What we don’t hear enough about is their fantastic drama department. Years ago it launched Missouri born actor Don Johnson to big time stardom.
In 1982 my agent, Harold Moskowitz called me and my crime partner Don Woodbeck in for a quick meeting. Both of us had moved to Hollywood and we had a deal on a movie about our lives called OUTLAWS. Basically two guys – us – posing as cops who weren’t but later became real lawmen. Nice. The media had jumped on it and we got lots of press in the LA Times, Today Show, Variety and so on.
Little did I know at the time that this would be the peak of that project for decades to come. Because now we were famous outlaw/lawmen – at least in LA and in the media.
CBS owned our life story at that time, paid a nice fee, and got us into acting classes with people no less than Tom Selleck. They also had been trying to get us jobs, acting and get us paid to teach actors how to be undercover cops.
Because Don and I had been interviewed a ton on the subject, we had become hot as consultants.
CBS had a movie department then and OUTLAWS was to be a major film, not a TV series.
Harold sent us to meet the producers and executives in charge of a new TV show coming out called MIAMI VICE. They wanted Don and I to work with the actors on how to look, talk, walk, and dress the parts – just advice nothing more.
A young actor there that nobody but me knew named Don Johnson had beaten out two bigger names for the lead role as Sonny Crockett in the show. Yep, Johnson beat out Nick Nolte and Jeff Bridges.
I knew Johnson from his few film leads. I was a huge movie fan and saw everything, even his bombs like THE MAGIC GARDEN OF STANLEY SWEETHEART, his rock and roll cowboy film, ZACHARIAH and even the Harrad Experiment.
Yep, if Johnson wasn’t a star it woulda been rape.
He banged her at 14 – she even says so – in fact they married for the first time in 1976 when she was 19 and remarried again in 1989. Griffith left Johnson for her co star, Antonio Banderas several years and two kids later.
So Miami Vice was Don’s first real shot at stardom. My partner and I had our little shot at being involved. We asked for $1,500 a week each. Michael Mann’s company called and offered $500 and we countered at $1,000.
The series started in 1984 and made household names of Philip (where is he now) Michael Thomas and even Edward James Olmos. Don Johnson became the Marlon Brando of TV in the 80’s.
Miami Vice WAS THE 80’s.
His clothes, no socks, colored t shirts under his Armani jackets, the cars, the music..it was MTV on roids. The show lasted five years and Don’s career never got as big again. Then came Nash Bridges in 1996 with Cheech Marin, a big hit, six years at $150 grand a week. Later Don would star in many films and yet another TV series, Just Legal.
He’s best known as a smart ass in films like Tin Cup. Yep, Don was to ladies in his own way what Warren Beatty had been in his movie career. He had them all, had too many and too often.
Johnson today is 63 and still looking pretty good in that Armani. Check out the Ray-Bans.
The Miami Vice people called Harold and said $700 was the best they could do and my agent said they will come up, just give it a day. They never called again. How cool would that have been to work on Miami Vice with Johnson and maybe get on the show.
Oh well. Who knew?
The good news; Don has battled through many dark spots in his life, even rehab a few times and seems to be doing well these days. He’s a good dad I hear. Sadly I never really met the man, only saw him at a few functions where we shook hands.
Years later I did work with Edward James Olmos from Miami Vice. We did the movie Latin Legends: Champions Forever on middle weight and light weight champs, almost all Latinos. Olmos narrated the film. We got to catch up on Johnny Dare‘s show about a year ago when James called in about his next film, great guy.
Yep, sometimes, when its nice out and I get into my black Lotus, with my dark shades I can just hear that famous opening music from….MIAMI VICE.