PLYMOUTH – It’s not everybody who can say they star in a hit reality show with the Wahlbergs and who can also boast that an actor is playing his character on a hit HBO series.
Meet Johnny Alves, a Class of 1979 Plymouth Carver High School graduate who grew up on Stafford Street, the second oldest of five – four boys and one girl. His mother, Emily Alves, wound up raising the children on her own, and her love and iron-clad faith was her legacy to them.
Today, most everybody knows Johnny Alves by his nickname – Johnny Drama – a name that belies the lack of superficiality and drama in this guy’s life. Together for 21 years and married for 17 years to the love of his life, Lisa Alves, Johnny is back living in Plymouth with his family and says if he’s done anything great or positive he certainly had nothing to do with it.
“I thank God for everything I have every day,” he said. “I’m telling you, anything I have to give, everything I have – it’s all God.“
Johnny’s story with the Wahlbergs begins in the 1980s. He had moved to Los Angeles after years enjoying the spotlight as lead singer for the popular local band After Dark. A friend, who happened to be assistant tour manager for New Kids on the Block, introduced Johnny to the powerhouse boy band, and had a request. Could Johnny meet one-time band member Mark Wahlberg in Plymouth and bring him back to Los Angeles to reconnect with his brother, Donny, and the rest of his friends? Oh, and, by the way, Mark was about to be released from the Plymouth House of Correction after serving time for his conviction on an assault charge.
Johnny fulfilled the mission, and the next thing he knew he was Mark’s mentor. It was Johnny’s job to keep an eye on the then 18-year-old, and he took those marching orders seriously. Johnny trained Mark, taking him to the gym and encouraging him to eat better, think better and to work out regularly. Getting Mark back on the straight and narrow, so to speak, involved a lot of spiritual direction, and Johnny simply drew from his mother’s guidance, which he passed on to Mark. A street kid skilled at deception, Johnny was convinced Mark would make an incredible actor. It became a rock-solid friendship, evidenced by Mark’s nickname for Johnny to this day – “cousin.“
When the two returned to Massachusetts for a visit, Mark got to meet Emily Alves and suddenly had an attack of déjà vu. “We went down to the house and he walks into my mother’s kitchen, and he says, ‘Cousin, I know your mother.’ I said, ‘Stop lying.’ The kid can’t tell the truth! He said, ‘I’m telling you, I met her,’” Johnny said. That’s when Johnny learned that Mark had, indeed, met his mother while serving time in prison. Emily Alves routinely visited prisons to offer hope and urge inmates toward a life of love and forgiveness. Mark was one of the inmates she met during these visits. “That’s when I knew this whole thing was not a coincident,” Johnny said. “I call him my oldest son. He used to call me his spiritual advisor. I used to always tell him, ‘Listen dude, you gotta do the right thing.’“
Johnny worked as Mark’s trainer, his cook and his spiritual advisor and did his laundry, too. He continually urged Mark to pursue acting and hooked him up with an agent who understood this Wahlberg’s talent. One thing led to another, and, in addition to his career in music, Mark made a name for himself as an A-lister on the big screen. Today, the Wahlberg brothers have an A&E reality show “Wahlburgers,” chronicling the dramas behind their restaurant. Johnny is a regular on the show and is quite a character, injecting his inner-city humor and wit with side-splitting results. He is such a character, in fact, that when Mark Wahlberg and producer Doug Ellen pitched the show “Entourage” to HBO executives Johnny Drama was included in the cast. But, just to make things confusing, Johnny doesn’t play himself in the show – Kevin Dillon does. “Entourage” is a humorous and sometimes slice-of-life expose on the entourage connected to a famous actor. Dillon executes Johnny’s part with a signature rough-around-the-edges but downright hilarious delivery. The show’s version of Johnny Drama doesn’t like playing by everybody else’s rules and can’t keep quiet when he doesn’t feel he gets the respect he deserves.
The real Johnny Drama is less feisty, but every bit as charming and hilarious. He is back with his band these days delivering his signature funk as lead man of the group Johnny Drama & His Funky Entourage, aptly named for the twists and turns his life has taken. This is one entertaining guy. While there is running a joke that Johnny auditioned to play himself in “Entourage” but was denied the part, it was actually the part of agent Ariel Emanuel, who represented Mark Wahlberg in the beginning. It’s still funny that he wasn’t cast in the show, Johnny said, because he’s in it, so to speak. But, the executives had to pay him to use his name.
“I said, ‘Now you got to pay me for Johnny Drama. If I don’t believe in my name, nobody else will,’” Johnny said. Johnny got his nickname Johnny Drama years ago when he was waiting for a friend, Keith “Kizzy” Norton, who was sleeping through their appointed golf meet-up. Johnny threw stones at Kizzy’s second-floor apartment window until the window flew open and his friend stuck his head out. “He said, ‘Would you stop it with all your drama!’” Johnny said. “And I said, ‘It’s Johnny Drama, idiot. Now, hurry up.’“ When they checked in for their course time, they were still razzing one another. The guy at the window called for Johnny Alves, and Johnny responded: “It’s Johnny DRAMA,” just to zing his friend. The back-and-forth about his name continued for some time, and that was it. Johnny Alves became Johnny Drama.
The kicker is, the real Johnny Drama is very much for real, in spite of his name. He’s particularly proud of his kids, who include Emily Ann, 14 and named for her grandmother, John Michael Jr., who is 12, and Abigail Rose, who is 5. “She’s got my stuff to the 10th power,” Johnny said of Abigail, laughing. “This girl runs it like you don’t believe. She a Dramette.“
View original article by Emily Clark here.
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