Don Johnson: from Eighties sex idol to New Age Dad

Ocean Drive sign, Miami © Thinkstock

Don Johnson made his name playing a cop called Sonny Crockett in the glossy and expensive – each episode cost $1m to make – 1980s TV series, Miami Vice. In the process, says Kevin Maher in The Times, he “brought designer stubble and pastel T-shirts to the world” and became “a global pin-up”.

With the fame and the fortune – and thanks in no small part to his good looks – came a life of dizzying excess.

Johnson found himself at a stream of Florida parties filled, he says, with “politicians, state senators, drug dealers, police and the best-looking hookers in the business.

And at first it was like, ‘Oh, so everybody knows everybody?’ For years I’d been concerned about carrying drugs around, and all these motherf***ers, police included, are carrying drugs around? And their drugs are better than mine? Hahahaha!”

There weren’t many nights curled up on the sofa in front of the television. If he was at home, Johnson would get on the phone. “There were five modelling agencies in Miami and I would invite five models from each agency, and three or four male friends,” he tells Maher – and pauses, looking for a suitable way to put it before settling on: “We had a lot of fun!”

He felt, he told The Daily Telegraph’s Chrissy Iley, like “the sex idol of the universe”. It was all too much. The instant fame overwhelmed him.

He and his co-star, Philip Michael Thomas, even made the cover of Time magazine. As a 12-year-old, he’d been sent to reform school for stealing a car; now he was the highest-paid man in television.

“I couldn’t go anywhere… If I went anywhere I had to take all this security with me and prep it ahead of time. It was like a goddam military operation.”

In the late 1990s, however, his career went into decline and he struggled for a decade with substance abuse. He put on weight and went through what he calls a “fat Elvis” period. Happily, that’s all in the past. Now, says Maher, he’s trim, tanned and, at 64, enjoying some late success – his new role is in a cowboy film noir called Cold in July.

As for the ‘new Don’ – this came into being six or seven years ago when he was sitting outside his ranch at Aspen. Suddenly, he says, he realised the boats, planes and houses were making him miserable. He owes his recovery to a “world view that’s part Buddhist, part New Age self-help”, according to Maher.

He claims he’s even conquered his fear of death – and he’s a better father too, to his five children, who include Dakota Johnson, future star of the film version of Fifty Shades of Grey.

It all sounds very New Age. “I find happiness in the littlest of things, the simplest of things,” he tells Chrissy Iley. “There’s a quote from Nietzsche which goes something like this: ‘Happiness is the least of things, the lightest thing, a breath, a lizard’s rustle, an iris. Little maketh the best happiness. Be still’.”

Ah well. Perhaps he’ll help Dakota keep her feet on the ground as he, for a while at least, failed to do.

Tabloid money: why Wonga’s bosses should be behind bars

• It is a mistake to see last week’s “ugly demonstration of Brussels-style arm-twisting, chicanery and treachery as a humiliation of David Cameron,” says Trevor Kavanagh in The Sun.

“If anything it is Angela Merkel whose fabled reputation for soft but deadly diplomacy is in tatters… But it is the European Union itself that emerges at its shabbiest, treacherous worst… I am told Mr Cameron will signal shortly that – without real EU reform on immigration and other key demands – he will indeed lead an OUT campaign in Britain’s 2017 referendum.”

And since he’s unlikely to wring many concessions out of Jean-Claude Juncker, “the clock on Britain’s membership is already ticking”.

• “What a waste of money! The British taxpayer has so far shelled out an obscene £33m on assorted inquisitions into the newspaper industry,” says Tony Parsons in The Sun. “Seems a bit steep. The eight-month, £100m phone-hacking trial was the most expensive in British legal history, yet it secured just one conviction… And the bitter truth is that we don’t yet know how much this ham-fisted witch-hunt is going to cost [in all].”

Consider what the money that’s been spent could have bought: “£33m would have paid a year’s salary for 1,200 NHS nurses. It could have put 3,000 students through university… Or those wasted millions could have been spent fighting the greatest threat to our country – home-grown terrorists”, especially since the counter-terrorism budget has been slashed from £30m a year to £15m.

• “Why haven’t the bosses at Wonga had their greedy backsides dragged into court for sending threatening fake legal letters to people who owed them money?” asks Carole Malone in the Sunday Mirror.

“It’s bad enough these companies are allowed to rip people off with 5,000% APR interest rates.” But to threaten desperate people with legal action is “despicable. Fining a firm like Wonga a pitiful £2.6m won’t even make a dent in its £84m profits”. Why not put the bosses “behind bars” for a few months?

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