Don Johnson

Don Johnson

Johnson in 1986 during an interview aboard the USS Lexington aircraft carrier.
Born Donnie Wayne Johnson
December 15, 1949 (1949-12-15) (age 61)
Flat Creek, Missouri, United States
Other names DJ, The Don
Occupation Actor
Years active 1969–present
Spouse Melanie Griffith (1976, 1989-96)
Kelley Phleger (1999-present)
Partner Patti D'Arbanville (1982-85)

Donnie Wayne "Don" Johnson[1] (born December 15, 1949)[1] is an American actor known for his work in television and film. He played the lead role of James "Sonny" Crockett in the 1980s TV cop series, Miami Vice, which led him to huge success. He also played the lead role in the 1990s cop series, Nash Bridges. More recently, Johnson played Kenny Powers' father on the HBO series, Eastbound and Down. Johnson is a Golden Globe winning actor for his role in Miami Vice, a winner of the APBA Offshore World Cup, and has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[2] He is also a singer, songwriter, producer, and director.

The Don Johnson is also a Miami Vice themed drink made from vodka, gin, curaçao, and orange juice.[3]


Early life and education

Johnson was born in Flat Creek, Missouri.[1] His father, Wayne, was a farmer, and his mother, Nell, was a beautician;[4] they were 19 and 17 at the time of his birth, respectively. At age six, he moved from Missouri to Wichita, Kansas. A 1967 graduate of South High School, he was involved in the high school's theatre program. As a senior, he played the lead role of Tony in West Side Story. His biography noted that he had previously appeared in "Burnt Cork and Melody" and "The Hullabaloo." He also attended the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas.

In the late 1960s, Johnson was in a psychedelic rock band called Horses. Also in the band were future members of the band Kingfish, which featured Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir. The band put out one self-titled record on the White Whale label in 1969, later re-issued on the Gear Fab label in 2004 and then on the Rev-Ola label in 2005. Johnson, as several noteworthy news sources have mentioned over the years, was relieved of his military obligation due to a high lottery number. In a 1970 newspaper article, Johnson stated that, due to his beliefs at that time, he would have become a draft resister.

Johnson is quoted in a 1970 newspaper article, mentioning his draft-exempt status and his dislike for war.[5]


Early years

Johnson studied drama at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. His first major role was in the 1969 Los Angeles stage production of Fortune and Men's Eyes in which he played Smitty, the lead role. This exposure led to the quickly forgotten film The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart (1970). He continued to work on stage, film and television without breaking out into stardom. His notable films from this period were Zachariah (1971), The Harrad Experiment (1973), Lollipop and Roses (1974), and A Boy and His Dog (1975)

Miami Vice

From 1984-1989, after years of struggling to establish himself as a TV actor (in such fare as Revenge of the Stepford Wives) and a string of failed pilots which were never followed by an actual TV series, Johnson's fortunes changed when he landed a starring role as undercover police detective Sonny Crockett in the cop series, Miami Vice. He typically wore thousand dollar Versace and Hugo Boss suits over pastel cotton t-shirts, drove a Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona (really a replica kit on a 1981 Corvette chassis), followed by a Ferrari Testarossa and lived on a 42-foot (13 m) yacht with his pet alligator "Elvis". Miami Vice was noted for its revolutionary use of music, cinematography, and imagery as well as a more glitzy take on the police drama genre.

In between seasons, Don Johnson gained further renown through several TV miniseries, such as the 1985 TV remake of The Long, Hot Summer.

Nash Bridges

Johnson at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival.

Johnson later starred in the 1996-2001 drama Nash Bridges with Cheech Marin, Jeff Perry, Jaime P. Gomez and Jodi Lyn O'Keefe. Johnson played the title role of Nash Bridges, an inspector for the San Francisco Police Department. In Nash Bridges Johnson was again paired with a flashy convertible car, this time an electric yellow 1971 Plymouth Barracuda.


In the fall of 2005, he briefly starred in The WB courtroom television drama show Just Legal as a jaded lawyer with a very young and idealistic protégé/partner (Jay Baruchel); the show was canceled in October 2005 after just three episodes aired. In January 2007, Johnson began a run in the London West End production of Guys and Dolls as Nathan Detroit.

Don Johnson also has a role in the Norwegian comedy Lange Flate Ballær 2 ("Long Flat Balls II"), directed by Johnson's friend Harald Zwart. Johnson did the movie as a favour to Zwart. The movie was launched March 14, 2008 in Norway, with Johnson making an appearance at the premiere. He next appeared in When in Rome with Danny DeVito, Anjelica Huston and Kristen Bell, and Machete with Robert De Niro and Steven Seagal.[6]


Johnson & Jon Heder co-hosted WWE's Monday Night RAW on January 18, 2010.[7]

Johnson had a small role in Robert Rodriguez's film, Machete. Johnson played Von Jackson, "a twisted border vigilante leading a small army." The film was released on September 3, 2010.

In October 2010, he began appearing on the HBO series Eastbound & Down, playing Kenny Powers' long-lost father, going by the alias "Eduardo Sanchez". He also reprised his role as Sonny Crockett for a Nike commercial with LeBron James where the NBA player contemplates acting and appears alongside Johnson on Miami Vice.[8]

In September 2011, Johnson has a cameo in the comedy A Good Old Fashioned Orgy with Jason Sudeikis. [9]


Johnson released two albums of pop music in the 1980s, one in 1986 and the other in 1989. His single "Heartbeat", the title track from his first album, and was a collaboration with 80s one hit wonder - Robert Tepper, reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. Johnson is also a good friend of Willie Nelson and Robert Tepper, and was briefly a part of the "Thailand Pack", alongside Tommy Morrison, and British TV funny man Les Dennis. Previously, Johnson worked with Gregg Allman and Dickie Betts of the Allman Brothers, co-writing the songs "Blind Love" and "Can't Take It with You" with Dickie Betts, which appeared on their 1979 album, Enlightened Rogues.[1][10]

Personal life

Relationships and family

Johnson with Griffith circa 1990.

Johnson has had four wives in five marriages, three of which were brief.[11] His first two marriages, in the late 1960s, were annulled. Johnson had a major supporting role in The Harrad Experiment (released 1973), whose female lead was Tippi Hedren.[12] He met Hedren's daughter, Melanie Griffith[11][13] around the first half of 1972; she was an uncredited extra.[14] He was aged 22 and dating and living with groupie Pamela Des Barres[15] and Melanie was 14 when they began what became a four-year affair, that included marrying, in 1976, for less than a year.[13][16] Melanie and Don reconciled and conceived a child close to the start of 1989, announced wedding plans in mid-February,[13] and were married a second time, from that year until 1996. They had a daughter, Dakota Mayi Johnson (born October 4, 1989).

He lived with Patti D'Arbanville[16] from 1981 to 1985. The couple had a son, Jesse Wayne Johnson (born on December 7, 1982).

He had a relationship with Barbra Streisand, lasting into at least September 1988.[13] Streisand and Johnson were supposedly secretly engaged at one point. He created a single with her called "Till I Loved You", released that year. Johnson had a relationship with Jeanne Anderson in 1996.

On April 29, 1999, he married San Francisco socialite and former preschool teacher Kelley Phleger. He and Phleger had a daughter, Atherton Grace Johnson (born on December 28, 1999), and two sons, Jasper Breckinridge Johnson (born on June 6, 2002) and Deacon Johnson (born on April 29, 2006)

It has also been revealed on The Real Housewives of New Jersey reunion show that he and housewife Danielle Staub engaged in a brief affair.

Legal problems

In 2001, a 36-year-old woman accused an intoxicated Johnson of squeezing and bruising her wrist and lewdly propositioning her outside a restroom at San Francisco restaurant Mas Sake, and claimed while still firmly squeezing her wrist he began drunkenly singing "Heartbeat". The woman's friends made their way across the restaurant to confront Johnson as he continued to sing but said when he saw them he let go of her and quickly fled out the back door. Johnson said he was considering buying an advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle to state his side of the story, but later decided to post the notices on his website. Due to insufficient evidence, no charges were filed.[17][18]

In November 2002,[19] German customs officers at the Swiss-German[19] border performed a routine search of Johnson's car.[19] Bank statements evidencing US$8 billion in transactions were found in the trunk of his car.[19][20][21] He was accompanied in his black Mercedes-Benz[20] by three men: an investment adviser,[20] a personal assistant,[20] and a third of unknown identity.[20] Initially it was thought Johnson was involved in money-laundering,[21] but he was cleared of wrongdoing.[22] Upon receiving word of the incident, German tabloids began exploiting and perpetuating the story, at times pointing at the irony (as perceived by them) that Don Johnson has frequently portrayed police officers in his acting works. Johnson explained the incident by saying "I was meeting with some American businessmen in Zürich for financing,[21] for a film fund that I was putting together for my company. They gave me some bank statements and some resumes and some other documents, some things to prove that they could perform as investors."[citation needed] The police found and copied these documents, and the money laundering story grew somehow out of this.[23]

In May 2008, Johnson came within hours of losing his Woody Creek, Colorado home to foreclosure; he paid off his $14.5 million debts less than 24 hours before a scheduled auction of the property.[24]

In July 2010, a Los Angeles jury awarded Johnson $23.2 million in a lawsuit against production company Rysher Entertainment, from whom Johnson sought a share of profits commensurate with his ownership of half the copyright of Nash Bridges.[25] Rysher announced they would appeal the verdict.[26]


Awards and recognitions

Year Result Award Category TV/Film
1974 Winner The Saturn Award Best Actor[27] A Boy and his Dog
1985 Nominated Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series[28] Miami Vice
1986 Winner Golden Globe Awards Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series - Drama[29]
1987 Nominated Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series - Drama[29]
1988 Won APBA Offshore World Cup Superboat class[1][30] -
1996 Awarded Hollywood Walk of Fame Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame[2] -


Year Title Role Notes
1970 The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart Stanley Sweetheart
1971 Zachariah Matthew
1973 Harrad Experiment, TheThe Harrad Experiment Stanley Cole
1973 Kung Fu 1973 episode - The Spirit Helper
1974 Lollipops and Roses Franky
1974 Boy and His Dog, AA Boy and His Dog Vic Saturn Award for Best Actor
1975 Return to Macon County Harley McKay
1976 Law of the Land
1977 City, TheThe City Sergeant Brian Scott Television pilot
1977 Trial Marriage
1977 Cover Girls
1978 Swan Lake Benno (English version) (voice)
1978 Pressure Point
1978 Ski Lift to Death Mike Sloan
1978 The Two-Five
1978 Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold
1978 First, You Cry
1979 Tales of the Unexpected
1979 Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill Television film
1979 Rebels, TheThe Rebels Miniseries
1980 Soggy Bottom, USA Jacob Gorch
1980 From Here to Eternity Canceled after 13 episodes
1980 Beulah Land Miniseries
1980 Revenge of the Stepford Wives Television film
1981 Elvis and the Beauty Queen Elvis Presley Television film
1981 Two Lives of Carol Letner, TheThe Two Lives of Carol Letner Television film
1982 Melanie Carl
1984–89 Miami Vice Det. James "Sonny" Crockett 111 Episodes
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama
1985 Cease Fire Tim Murphy
1985 Long Hot Summer, TheThe Long Hot Summer Ben Quick Television film
1987 G.I. Joe: The Movie Lt. Falcon direct-to-video
1988 Sweet Hearts Dance Wiley Boon
1989 Dead Bang Jerry Beck
1990 The Hot Spot Harry Madox
1991 Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man Marlboro
1991 Paradise Ben Reed
1993 Born Yesterday Paul Verrall
1993 Guilty as Sin David Edgar Greenhill
1995 In Pursuit of Honor Sgt. John Libbey HBO film
1996–2001 Nash Bridges Nash Bridges Executive producer
122 Episodes
1996 Tin Cup David Simms
1998 Goodbye Lover Ben Dunmore
2003 Word of Honor Lt. Benjamin Tyson Television film
Co-executive producer
2005 Just Legal Grant H. Cooper Cancelled after 3 episodes the rest of the episodes were later aired
8 episodes (2005–06)
2007 Moondance Alexander Dante
2008 Lange Flate Ballær 2 Admiral Burnett Norwegian film
2008 Torno a vivere da solo Nico Italian film
2010 Born to be a Star[31] -
2010 When in Rome[32] -
2010 Machete Lt. Von Jackson
2010 Eastbound and Down Eduardo Sanchez Powers
2011 Good Old Fashioned Orgy, AA Good Old Fashioned Orgy Dad
2011 Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star Miles Deep


Studio albums

Title Details Peak chart positions
Heartbeat 17 3 20 7 34 7
Let It Roll
  • Release date: September 20, 1989
  • Label: Epic Records
  • Formats: CD, cassette
23 19 35 6
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Compilation albums

Title Details
The Essential


Year Single Peak positions Album
1986 "Heartbeat" 5 3 6 10 5 13 16 6 46 Heartbeat
"Heartache Away" 56 22 31 25
1987 "Voice on a Hotline" 59
1989 "Tell It Like It Is" 13 6 2 6 6 84 Let It Roll
"Other People's Lives" 46 57 53
"A Better Place" (with Yuri)
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Featured singles

Year Single Artist Peak chart positions Album
1988 "Till I Loved You" Barbra Streisand 25 34 22 26 4 16 Till I Loved You


  • 1987: Heartbeat - Full Length Video (VHS) - (Release date: May 10, 1987)


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  2. ^ a b "Don Johnson at". Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  3. ^ "Cocktail Recipe: Don Johnson's Blazer". BarMeister: Online guide to drinking. Retrieved 2007-12-20. 
  4. ^ Twardy, Chuck (1986-02-23). "Don Johnson at KU". Lawrence Journal-World.,4844901&dq=don-wayne-johnson-spent&hl=en. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  5. ^,3970530&dq=don-johnson&hl=en
  6. ^ "Celebrate Cinco De Mayo With a Trailer for Machete". 2010-09-03. Retrieved 2011-02-25. 
  7. ^ additional text[dead link]
  8. ^ "The coolest voice in LeBron James' head belongs to -- Don Johnson?". Los Angeles Times: pp. Ministry of Gossip. 2010-10-26. Retrieved 2010-10-27. 
  9. ^ {
  10. ^ Zoglin, Richard (1985-09-16). "Cool Cops, Hot Show". Time Magazine (Time Inc.).,9171,959822,00.html. Retrieved 2007-11-02. 
  11. ^ a b "A Wedding Belle Gives Miami Spice", People, November 23, 1987
  12. ^ "IMDb ''The Harrad Experiment''". 2003-07-22. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  13. ^ a b c d "A Baby for Don and Melanie", People Magazine, February 27, 1989
  14. ^ "IMDb ''The Harrad Experiment'' full cast". Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  15. ^ Des Barres, Pamela. I'm With The Band (2005) pp. 230-246
  16. ^ a b Zoglin, Richard (1985-09-16). "Cool Cops, Hot Show". Time Magazine (Time Inc.).,9171,959822-4,00.html. Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  17. ^ "The Smoking Gun: Archive". Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  18. ^ Gordon Hom (2008-12-29). "Nash Bridges: Nashbits News". Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  19. ^ a b c d Cironneau, Lionel (2003-03-12). "Germany inspects papers linked to Johnson". USA Today. Associated Press (Germany). Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  20. ^ a b c d e Welkos, Robert W. (2003-03-13). "For Actor Don Johnson, $8 Billion Worth of Bad Publicity in Germany". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  21. ^ a b c "Don Johnson denies laundering money". CNN. Associated Press. 2003-03-16. Archived from the original on 2007-12-01. Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  22. ^ "Don Johnson's off the hook". Los Angeles Times. 2003-05-07. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  23. ^ "Don Johnson denies laundering money." March 16, 2003.
  24. ^ [1]
  25. ^ "Don Johnson Verdict - $23.2 Million Win!". National Ledger. July 8, 2010. Retrieved July 11, 2010. 
  26. ^ Actor Don Johnson is awarded $23.2 million in 'Nash Bridges' lawsuit Los Angeles Times.
  27. ^ "Awards Database: Don Johnson". The Envelope: The Awards Insider (LA Times).,0,7169155.htmlstory?searchtype=all&query=Don+Johnson. Retrieved 2008-01-09. 
  28. ^ "Advanced Primetime Awards Search". Academy of Television Arts and Science. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  29. ^ a b "Miami Vice". Hollywood Foreign Press Association/Golden Globes. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  30. ^ Friedman, Jack; Cindy Dampier (1990-05-28). "With Kurt Russell and Chuck Norris in Tow, Don Johnson Risks His Neck on a New Miami Vice—superboat Racing". People Magazine 33 (21): 101, 102. 
  31. ^ Hewitt, Chris (2009-04-28). "Don Johnson Is Born To Be A Star". Empire Weekly. Retrieved 2009-05-09. 
  32. ^ "Don Johnson's road leads to "Rome"". Reuters. 2008-08-10. Retrieved 2008-08-12. 
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  35. ^ " - Dutch charts portal". Hung Medien. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  36. ^ " - Norwegian charts portal". Hung Medien. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  37. ^ " - Swedish charts portal". Hung Medien. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  38. ^ "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community". Hung Medien. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
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  40. ^ " - Austria Top 40". Hung Medien. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  41. ^ a b " - French charts portal". Hung Medien. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  42. ^ "Die ganze Musik im Internet: Charts - German Singles". Hung Medien. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
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  45. ^ " - New Zealand charts portal". Hung Medien. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  46. ^ " - Swedish charts portal". Hung Medien. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  47. ^ "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community". Hung Medien. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  48. ^ "Chart Stats - Don Johnson". Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  49. ^ "Barbra Streisand Album & Song Chart History - Hot 100". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  50. ^ " - Australian charts portal". Hung Medien. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  51. ^ "Chart Stats - Barbra Streisand and Don Johnson". Retrieved May 23, 2011. 

External links

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