When it comes to ’80s icons, few stand out quite like Don Johnson. The actor, producer, director, singer, and songwriter took the world by storm in his role as James “Sonny” Crockett in Miami Vice, winning a Golden Globe for his work.
Born way back in 1949, it’s quite remarkable that Don is still a fixture in the landscape of show business. Of course, there’s no denying that’s exactly what he is.
Sure, he might not be front and center, as he once was, but make no mistake about it: Don Johnson’s name still carries weight and he’s still working on a number of projects.
But what is exactly is the man who made James “Sonny” Crockett famous doing today? How does this once-silver screen heartthrob look today? Has time been kind to him?
These are burning questions I’ll assume you have (since you clicked on the article). I know I certainly had them, before doing a little digging. Well, I’ll put you out of your misery. Here’s what we know about Don Johnson today …
Born in Crane, Missouri on December 15, 1949, it’s fair to say Donnie Wayne Johnson had humble beginnings. His mother, Nell, was a beautician, while his father, Wayne, was a farmer. They were both young at the time of Don’s birth – 17 and 19 respectively – and so the family had little to no money.
In fact, Don was raised in relative poverty. His family relocated to Wichita, Kansas when he was six, and it was there that his passion for performance would first begin to manifest itself.
Don graduated from Wichita South High School, where he had been involved in the high school’s theater program. He played the lead role of Tony in West Side Story as a senior, and also appeared in performances of “Burnt Cork and Melody” and “The Hullabaloo.”
Big things to come
Upon graduating from high school in 1967, he enrolled at the University of Kansas to be a theater major. It turned out it just wasn’t the place for him, though, since he dropped out after one year.
The young Don relocated himself to San Francisco, California in order to attend the American Conservatory Theater.
By that point, it was fairly obvious that Don dreamed of acting for a living. He aspired to perform for others, and landed his first role as Smitty in the 1969 Los Angeles stage production of Fortune and Men’s Eyes.
From there, he went from strength to strength, appearing in the 1970 film The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart, as well as further productions such as Zachariah (1971), The Harrad Experiment (1973), Lollipop and Roses (1974), and A Boy and His Dog (1975).
Yet despite the fact he continued to land roles, Don was no household name. He also experienced tragedy when, in 1976, his roommate, actor Sal Mineo, was stabbed to death outside of the pair’s apartment in West Hollywood, California in an apparent mugging.
It wouldn’t until be the mid-1980’s, after a series of struggles and a string of pilots which never went to air, that Don would get the big breakthrough he sought.
He landed the role of undercover detective Sonny Crockett in Miami Vice and the rest, as they say, is history.
Crockett, with his expensive suits, flashy cars, and 12-meter yacht, stole the imaginations of the audiences and proved a huge hit. Both Don and co-star Phillip Michael Thomas gained much fame through their performances, with Don supplementing his rise to notoriety with simultaneous roles in a host of TV miniseries.
When asked about his role as James Crockett, Don told the Miami Herald: “You know, perhaps there are some new episodes of Miami Vice that could come along. A reboot.
“I have talked to some big-time directors who would be interested in doing it. I’ve got a couple ideas of how you could do it in a seamless, spectacular way. I would re-create my role as Sonny as he is in the 21st century. It could be fun as hell.”
Miami Vice ran until 1990, which time Don was a certified star. He followed up with a role in CBS-TV police drama Nash Bridges, which ran from 1996-2001. Here, Don again impressed, strengthening his star power and ensuring he wouldn’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Don Johnson and love
He might be known for having brought several roles to TV screens, but Don Johnson was no stranger to love affairs. In fact, he’s had a total of four wives spanning five marriages, the first two of which were annulled in a matter of days.
In 1972, Don met Melanie Griffith, the teenager daughter of a co-star from Harrad Experiment, Tippi Hedren. When she was 15, Griffith and Johnson began living together in a rented house, and they got engaged on her 18th birthday before marrying in January 1976.
Sadly, their union wasn’t to last. Melanie and Don separated in July of that same year and were divorced by November.
They would later reunite and conceive a daughter, Dakota Johnson – these days a star in her own right – in early 1989.
Over the years, Don was also involved with or engaged to such women as Sally Adams, Barbara Streisand, Patti D’Arbanville, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, and Jacqueline Phleger.
All told, Don has five children, Jesse, Dakota, Grace, Jasper, Deacon.
These days, Don Johnson is still appearing in TV shows and movies, still entertaining fans and reminding people just how great a performer he really is.
At the moment he can be seen in the TV series Watchmen, and has appeared in films such as Django Unchained, Brawl in Cell Block 99, and Knives Out in recent years.
And the best part? He’s still as handsome as ever. I mean, it’s almost as if his rugged good looks are timeless, which I’m sure you won’t mind if, as I did, you watched him in Miami Vice.
I just love Don Johnson! No one could ever forget that smile. I know I certainly won’t.
Were you a fan of Miami Vice? Or perhaps of any of Don Johnson’s other works? If so let us know in the comments box below.
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