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20 Fashionable Facts About Miami Vice

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Though its extra-large “car phones” and pastel-hued costuming decisions might seem laughable to some today, Miami Vice’s impact went far beyond the small screen. From music to travel to fashion to facial hair, no corner of American culture was left untouched by the huge presence of officers Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) and Ricardo Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas). Throw an Armani jacket over that pink T-shirt and let’s revisit one of TV’s most groundbreaking crime series.

1. “MTV COPS” WAS THE MAIN CONCEIT OF THE SERIES.

There have been differing opinions as to who came up with the idea of “MTV Cops” as a summary for what Miami Vice should be. While many sources claim that it was Brandon Tartikoff who scribbled down the two-word idea as a brainstorming memo, show creator Anthony Yerkovich has maintained that he spent years developing the idea that would become Miami Vice. “I thought of [Miami] as a sort of a modern-day American Casablanca,” Yerkovich told TIME in 1985. “It seemed to be an interesting socioeconomic tide pool: the incredible number of refugees from Central America and Cuba, the already extensive Cuban-American community, and on top of all that the drug trade.”

Regardless of whether you believe the story about the Tartikoff memo, there’s no denying that Miami Vice did become a cop show for the MTV generation. “The show is written for an MTV audience, which is more interested in images, emotions, and energy than plot and character and words,” said Lee Katzin, who directed two episodes of the show’s first season.

2. SONNY CROCKETT WASN'T THE FIRST SONNY CROCKETT.

Prior to Miami Vice, Yerkovich was a writer and producer on Hill Street Blues. In 1983, a year before Miami Vice’s premiere, actor Dennis Burkley appeared in four episodes of Hill Street Blues, playing a racist biker named “Sonny Crockett.”

3. NICK NOLTE AND JEFF BRIDGES WERE APPROACHED TO PLAY CROCKETT.

Producers showed interest in both Jeff Bridges and Nick Nolte for the role of Crockett; both passed, reportedly to focus on their film careers. Gary Cole—who played a smuggler in season two’s “Trust Fund Pirates”—also auditioned for the role of Crockett.

4. THE NETWORK DIDN’T WANT DON JOHNSON.

Though the casting conversation kept coming back to Don Johnson for the role of Sonny Crockett, the network was against casting him, deeming him pilot poison. “I had made five pilots for Brandon Tartikoff back then, and none of them were picked up,” Johnson told Rolling Stone.

5. CHIPS’ LARRY WILCOX WAS JOHNSON’S BIGGEST COMPETITION.

Ultimately, the Crockett role came down to two actors: Don Johnson and Larry Wilcox, who played “Jon” on CHiPs for five years. In 2011, on his official fan site, Wilcox recounted how it all went down:

“Michael Mann asked me to read for this series called Miami Vice. He asked if I would grease my hair back and have stubble and moustache and be a hard ass. I said sure ... My agent told me they had read tons of actors and could not find the right guy. They had read even Don Johnson originally according to my sources.

When Universal saw my screen test they went crazy, saying that I was one of the finest and most intense actors they had ever seen in a screen test and told my agent, David Shapira, that I should have been a screen star with that intensity. I wallowed in the ego of those statements and of course … agreed.

Then they said that, ‘We need you to read with other actors to see if we can find someone that will be good with you.’ I read with many actors and did stunts and fight scenes and all kinds of crap for Michael Mann and the writer. Later I found out that the writer of the original series pilot did not want me and was perhaps just using me to read other actors. I went and read for NBC for the final decision and Brandon Tartikoff, the esteemed president of NBC, said in his book, that ‘Larry Wilcox was the choice for Miami Vice.’

On the day before Christmas, after helping them (Universal and Michael Mann) to find an actor, taking hits to my face in fight scenes, and all of the other such tests … I was informed that it was all bullsh*t and they were not going to use me and in fact were going to use Don Johnson. It was a cold blow and a manipulative blow the day before Christmas and I was upset and dejected. I wondered about all the compliments and all the hoopla and the lies or truth of it all. I still do not know what happened but it could have been the writer, it could have been an agent pulling a move with other actors in some other production if they would take Don Johnson on Miami Vice, or it could have been Don was just great. In retrospect, I think they made the right choice!”

6. CROCKETT’S BELOVED FERRARI WAS ACTUALLY A CORVETTE.

By DougW at English Wikipedia - Transferred fromen.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain

Like his cutting-edge fashion choices, Crockett was immediately associated with his beloved Ferrari. In the series’ earliest episodes, he drives a Ferrari Daytona; in actuality, his Ferrari was a custom-built 1980 Corvette. Unhappy that the series was using an imposter, Ferrari filed a lawsuit against the show’s creators. Ultimately, both parties came to an agreement whereby the car-maker would supply the series with two brand-new Ferrari Testarossas—but only if the old “Ferrari” was destroyed on the show. (It was.)

7. IT WAS ONE OF THE MOST EXPENSIVE SHOWS ON TELEVISION AT THE TIME.

Given the show’s commitment to authenticity, by shooting in Miami—not to mention its music licensing rights—Miami Vice was one of the most expensive shows of its decade, with an average cost of about $1.3 million per episode.

8. A TRIP TO A PAINT STORE INSPIRED THE SHOW’S PASTEL COLORS.

In discussing the genesis of Miami Vice’s pastel-heavy costuming and production design, executive producer Michael Mann explained that it was the result of two things: a vacation he had taken to South Beach several years before the show’s debut, and a couple of color chips he found at the paint store. "I was playing around with them and I realized: three colors become thematic, two colors don't," Mann told the Los Angeles Times in 1987. "Three colors, you can actually start telling a chromatic story. You can create a mood with three colors."

9. JAN HAMMER’S THEME SONG SET A RECORD.

Jan Hammer’s “Miami Vice Theme” became a huge radio hit, going all the way to number one on the Billboard chart, and remaining there for 12 weeks—a record for a television theme song.

10. THE SHOW BOOSTED MIAMI’S TOURISM.

When Miami Vice premiered, Miami and Miami Beach were not the destinations people flock to today; the blighted backgrounds seen in the show are 100 percent authentic. In 1984, the same year the show premiered, Miami was dubbed America’s “Murder Capital.” But the series played an essential part in rehabbing the city’s infrastructure, and its reputation.

“When we were there, it was all retirement apartments that were dilapidated and rundown,” Johnson told Rolling Stone. “We painted the facades of virtually every building up and down Collins Avenue and Ocean Avenue to match the color palettes that we had for the show.” The show’s popularity led to a huge influx of tourists (many of them European), and as a result, improvements to the area’s hotels, restaurants, and other visitor attractions—a phenomenon that’s often referred to as “The Vice Effect.”

11. “THE VICE EFFECT” LED TO PROTECTION FOR THE CITY’S ART DECO BUILDINGS.

Miami Vice’s pastel-leaning design mandate included what audiences saw in the background. In order to help achieve this (Mann had declared that “no earth tones” were to be visible), the show’s production team was often tasked with prettying up the historic buildings that would be seen in the background of a shot, which meant that boring beige tones could be reworked in shades of pink, blue, and beyond. Seeing the opportunity for a powerful ally in their quest for recognition and protection of the hundreds of historic Art Deco buildings that lined the beach, the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL) was able to work in concert with the show’s producers to make South Beach pretty again. “Miami Vice helped politically, economically and artistically,” MDPL co-founder Michael Kinerk said. “I have absolutely no doubt. It certainly put the Art Deco district on the world map.” Mann even ended up sponsoring one of the first editions of Art Deco Weekend, an annual event that continues to this day.

12. IT WAS A BOON TO THE MUSIC INDUSTRY.

One thing that made Miami Vice so groundbreaking was its use of popular music, and its ability to popularize music. Many of the day’s best-known musicians lent their tunes (and sometimes their acting chops) to the series. The show’s high budget was made even higher with the $10,000 that was allotted for music rights for each episode—an amount that allowed them to showcase music from The Rolling Stones, U2, Eric Clapton, and The Who. For the record labels, it was also a surefire way to see a boost in sales. The series even packaged some of these songs into a number of official series soundtracks.

13. THE SHOW KICKSTARTED SOME SERIOUS MEN’S FASHION TRENDS.

NBC Television/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It’s impossible to think of Miami Vice without picturing Crockett’s iconic T-shirt-with-an-Armani-jacket look. A 1985 TIME cover story talked about the series’ impact on the fashion industry:

“‘The show has taken Italian men’s fashion and spread it to mass America,’ says Kal Ruttenstein, a senior vice president of Bloomingdale’s. ‘Sales of unconstructed blazers, shiny fabric jackets, and lighter colors have gone up noticeably.’ After Six formal wear is bringing out a Miami Vice line of dinner jackets next spring, Kenneth Cole will introduce ‘Crockett’ and ‘Tubbs’ shoes, and Macy’s has opened a Miami Vice section in its young men’s department. TV cops have never been so glamorous. Says Olivia Brown-Williamson, who plays Undercover Detective Trudy Joplin on the show: ‘Who wanted to look like Kojak?’”

14. CROCKETT’S STUBBLE HAD A NARRATIVE PURPOSE.

While it was important that Crockett and Tubbs be fashion-forward, Johnson also made some tweaks to his outfits to deal with the logistics of playing a Miami cop. “It was the eighties, man,” Johnson said. “It was all about what it looked like. I took what was handed to me and I turned it into my style. The rolled-up sleeves were a function of the fact that I had to have a jacket to cover the gun and the holster. I just stripped everything down to the bare minimum. I didn't wear socks because it was too hot to wear damn socks. And the stubble was born out of the character, because it was intimated that he had been up partying with drug dealers for two or three days at a time. That was sort of an unspoken thing, which is why he was always unshaven and looked like he slept in his clothes.”

To maintain Crockett’s five-o-clock shadow, "I shave with a sideburn trimmer," Johnson told People. Fans of the show—and its facial hair—had an even more appropriate option: the Miami Device, which was named for the series … until its manufacturer worried that they might be sued, and changed it to the Stubble Device. In either case, no one was buying it; the trimmer was quickly discontinued.

15. MIAMI VICE HELPED TO QUADRUPLE SALES OF RAY-BAN WAYFARERS.

By 1983, Ray-Ban was on the brink of collapse, until Tom Cruise donned a pair of their Wayfarers in Risky Business, making them the shades to own in the '80s. While Risky Business helped the brand sell 360,000 pairs of the sunglasses in 1983, Miami Vice—and Johnson in particular—helped to push that total up to 1.5 million by 1986.

16. PHILIP MICHAEL THOMAS MAY HAVE INVENTED THE WHOLE “EGOT” THING.

Though he always claimed that it stood for Energy, Growth, Opportunity, and Talent, many others swore that the “EGOT” necklace Thomas wore around his neck was a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy of the awards he hoped to claim: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. Thomas has yet to be nominated for any of those accolades (though he did score a Golden Globe nomination, for Miami Vice, in 1986).

17. JOHNSON TRIED TO LEAVE AFTER THE SECOND SEASON.

By the end of season two, Johnson’s contract was up—and he was ready to bolt. When filming resumed on the show and Johnson had still not negotiated a new contract, he was a no-show on the set. “We’re shooting around him for now,” an anonymous network executive said at the time. “But it’s costing $50,000 a day to shoot without him, and we’re not going to let him drag the show down with him.” So the network came up with a plan: they tapped Mark Harmon to take over for Johnson. Eventually, both sides came to an agreement—one that made Johnson one of the highest paid actors of the 1980s.

18. THOMAS LIKED THAT JOHNSON WAS THE MORE POPULAR ACTOR.

Though reports of onset rivalries plagued the series, both Johnson and Thomas vehemently denied it. While Thomas admitted that the two didn’t socialize much outside of their workdays, he told People that, "I like Don a lot. We have a good time." He went on to explain why Johnson’s overshadowing popularity was a good thing: "I liked that Don was getting the publicity. I wanted the mystique. The bigger he got, the bigger we got."

19. DALLAS WAS PARTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR ITS CANCELLATION.

By the time Miami Vice’s third season rolled around, the show was shifted from the 10 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday time slot, which pitted it against ratings juggernaut Dallas. For many insiders, this contributed to the show’s decline in popularity. On March 21, 1987, TV Guide ran a cover story titled, “Dallas Drubs the Cops: Why Miami Vice Seems to be Slipping.”

20. THOMAS WAS "MISS CLEO" BEFORE "MISS CLEO."

A few years after Miami Vice's finale, Thomas signed an agreement to become the spokesperson for the Psychic Readers' Network, where he promised that "together with the world's most powerful and influential psychics," The Philip Michael Thomas International Psychic Network could help callers live their best lives. Too bad he couldn't have predicted that he'd end up suing the company for violating his contract, and would spend the next several years arguing his case in court. In 2002, Thomas was awarded $2.3 million. In the meantime, the company brought in "Miss Cleo" to replace the former Miami Vice star. 

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14 Deep Facts About Valley of the Dolls
The Criterion Collection
The Criterion Collection

Based on Jacqueline Susann's best-selling 1966 novel (which sold more than 30 million copies), Valley of the Dolls was a critically maligned film that somehow managed to gross $50 million when it was released 50 years ago, on December 15, 1967. Both the film and the novel focus on three young women—Neely O’Hara (Patty Duke), Jennifer North (Sharon Tate), and Anne Welles (Barbara Parkins)—who navigate the entertainment industry in both New York City and L.A., but end up getting addicted to barbiturates, a.k.a. “dolls.”

Years after its original release, the film became a so-bad-it’s-good classic about the perils of fame. John Williams received his first of 50 Oscar nominations for composing the score. Mark Robson directed it, and he notoriously fired the booze- and drug-addled Judy Garland, who was cast to play aging actress Helen Lawson (Susan Hayward took over), who was supposedly based on Garland. (Garland died on June 22, 1969 from a barbituate overdose.) Two months after Garland’s sudden demise, the Manson Family murdered the very pregnant Tate in August 1969.

Despite all of the glamour depicted in the movie and novel, Susann said, “Valley of the Dolls showed that a woman in a ranch house with three kids had a better life than what happened up there at the top.” A loose sequel, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls—which was written by Roger Ebert—was released in 1970, but it had little to do with the original. In 1981, a TV movie updated the Dolls. Here are 14 deep facts about the iconic guilty pleasure.

1. JACQUELINE SUSANN DIDN'T LIKE THE MOVIE.

To promote the film, the studio hosted a month-long premiere party on a luxury liner. At a screening in Venice, Susann said the film “appalled” her, according to Parkins. She also thought Hollywood “had ruined her book,” and Susann asked to be taken off the boat. At one point she reportedly told Robson directly that she thought the film was “a piece of sh*t.”

2. BARBARA PARKINS WAS “NERVOUS” TO WORK WITH JUDY GARLAND.

Barbara Parkins had only been working with Judy Garland for two days when the legendary actress was fired for not coming out of her dressing room (and possibly being drunk). “I called up Jackie Susann, who I had become close to—I didn’t call up the director strangely enough—and I said, ‘What do I do? I’m nervous about going on the set with Judy Garland and I might get lost in this scene because she knows how to chew up the screen,’” Parkins told Windy City Times. “She said, ‘Honey, just go in there and enjoy her.’ So I went onto the set and Judy came up to me and wrapped her arms around me and said, ‘Oh, baby, let’s just do this scene,’ and she was wonderful.”

3. WILLIAM TRAVILLA BASED THE FILM'S COSTUMES ON THE WOMEN’S LIKES.

Costume designer William Travilla had to assemble 134 outfits for the four leading actresses. “I didn't have a script so I read the book and then the script once I got one,” he explained of his approach to the film. “I met with the director and producer and asked how they felt about each character and then I met with the girls and asked them what they liked and didn’t like and how they were feeling. Then I sat down with my feelings and captured their feelings, too.”

4. SUSANN THOUGHT GARLAND “GOT RATTLED.”

In an interview with Roger Ebert, Susann offered her thoughts on why Garland was let go. “Everybody keeps asking me why she was fired from the movie, as if it was my fault or something,” she said. “You know what I think went wrong? Here she was, raised in the great tradition of the studio stars, where they make 30 takes of every scene to get it right, and the other girls in the picture were all raised as television actresses. So they’re used to doing it right the first time. Judy just got rattled, that’s all.”

5. PATTY DUKE PARTIALLY BLAMES THE DIRECTOR’S BEHAVIOR FOR GARLAND’S EXIT.

During an event at the Castro Theatre, Duke discussed working with Garland. “The director, who was the meanest son of a bitch I ever met in my life ... the director, he kept this icon, this sparrow, waiting and waiting,” Duke said. “She had to come in at 6:30 in the morning and he wouldn’t even plan to get to her until four in the afternoon. She was very down to earth, so she didn’t mind waiting. The director decided that some guy from some delicatessen on 33rd Street should talk to her, and she crumbled. And she was fired. She shouldn’t have been hired in the first place, in my opinion.”

6. DUKE DIDN’T SING NEELY’S SONGS.

All of Neely’s songs in the movie were dubbed, which disappointed Duke. “I knew I couldn’t sing like a trained singer,” she said. “But I thought it was important for Neely maybe to be pretty good in the beginning but the deterioration should be that raw, nerve-ending kind of the thing. And I couldn’t convince the director. They wanted to do a blanket dubbing. It just doesn’t have the passion I wanted it to have.”

7. GARLAND STOLE ONE OF THE MOVIE'S COSTUMES.

Garland got revenge in “taking” the beaded pantsuit she was supposed to wear in the movie, and she was unabashed about it. “Well, about six months later, Judy’s going to open at the Palace,” Duke said. “I went to opening night at the Palace and out she came in her suit from Valley of the Dolls.”

8. A SNEAK PREVIEW OF THE FILM HID THE TITLE.

Fox held a preview screening of the film at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre, but the marquee only read “The Biggest Book of the Year.” “And the film was so campy, everyone roared with laughter,” producer David Brown told Vanity Fair. “One patron was so irate he poured his Coke all over Fox president Dick Zanuck in the lobby. And we knew we had a hit. Why? Because of the size of the audience—the book would bring them in.”

9. IT MARKED RICHARD DREYFUSS'S FILM DEBUT.


Twentieth Century Fox

Richard Dreyfuss made his big-screen debut near the end of Valley of the Dolls, playing an assistant stage manager who knocks on Neely’s door to find her intoxicated. After appearing on several TV shows, this was his first role in a movie, but it was uncredited. That same year, he also had a small role in The Graduate. Dreyfuss told The A.V. Club he was in the best film of 1967 (The Graduate) and the worst (Valley of the Dolls). “But then one day I realized that I had never actually seen Valley of the Dolls all the way through, so I finally did it,” he said. “And I realized that I was in the last 45 seconds of the worst film ever made. And I watched from the beginning with a growing sense of horror. And then I finally heard my line. And I thought, ‘I’ll never work again.’ But I used to make money by betting people about being in the best and worst films of 1967: No one would ever come up with the answer, so I’d make 20 bucks!”

10. THE DIRECTOR DIDN’T DIG TOO DEEP.

In the 2006 documentary Gotta Get Off This Merry Go Round: Sex, Dolls & Showtunes, Barbara Parkins scolded the director for keeping the film’s pill addiction on the surface. “The director never took us aside and said, look this is the effect,” she said. “We didn’t go into depth about it. Now, if you would’ve had a Martin Scorsese come in and direct this film, he would’ve sat you down, he would’ve put you through the whole emotional, physical, mental feeling of what that drug was doing to you. This would’ve been a whole different film. He took us to one, maybe two levels of what it’s like to take pills. The whole thing was to show the bottle and to show the jelly beans kinda going back. That was the important thing for him, not the emotional part.”

11. A STAGE ADAPTATION MADE IT TO OFF-BROADWAY.

In 1995, Los Angeles theater troupe Theatre-A-Go-Go! adapted the movie into a stage play. Kate Flannery, who’d go on to play Meredith Palmer on The Office, portrayed Neely. “Best thing about Valley of the Dolls to make fun of it is to actually just do it,” Flannery said in the Dolls doc. “You don’t need to change anything.” Parkins came to a production and approved of it. Eventually, the play headed to New York in an Off-Broadway version, with Illeana Douglas playing the Jackie Susann reporter role.

12. JACKIE SUSANN BARELY ESCAPED THE MANSON FAMILY.


By 20th Century-Fox - eBayfrontback, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The night the Manson Family murdered Tate, the actress had invited Susann to her home for a dinner party. According to Vanity Fair, Rex Reed came by The Beverly Hills Hotel, where Susann was staying, and they decided to stay in instead of going to Tate’s. The next day Susann heard about the murder, and cried by the pool. A few years later, when Susann was diagnosed with cancer for the second time, she joked her death would’ve been quicker if she had gone to Tate’s that night.

13. PATTY DUKE LEARNED TO EMBRACE THE FILM.

Of all of the characters in the movie, Duke’s Neely is the most over-the-top. “I used to be embarrassed by it," Duke said in a 2003 interview. "I used to say very unkind things about it, and through the years there are so many people who have come to me, or written me, or emailed who love it so, that I figured they all can’t be wrong." She eventually appreciated the camp factor. “I can have fun with that,” she said. “And sometimes when I’m on location, there will be a few people who bring it up, and then we order pizza and rent a VCR and have a Valley night, and it is fabulous.”

14. LEE GRANT DOESN’T THINK IT’S THE WORST MOVIE EVER MADE.

In 2000, Grant, Duke, and Parkins reunited on The View. “It’s the best, funniest, worst movie ever made,” Grant stated. She then mentioned how she and Duke made a movie about killer bees called The Swarm. “Valley of the Dolls was like genius compared to it,” Grant said.

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How to Perform the Star Wars Theme—On Calculators
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

The iconic Star Wars theme has been recreated with glass harps, theremins, and even cat meows. Now, Laughing Squid reports that the team over at YouTube channel It’s a small world have created a version that can be played on calculators.

The channel’s math-related music videos feature covers of popular songs like Luis Fonsi’s "Despacito," Ed Sheeran’s "Shape of You," and the Pirates of the Caribbean theme, all of which are performed on two or more calculators. The Star Wars theme, though, is played across five devices, positioned together into a makeshift keyboard of sorts.

The video begins with a math-musician who transcribes number combinations into notes. Then, they break into an elaborate practice chord sequence on two, and then four, calculators. Once they’re all warmed up, they begin playing the epic opening song we all know and love, which you can hear for yourself in all its electronic glory below.

[h/t Laughing Squid]

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