Saturday, April 20, 2013
Writing about actor Don Johnson is even to me a rather odd choice for a blog which holds favorites as it’s theme. Don Johnson has never really been a favorite actor of mine, in fact until this year I am not sure I even saw anything he was in.
I was about 8 or 9 when Miami Vice premiered on NBC. At the time, there was no such thing as a DVR and we didn’t even have a VCR until a few years later. From what I remember, for most of the 80's, Friday night at my families home was Dallas night. My parents loved the show and as I got older, I joined them in what was really the only television show I remember us sitting down and watching as a family. Therefore, I never watched the show that aired opposite Dallas, not then, and not now.
Anyone who has a cat knows that they often do this push pull thing with your hand. They pull it in with their front paws, while simultaneously , pushing it away with their rear paws, leaving you scratched and often bloody. This is sort of how I feel about Don....
What I did know about Miami Vice and Don Johnson came from newspapers and magazines. Miami Vice came big for a hot minute and for a short while Johnson was everywhere. First off, Johnson was in his mid to late thirties at the time, so given my age, he was just another old, but good looking actor from television. When I did see him on television and in print, I found he seemed to give off an almost arrogant, know it all attitude I found a turn off.
Below: Taken in 1976 in Mexico, the images below appeared in the 1986 issue of Playboy.
As I grew into my teens however, when I would see him on televison and in magazines, I also found his arrogance was contrasted with an innate sexual presence that caused the sort of push/pull feeling I described above. Researching Don for the posts today, it makes total sense given his background. He was just 12, when he lost his virginity and from then on there always seemed to be a woman, especially an older one, by his side. Don already had experienced close to a quarter of a century by the time I was introduced to him in the mid-eighties, of being admired ogled and maybe sometimes exploited both women and men. Having the range of sexual experiences, both in real life and on screen, makes his arrogance, or maybe better worded, self confidence, more understandable now that I am older.
Earlier this year I saw what I think was my first Don Johnson performance in Django Unchained. Because of this, I was researching Don for a post I did earlier in the year, Django Uncovered. In that research I once again came upon Don’s images from film The Harrad Experiment and the play The Fortune and Men’s Eyes. There is something about Don’s appearance during this time that is particularly sexy, and sexual. The blonde hair, those lips, the body and a feeling the young man in the images was game for pretty much anything. Since that post, I made a point of finding and watching some of Don’s early work, the first priority being The Harrad Experiment. Don did not disappoint.
I still have little interest in watching Miami Vice or Nash Bridges, not because Don is older, but because tv cop shows usually bore me to tears. Don Johnson however, has become a favorite hunk to look back on for what he evokes in me. I think we all have a Don Johnson in our past, a guy who turned us off most times, pushing us away for one reason or another. At the same time, this same guy had the power, when the moment was right to pull us in, and pull us hard.
Fortune and Men's Eyes is a 1967 play and 1971 film by John Herbert about a young man's experience in prison, exploring themes of homosexuality and sexual slavery. The title comes from William Shakespeare's Sonnet 29 which begins with the line "When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes". It has been translated into forty languages and produced in over a hundred countries. It is the most published Canadian play, and won the Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Award.
In 1969 the play was produced and directed by Sal Mineo at the Coronet Theatre in Los Angeles. Don Johnson played the lead role of Smitty, a young man sentenced to six months in prison for marijuana possession, who eventually becomes the sexual subordinate of another inmate, Rocky.
Check out more information, including a great account of the LA production on The Sal Mineo Official Website HERE:
In The Harrad Experiment, young men and women attend Harrad College for what is essentially a one-year "control group" trial in pre-marital sex, to be overseen by Prof. Philip Tenhausen and his wife, Margaret Although initially paired off for the first month, they will be free to change partners once a month if they so desire.
There's a great deal of tension as the partners consider whether they have been paired off appropriately, and the jealousy and discomfort they feel comes to the surface in an improvisational exercise overseen by Philip.
It was the late 90's before I had the Internet. Prior to the Net, my knowledge of movies, and male nudity in movies was extremely limited. Growing up in a relatively small city there was limited information and material to get my hands on. The Internet opened up an entire new world of information and research abilities. One of the first sites I came upon in my quest to learn more was the old Campfire Video site. Some of you I am sure remember the site, and it's rather messy history. At the time however, it was one of the only sources of information on Male nudity in cinema and the image above remains one of the best of Johnson from the movie.
After being reminded of the film earlier this year, I finally got a hold of a copy. The caps here are from that version. Problem is, I am not sure there is a true unedited copy of the film available. The Copy I bought does indeed have all the nudity, but the nude scenes were clearly re-edited back in as their quality is obviously not as clear as the other parts of the film.
Many of you may know that the 1973 flick also includes some brief frontal nudity from actors Bruno Kirby as well as a quick but rewarding frontal of actor Gregory Harrison who looks every inch a man of the 70's. I did not realize until getting my copy however the film, with Johnson in all his naked glory, also features his future mother in law as Tippi Hedren (mom to Melanie Griffith) plays Margaret Tenhausen in the film.
The film is most interesting to me as there is something about Johnson that has me 'on alert' in each and ever scene. Regardless of how little, or how much, he is wearing, Don's look triggers thoughts of my first pings of sexual attraction to older guys while I was growing up in the 80's. He simply exudes a sexuality that I think is felt by women and men, both gay and straight, it is absolute.