“You’ve got to know the rules before you can break ’em.
Otherwise, it’s no fun.”
—Sonny Crocket in Miami Vice
(Excerpt from Missouri Legends)
Don Johnson is one of the best-known actors of our generation, but many people don’t even realize the Miami Vice star grew up in a tiny town in southwest Missouri. He has performed in nearly fifty movies and TV shows and even released a pair of musical albums. He was constantly on the covers of magazines, especially during his fashionista days on Miami Vice. And who would have thought that a guy from Flatt Creek, Missouri, would start a fashion trend that took the world by storm.
THE EARLY YEARS
Donnie Wayne Johnson was born on December 15, 1949, and grew up in the small town of Flatt Creek, which is actually just a small cluster of homes near Galena. His father worked on the family farm in the remote area, trying to make a living for the growing family. Both of his grandfathers were ministers, so it was natural that Don grew up performing in the church. His first taste of the spotlight came at age five, when he sang solos in front of the congregation.
Don and his family packed up their bags when he was young and moved to Topeka so his father could take a job with an aircraft company. Seven years later, Don was back in Flatt Creek after his parents divorced and his father moved back to take care of the farm. Don left again as a teenager and graduated from high school in Wichita in 1967. He enrolled in the theater department at the University of Kansas but left after two years to train at the San Francisco American Conservatory Theater.
RISE TO FAME
Don performed around San Francisco in a play called Your Own Thing. One night in 1968, the famed actor Sal Mineo attended one of the performances and was impressed with Johnson. He told Don that he was producing a play called Fortune and Men’s Eyes and wanted him to read for a part. Don nailed the audition and starred in the critically acclaimed show. His reviews were so strong that other producers and directors wanted him to star in their productions.
His career was exploding when he went to a casting call for a new show, tentatively called Dade County Fast Lane. He read for the part of Sonny Crocket but didn’t hear back from the producers. Johnson decided to take a role in another film, which was also shooting in Florida. After the movie wrapped, the call finally came where producers asked him to read again for the part, this time with other potential co-stars. And the rest is television history.
SHOW ME SUCCESS
Johnson read for the part of Sonny Crocket with a number of fellow actors, including Philip Michael Thomas. When the two auditioned together, producers knew they finally had the right chemistry. The two were paired up as co-stars for the show, which was now called Miami Vice.
When the show debuted in 1984, it made Johnson an overnight megastar. He was the hottest actor in Hollywood, and he single-handedly changed the way American men dressed. His unique style of flashy linen blazers, pastel shirts, baggie pants, and no socks were a hit. Johnson also released a pair of musical albums during his five-year run with Miami Vice. His performance made him a worldwide star, a wealthy young man, and the winner of a Golden Globe.
When the showed wrapped up production, he sought another challenge in the entertainment industry. He took another role, similar to Sonny Crocket, as the detective Nash Bridges in the show of the same name in 1994. In the meantime, he expanded his empire by starting his own production company.
He continues to star on the big and small screens. He was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1996 for his acting prowess. It seems that everything Johnson touched over the past two decades has been a hit, which proves that he is one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood.
*Don opened an upscale restaurant in 1999 in San Francisco called Ana Mandara.
*Don’s role in A Boy and His Dog earned him the honor of Best Actor of the Year by the Academy of Science Fiction and Horror Films.
*He was kicked out of a business class during his senior year of high school, which forced him to take a drama class to graduate.