New York Jets owner Woody Johnson was nearly paralyzed for life after drunkenly falling off a bridge while urinating during his wild college days, a new book claims.
“Crazy Rich: Power, Scandal and Tragedy Inside the Johnson & Johnson Dynasty,” comes out next month, and the author reveals that Woody Johnson’s “low-key and mild-mannered persona” was preceded by wilder times, reports Page Six of The New York Post.
The upcoming St. Martin’s title on the heirs to the vast Johnson & Johnson fortune reveals the stories behind the family’s unimaginable wealth, as well as scandals and misfortunes.
In his days as a student at the University of Arizona, Johnson — born Robert Wood Johnson IV — was known as “Band-Aid” because of his family’s business or “B.J.,” for Bob Johnson.
Once when Woody and his pals — known as “the money boys, the party guys” — were driving to a party in Phoenix in 1968, the night ended in drunken disaster.
“Oh, my God, who knows what we had, but yes, we were drinking alcohol,” recalls Johnson’s then-girlfriend Diane Vonderahe. “We pulled off one of the off-ramps because we all had to go to the bathroom, and it was pitch-black outside.”
Recalling what happened next she added, “Even all these years later, it kind of gives me the creeps . . . because it’s not a very happy story. My heart’s still beating. I was in total panic.”
The author, Jerry Oppenheimer, writes that the future Jets owner “had been drinking, was urinating . . . and took a step or two backward.”
“It was like an 18-foot drop, and B.J. just stepped off of it,” Vonderahe recalled.
Johnson “had broken his back and was virtually paralyzed,” the book reports. “He underwent surgery and was in intensive care for three or four months.”
A witness to the dramatic incident, Debbie Sceli Peacock, added, “They told him he would never walk again.” But Johnson was eventually released from the hospital and recuperated with “intense rehabilitation.”
While the Jets Big Kahuna may not be such a whizz with the team lately, back in the day old B.J. was ... well you get it.
A Jets rep had no comment.