly created Soap Opera Weekly when it was founded in 1989.  He and Janet Di Lauro were the Associate West Coast editors, and I became Marlena De Lacroix, the magazine’s soap critic.  “Critical Condition,” founded in 2005, was the origin of the blog you are reading today.

I am a native New Yorker who doesn’t drive so whenever I went out to L.A. to do interviews or go to award shows, David would drive me around.  One day we went to the Television City home of The Young and the Restless where I was to interview the newly arrived bombshell Michelle Stafford (Phyllis Summers).  Phyllis was then renowned for wearing teddies, the popular seductive undergarment of the day. When I got to Michelle’s dressing room (David waited outside with his ear to the door) la sensation gave me a guided tour of her teddy collection.  Later when David was driving me back to my hotel, he said “What were you girls cackling about?”

I also was fortunate one year to attend and cover the Oscars for a women’s magazine.  After a whole night of red carpet interviews, the ceremony and after parties, I found myself at 2:30 AM all alone outside the Shrine Auditorium.  I couldn’t get a cab.  In a total panic I called and woke up David who promptly came and drove me back to my hotel.  If it wasn’t for him, I’d still be roaming the streets of Los Angeles.

Around this time, David started his second, spectacularly successful career as a cabaret crooner.  What a beautiful voice he had! Mentoring him and giving him his start was the magnificent actress and theater legend Constance Towers, who at that time was playing Clarissa McCandless on Capitol.  (She later played Helena Cassidine on General Hospital.)

His favorite songs were from movie musicals. He loved to perform them in clubs, and did so well into his 80s, until his awful disease kept him confined to his L.A. nursing home.  He also liked to sing to his good friends.  Every time there was a special occasion in my life, he would call and sing to me. My birthday is this week and it will be the first time in decades I’ve had to celebrate without him calling and singing “Happy Birthday.”

I’ve never known anyone in my professional and personal life who was as beloved as mon Davide (as I, a Frenchified soap critic, used to call him).  At the end of every phone or on-line conversation we used to say to each other “Toujours l’amour.”

That’s French for “Love forever.”   How we all will miss him!


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With a Song in His Heart

By Edward (Moose) Hayman


I’ve never known anyone who projected pure joy quite as splendidly as David Johnson, my wife’s dear friend and fellow traveler through so many years of covering the colorful world of soap opera.

When our home phone rang and I saw it was from the 818 area code, I knew what I would hear when I answered. It was “Davide,” as Connie called him, and his “hello” was a burst of song, a treasure from the Great American Songbook, delivered as if he stood in front of a microphone on a stage before a delighted audience. The song was intended for Connie, of course, but I was lucky enough to get there first and hear a few bars before passing the phone on to her.

Imagining David in the center of a spotlight with his arms outstretched turned out to be right on the money. He was a respected cabaret performer, an artist with an appreciative following in a world in which nods of approval aren’t given to just anyone. Cabaret connoisseurs, I learned, share with serious soap fans a deep knowledge of their favorite pop art form.

Here’s cabaret critic Elliot Zwiebach writing in Cabaret Scenes, the Magazine of the American Songbook Association, in 2018. He was 82 at the time. As Zweibach tells it: “Johnson grew up listening to most of the Great American Songbook as it was being written, and his preference is clearly to sing those songs pretty much as they were originally written rather than trying any flights of melodic fancy – a very solid choice for these eternal classics…His voice soared on a gorgeous version of ‘I Know Why (and So Do You)’ from Sun Valley Serenade…he crooned a smooth ‘You’ll Never Know’ from Hello Frisco Hello…and offered a delicious version of I Found a Million Dollar Baby in a Five-and-Ten Cent Store.

When David sang to Connie with such love, he was in his room in the nursing home, deprived of both television and computer. When he shared news of his on-going cancer treatments, Connie told me, he sounded brave and strong, and had a smile in his voice. At the end, friends told her, he lost his voice completely. That’s why he had to stop calling.

I never had the privilege of meeting him in person. But we found him on YouTube (search “Crooner David Johnson”).  Those grainy images together with the snippets of telephone serenade make me wish that, just once, I could have been in one of his cabaret audiences.

Be at peace, David Johnson. You will not be forgotten.


  1. I actually WAS in one of those cabaret audiences and boy was it a treat! Thank you both for your stunning, heartfelt tributes to one of the nicest men ever, not just in this rancid business we are in. I’m sure he’s smiling upon you, grateful as always for the kind words. Sending much love to you both. xo

    • Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a Connie Passalacqua Hayman says:

      Marlena says: Thanks as always Esther. To me David’s sweetness and constant support always counteracted what you so accurately call the rancid business we are in. Seems to me a lot of that has calmed down recently. Are we all just getting older? How sad it is to go about all this without our dear friend. xo

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