TRURO – David Johnston was in the right place at the right time and was able to meet a childhood hero – Michael J. Fox.
Johnston, also known as Mr. J, the magician, was performing in Toronto recently when he realized the cast of Back to the Future was having a reunion.
“He was a personal hero of mine, and to probably everyone who grew up with Family Ties and Back to the Future. He’s an inspiring guy,” Johnston said. “When we met, he had that Canadian charm, and he was great to talk to.”
Three years ago in October, Johnston hosted a ‘Back to the Future Day’ that featured a DeLorean, as well as old toys that were popular in the 1980s. When he met Fox, Johnston was able to tell him about the day, and the success it saw.
“He was very pleased, and it was a thrill to be able to talk with the entire cast of Back to the Future,” said Johnston, adding he also met Christopher Lloyd, Tom Wilson, and Lea Thompson. “With Michael J. Fox as a childhood hero, and the person to whom the event was dedicated three years ago, it was truly a full-circle moment to be able to spend some time with him in person. And also perform a few magic tricks for the stars, and present them with some balloon caricatures.”
Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991. Nine years later, he launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, which is committed to finding a cure for the disease.
“It was a surreal experience,” said Johnston. “He’s someone I’ve admired my whole life.”
He said in talking to Fox, Johnston learned of some of the fundraising he was involved with, the people he’d met, and hearing their stories.
“He said those experiences changed his life and gave him more joy than all the acting he’s done,” Johnston said.
“Everyone knows Parkinson’s doesn’t discriminate. Locally, we have Garry Pye who has been very open and honest about having Parkinson’s. We’ve lost the great Robin Williams, and Muhammad Ali.”
Johnston’s aunt has a friend who also has Parkinson’s disease, so he has seen firsthand the affect it has on people.
The event he hosted three years ago raised more than $1,000 in support of Parkinson’s research, and he has plans for more.
“Why do you have to get a disease before you do anything about it?” he asked.
Each year, the magician supports charitable organizations. He’s currently working on one for next year in support of the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Hilden. He’s also been in touch with representatives from Parkinson’s Nova Scotia.
“Meeting the cast bolstered my commitment to the cause,” he said.