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Don Johnson (born Donnie Wayne Johnson; December 15, 1949) is an Americanmarker actor known for his work in television and film. Johnson made his screen debut in the 1970 film The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart, but it wouldn't be until 1984 that Johnson would land his defining role. He played the lead role of Sonny Crockett in the 1980s TV cop series, Miami Vice, which led him to huge success and fame. He also played the lead role in the 1990s cop series, Nash Bridges. 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 Famemarker. In addition to being an actor, he is also a singer, songwriter, producer, and director.

Early life and education

Johnson was born in Flat Creek, Missourimarker, in 1949. His father was a farmer while his mother was a beautician. At the age of 6, he moved from Missouri to Wichita, Kansasmarker. He graduated from South High School in Wichita, Kansasmarker in 1967 and attended the University of Kansasmarker in Lawrence, Kansasmarker. He is of English origin. In the late 1960s, he was one of the contestants on the game show The Dating Game.

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.


Early years

Johnson studied drama at the American Conservatory Theatermarker in San Franciscomarker. 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 1970 film The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart. 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

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, in September 1984, Johnson's fortunes changed when he landed a starring role as Sonny Crockett in the cop series, Miami Vice. In this role, Johnson played an undercover police detective. He typically wore thousand dollar Versace and Hugo Boss suits over pastel cotton t-shirts, drove a Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona...really a retooled 81 corvette (later a Ferrari Testarossa) and lived on a 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 later starred in the 1996-2001 drama Nash Bridges with Cheech Marin, Jaime P. Gomez and Jodi Lyn O'Keefe. Johnson played the title role of Nash Bridges, a detective 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 protegé/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 Endmarker 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 Harald Zwart. The movie was launched March 14, 2008 in Norwaymarker, with Johnson making an appearance at the premiere. He continues his career as actor in several new movies, as well as celebrity appearances at county fairs.


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, reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. 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.


Personal life

Relationships and family

Johnson with Griffith circa 1990.

Johnson has had four different wives in five marriages, three of which were short. Johnson had a major supporting role in The Harrad Experiment (released 1973), whose female lead was Tippi Hedren. He met Hedren's daughter, Melanie Griffith around the first half of 1972; she was an uncredited extra. He was aged 22 and she 14 when they began what became a four-year affair, that included marrying, in 1976, for less than a year. Melanie and Don reconciled and conceived a child close to the start of 1989, announced wedding plans in mid-February, 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 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, and 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)

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.

In November 2002, German customs officers at the Swiss-German border performed a routine search of Johnson's car. Bank statements evidencing US$8 billion in transactions were found in the trunk of his car. He was accompanied in his black Mercedes-Benz by three men: an investment adviser, a personal assistant, and a third of unknown identity. Initially it was thought Johnson was involved in money-laundering, but he was cleared of wrongdoing. 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 Zurich for financing, 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." The police found and copied these documents, and the money laundering story grew somehow out of this.

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


Awards and recognitions

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

In popular culture

  • The Finnish music group Don Johnson Big Band is named after him.
  • In a Calvin and Hobbes comic, when Calvin and Hobbes are getting ready to go to a dinner with Calvin's parents, Hobbes asks, "Do you think I should shave?", to which Calvin replies "Nah, go for the Don Johnson fuzzy look."
  • The Don Johnson is a Miami Vice themed drink made from vodka, gin, curaçao, and orange juice.
  • In the 2002 movie Showtime, Eddie Murphy's character, Officer Trey Sellers, says upon entering Detective Mitch Preston's (Robert De Niro) newly refurbished apartment, "Maybe we should call Don Johnson and tell him we found his apartment."
  • In the 2005 movie Broken Flowers, Bill Murray's character's name, is always laughed at by people because he has the same name as "Don Johnson". Except he stresses his name is spelt with a T, making it, Don Johnston.
  • In the HBO television series Entourage, Don Johnson is mentioned to have the lead role in the upcoming fictional CSI Minneapolis.


Year Film Role Notes
1970 The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart Stanley Sweetheart
1971 Zachariah Matthew
1973 The Harrad Experiment Stanley Cole
Kung Fu 1973 episode - The Spirit Helper
1974 Lollipops and Roses Franky
A Boy and His Dog Vic The Saturn Award - Best Actor
1975 Return to Macon County Harley McKay
1976 Law of the Land
1977 The City Sergeant Brian Scott tv pilot
Trial Marriage
Cover Girls
1978 Swan Lake Benno (English version) (voice)
Pressure Point
Ski Lift to Death Mike Sloan
The Two-Five
Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold
First, You Cry
1979 Tales of the Unexpected
Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill TV Movie
The Rebels Miniseries
1980 Soggy Bottom, USA Jacob Gorch
From Here to Eternity Canceled after 13 episodes
Beulah Land Miniseries
Revenge of the Stepford Wives TV Movie
1981 Elvis and the Beauty Queen Elvis Presley TV Movie
The Two Lives of Carol Letner TV Movie
1982 Melanie Carl
1984 - 1989 Miami Vice Det. James "Sonny" Crockett 111 Episodes

Golden Globe Winner: Best TV Actor - Drama
1985 Cease Fire Tim Murphy
The Long, Hot Summer Ben Quick TV Movie
1987 G.I. Joe: The Movie Lt. Falcon (voice) 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
Paradise Ben Reed
1993 Born Yesterday Paul Verrall
Guilty as Sin David Edgar Greenhill
1995 In Pursuit of Honor Sgt. John Libbey HBO Movie
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 TV Movie

Co-executive producer
2005 Just Legal Grant H. Cooper Cancelled after 3 episodes the rest of the episodes were later aired

8 episodes (2005-2006)
2007 Moondance Alexander Dante
Super Bowl XLI in-studio discussion team. (CBS)
2008 Lange Flate Ballær 2 Admiral Burnett Norwegianmarker film
2009 A Good Old Fashioned Orgy -
2010 Born to be a Star -
When in Rome -
Machete Lt. Stillman


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