Don Johnson

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For other people named Don Johnson, see Don Johnson (disambiguation).
Don Johnson
Don Johnson.JPEG
Johnson in 1986, during an interview aboard the aircraft carrier USS Lexington.
Born Donnie Wayne Johnson
(1949-12-15) December 15, 1949 (age 65)
Flat Creek, Missouri, U.S.
Occupation Actor, producer, director, singer, songwriter
Years active 1969–present
Spouse(s) Spouse1 (1968; annulled)[1][2]
Spouse2 (annulled)
Melanie Griffith
(1976, 1989–1996)
Kelley Phleger
Partner(s) Patti D'Arbanville (1981–1985)
Children 5; including
Jesse Wayne Johnson
Dakota Johnson

Donnie Wayne "Don" Johnson[3] (born December 15, 1949)[3] is an American actor, producer, director, singer, and songwriter. He is best known for his role as James "Sonny" Crockett in the 1980s television series Miami Vice, and as 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 American Power Boat Association Offshore World Cup, and has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[4]

Early life[edit]

Johnson was born on December 15, 1949 in Flat Creek, Missouri.[3] His mother, Nell (née Wilson), was a beautician, and his father, Wayne Fred Johnson, was a farmer.[5][6] At the time of his birth, they were 19 and 17, 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.

Johnson has spoken about his draft-exempt status and his dislike for war.[7]


Early years[edit]

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, based on a novel by Robert Westbrook, son of columnist Sheilah Graham). 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). In 1976, Johnson was roommates with actor Sal Mineo when Mineo was murdered outside their West Hollywood, California apartment.[8]

Miami Vice[edit]

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 pilots, none of which became a TV series—Johnson 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 40-foot (12 m) (later a 42 -ft) Endeavour yacht with his pet alligator, Elvis. Miami Vice was noted for its revolutionary use of music, cinematography, imagery, and its glitzy take on the police drama genre. Between seasons, Johnson gained further renown through several TV miniseries, such as the 1985 TV remake of The Long, Hot Summer.

Nash Bridges[edit]

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 a Curious Yellow 1971 Plymouth Barracuda.


Don Johnson with Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher at the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006

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 West End of London production of Guys and Dolls as Nathan Detroit.

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.[9]


Johnson and Jon Heder co-hosted WWE's Raw on January 18, 2010.[10]

Johnson had a supporting 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.[11]

In September 2011, Johnson had a cameo in the comedy A Good Old Fashioned Orgy with Jason Sudeikis.[12]

Johnson had a supporting role in the 2012 Quentin Tarantino film, Django Unchained, playing a southern plantation owner named Spencer 'Big Daddy' Bennett.[13]


Johnson released two albums of pop music in the 1980s, one in 1986 and the other in 1989. His single, "Heartbeat", reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. It was the title track from his first album, and was a collaboration with Robert Tepper. 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 Dickey 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. B.B. King and Jules Taub co-wrote the song "Blind Love", the Allman's covered it. There is no writer's credit to confirm he co-wrote "Can't Take It with You".[3][14] "Till I Loved You" was the title track (a Top 40 hit in the Billboard Hot 100) of a studio album released on October 25, 1988 on Columbia Records. The song was a duet with then girl-friend, Barbra Streisand. The song was re-released on the Streisand album "Duets" in 2002.

Personal life[edit]

Relationships and family[edit]

Johnson has had four wives in five marriages, three of which were brief. His first two marriages, in the late 1960s, were annulled. The names of Johnson's first two wives have not been made public knowledge.[1] In the early 1970s, Johnson lived with groupie Pamela Des Barres.[15] At 22, he met Melanie Griffith, the 14-year-old daughter of his The Harrad Experiment co-star Tippi Hedren.[16] When Griffith was 15, she and Johnson began living together in a rented house in Laurel Canyon.[16] On her 18th birthday they became engaged, and were married in January 1976; they filed for divorce that July.[16][17] In early 1989, they reunited and had a daughter,[16] Dakota Johnson (born 1989), and were married again from that year until 1996.

Johnson lived with actress Patti D'Arbanville.[17] from 1981 to 1988.[18] The couple has a son, Jesse Wayne Johnson (born December 7, 1982).[19] A 1989 description of the couple's life in the 1980s said,

...[O]n Jan. 17, 1981, ... D'Arbanville ... met Johnson at an L.A. restaurant. "I saw this gorgeous guy," she says, "and I ran after him. saying, 'Hey you.' It turned out to be Donny. I said, 'So, Donny, how many times have you been married?' He said, 'Three.' I said, 'Say hello to No. 4.'...." Johnson ditched his date, Tanya Tucker, and spent the night with Patti. "One month later," she says, "I was pregnant." The couple planned to marry that fall, but D'Arbanville changed her mind. "I didn't see the point," she says. "Besides, there were areas in which we didn't get along." Drinking was one of them. Shortly after becoming pregnant, Patti sobered up. "Donny didn't," she says "[and] we grew further apart." ... Johnson eventually stopped drinking with D'Arbanville's help.... Miami Vice took Johnson to Florida in 1984, and the couple split a year later....[18]

Johnson next had a relationship with Barbra Streisand, lasting into at least September 1988.[16]

On April 29, 1999, he married San Francisco socialite and Montessori nursery school teacher Kelley Phleger, then 30, at the Pacific Heights mansion of Ann and Gordon Getty.[20] Actor Robert Wagner served as best man, and Mayor Willie Brown presided over the civil ceremony.[20] Johnson and Phleger have three children together: a daughter, Atherton Grace Johnson (born December 28, 1999),[21] and two sons, Jasper Breckinridge Johnson (born June 6, 2002),[22] and Deacon Johnson (born April 29, 2006).[23][24]

Legal problems[edit]

In November 2002,[25] German customs officers at the Swiss-German[25] border performed a routine search of Johnson's car.[25] Bank statements evidencing US$8 billion in transactions were found in the trunk of his car.[25][26][27] He was accompanied in his black Mercedes-Benz[26] by three men: an investment adviser,[26] a personal assistant,[26] and a third of unknown identity.[26] Initially it was thought Johnson was involved in money laundering,[27] but he was cleared of wrongdoing.[28]

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.[29]

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.[30] Rysher announced it would appeal the verdict.[31] In January 2013, after recalculating interest and avoiding an additional appeal, Rysher paid Johnson $19 million to end the lawsuit.[32]


Awards and recognitions[edit]

Year Result Award Category TV/Film
1975 Winner Saturn Award Best Actor[33] A Boy and His Dog
1985 Nominated Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series[34] Miami Vice
1986 Winner Golden Globe Awards Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series - Drama[35]
1987 Nominated Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series - Drama[35]
1988 Won APBA Offshore World Cup Superboat class[3][36]
1996 Awarded Hollywood Walk of Fame Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame[4]


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
1975 Boy and His Dog, AA Boy and His Dog Vic Saturn Award for Best Actor
1975 Return to Macon County Harley McKay
1976 The Streets of San Francisco Larry Wilson Season 5 Episode 9 Hot Dog
1976 Law of the Land
1977 The City Sergeant Brian Scott Television pilot
1977 Trial Marriage
1977 The 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 The Rebels Judson Fletcher Miniseries
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
1981 Soggy Bottom, U.S.A. Jacob Gorch
1982 Melanie Carl
1984–1989 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 Longpre
2007 Bastardi Sante Patene Italian film
2008 Lange Flate Ballær 2 Admiral Burnett Norwegian film
2008 Torno a vivere da solo Nico Italian film
2010 When in Rome[37] Beth's Dad Uncredited role
2010 Machete Lt. Von Jackson
2010–2012 Eastbound & 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
2012 Django Unchained Spencer "Big Daddy" Bennett
2014 Cold in July Jim Bob
2014 The Other Woman Frank Whitten
2014 From Dusk till Dawn: The Series Earl McGraw TV series; main cast


Studio albums[edit]

Title Details Peak chart positions
Heartbeat 17 3 5 3 20 7 34 7
Let It Roll
  • Release date: September 20, 1989
  • Label: Epic Records
  • Formats: CD, cassette
23 17 15 2 19 35 6
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Compilation albums[edit]

Title Details
The Essential


Year Single Peak positions Album
1986 "Heartbeat" 5 3 4 6 10 5 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[edit]

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)


  1. ^ a b "Don Johnson Biography - Facts, Birthday, Life Story". 1949-12-15. Retrieved 2012-04-13. 
  2. ^ Schindehette, Susan (1989-02-27). "A Baby for Don and Melanie". People. Retrieved 2012-04-13. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Don Johnson Biography". Retrieved 2007-11-06. 
  4. ^ a b "Don Johnson at". Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  5. ^ Twardy, Chuck (1986-02-23). "Don Johnson at KU". Lawrence Journal-World. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ "Stanley Sweetheart Seeks in Monstrous Society". Tri-City Herald. Associated Press. June 19, 1970. Retrieved December 19, 2012. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Celebrate Cinco De Mayo With a Trailer for Machete". 2010-09-03. Retrieved 2011-02-25. 
  10. ^ [2][dead link]
  11. ^ "The coolest voice in LeBron James' head belongs to -- Don Johnson?". Los Angeles Times. 2010-10-26. pp. Ministry of Gossip. Retrieved 2010-10-27. 
  12. ^ John Anderson. "A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy". Retrieved 2012-10-27. 
  13. ^ Sandy Schaefer (October 2011). "Don Johnson Joins Tarantino's 'Django Unchained'". Retrieved August 7, 2012. 
  14. ^ Zoglin, Richard (1985-09-16). "Cool Cops, Hot Show". Time Magazine (Time Inc.). Retrieved 2007-11-02. 
  15. ^ Des Barres, Pamela. I'm With The Band (2005) pp. 230-246
  16. ^ a b c d e "A Baby for Don and Melanie". People. February 27, 1989. 
  17. ^ a b Zoglin, Richard (1985-09-16). "Cool Cops, Hot Show". Time Magazine (Time Inc.). Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  18. ^ a b Dougherty, Margot; Sheff, Vicki (April 3, 1989). "Meet the New Patti D'Arbanville, Star of Wiseguy and Wired, No Longer Just Don Johnson's Ex". People 31 (13). Retrieved December 18, 2012. 
  19. ^ Green, Michelle (December 3, 1984). "Miami Vice and a Good Woman Save Bad Boy Don Johnson". People. Retrieved December 18, 2012. 
  20. ^ a b Sutton, Larry. "Four Better or Worse". People 51 (18). Retrieved December 18, 2012. 
  21. ^ Craig, David Cobb (January 1, 2000). "Passages - Births". People. Retrieved December 18, 2012. 
  22. ^ Abel, Olivia (June 24, 2002). "Passages > Births". People. Retrieved December 18, 2012. 
  23. ^ Wren, Jennifer (May 15, 2006). "Passages > Births". People. Retrieved December 18, 2012. 
  24. ^ Rozen, Leah; Mascia, Kristen; Ellenson, Ruth Andrew; Lynch, Jason (August 7, 2006). "Picks and Pans Review: Where Are They Now?". People. Retrieved December 18, 2012. 
  25. ^ a b c d Cironneau, Lionel (2003-03-12). "Germany inspects papers linked to Johnson". USA Today (Germany). Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  26. ^ 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. 
  27. ^ a b "on Johnson Denies Laundering Money". CNN. Associated Press. 2003-03-16. Archived from the original on 2007-12-01. Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  28. ^ "Don Johnson's off the hook". Los Angeles Times. 2003-05-07. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  29. ^ "The Famous, Foreclosed: Celebrity Foreclosures Photo Gallery". TruTV. 2006-04-27. Retrieved 2012-04-13. 
  30. ^ Kim, Victoria (July 8, 2010). "Actor Don Johnson is awarded $23.2 million in 'Nash Bridges' lawsuit". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 2, 2013. 
  31. ^ "Actor Don Johnson is awarded $23.2 million in 'Nash Bridges' lawsuit". Los Angeles Times. 
  32. ^ Gardner, Eriq (February 11, 2013). "Don Johnson Gets $19 Million to End 'Nash Bridges' Dispute". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 2, 2013. 
  33. ^ "Awards Database: Don Johnson". The Envelope: The Awards Insider (LA Times). Retrieved 2008-01-09. 
  34. ^ "Advanced Primetime Awards Search". Academy of Television Arts and Science. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  35. ^ a b "Miami Vice". Hollywood Foreign Press Association/Golden Globes. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  36. ^ 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 33 (21): 101–102. 
  37. ^ "Don Johnson's road leads to "Rome"". Reuters. 2008-08-10. Retrieved 2008-08-12. 
  38. ^ "Don Johnson Album & Song Chart History - Billboard 200". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved December 15, 2011. 
  39. ^ a b " - Don Johnson". Hung Medien. Retrieved December 15, 2011. 
  40. ^ a b Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin - levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (1st ed.). Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava. p. 170. ISBN 978-951-1-21053-5. 
  41. ^ "InfoDisc - Le Détail des Albums de chaque Artste - Sélection de l'Artiste - Choisissez une Lettre: J > Don Johnson". InfoDisc. Retrieved December 30, 2011. 
  42. ^ "German Charts (Albums) > Don Johnson" (in German). Media Control Charts. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  43. ^ a b c " - Dutch charts portal". Hung Medien. Retrieved December 15, 2011. 
  44. ^ a b " - Norwegian charts portal > Don Johnson". Hung Medien. Retrieved December 15, 2011. 
  45. ^ a b " - Swedish charts portal > Don Johnson". Hung Medien. Retrieved December 15, 2011. 
  46. ^ "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community". Hung Medien. Retrieved December 15, 2011. 
  47. ^ "Don Johnson Album & Song Chart History - Hot 100". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved December 15, 2011. 
  48. ^ a b " - French charts portal". Hung Medien. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  49. ^ a b "German Charts (Singles) > Don Johnson" (in German). Media Control Charts. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  50. ^ "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community". Hung Medien. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  51. ^ "Chart Stats - Don Johnson". Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  52. ^ "Barbra Streisand Album & Song Chart History - Hot 100". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  53. ^ " - Australian charts portal". Hung Medien. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  54. ^ "Chart Stats - Barbra Streisand and Don Johnson". Retrieved May 23, 2011. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Hershkovits, David. Don Johnson, in series, 2M Communications Production[s]. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1986. ISBN 0-312-90165-8
  • Latham, Caroline. Miami Magic: Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas, the Inside Story of the Stars of 'Miami Vice' [and of their other television and film work]. New York: Zebra Books, 1985. N.B.: The subtitle given, lacking on the t.p., is from the pbk. book's front cover. ISBN 0-8217-1800-2

External links[edit]