Life Advice from Don Johnson


What’s the best advice somebody ever gave you?
My father actually gave me some pretty good advice. He said, “There’s two times when a man doesn’t open his mouth. One is when he’s angry, and the other is when he’s swimming.”

What advice would you give to the younger you?
Don’t listen to your mind. It’s all wrapped up in your ego and the story you tell yourself, and it just wants to be right. And better to not spend too much time dwelling on being right.

You had a successful music career early on. How did that happen?
I began singing in the gospel choir in my grandfather’s Baptist church in backwoods Missouri. I taught myself to play guitar when I was around 19. I also discovered pot and had the time to play. Naturally, I started to write and said, “Gosh, maybe there’s something here.” Later, I ran into Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers Band, and we became good buddies and started writing songs together. I was fortunate enough to write a couple for the Allmans and for Dickey’s solo albums. I used to sing with them occasionally. In fact, my debut was at Madison Square Garden. Dickey brought me out to sing “Ramblin’ Man” with him. I was 26 or 27 at the time, and you can imagine the thrill of walking out there and doing that. Music and laughter went together a good deal, but then I became famous and it all changed. After I was an actor, it was miserable.

How should a man handle fame?
It’s an odd duck, and it changes with the times. I was talking to Ryan Seacrest, and he said, “Well, so you’re married and everything?” And I held up my phone – I was just joking with him – and I said, “These things drove me right to marriage. You can’t be famous and have these things around and not be married.” Ryan looked at me as serious as a judge, and he said, “Oh, yeah, I don’t allow them in my bedroom.” It was pretty much mayhem in the Miami Vice days. I could’ve been a tweet away from “You’re outta here.”

What did you learn from hanging with Hunter S. Thompson?
Oh, my God! Where do I begin? We were neighbors for 20 some years in Aspen, and if I had a sick animal at my ranch, he’d come and sleep in the stall with a sick dog or a horse. If I was out of town, he’d check on my kids or my wife or girlfriend or whatever – he was probably trying to hit on her, but he’d check on her, nonetheless. He came to hang out with me when I was doing Miami Vice, and we’d go shooting at the police range. Hunter thought that was the greatest thing since sliced bread. He’d say, “We can actually go there and shoot with the cops? Can we shoot at them?” “No, no, no, Doc. That’s probably not a good thing.”

What should everybody know about drugs?
Don’t learn a thing about ’em. I’m just kidding. Listen, I’m not a temperate kind of person. You know, they worked for me for a long time, and then they didn’t work, and so I gave it up. I had a lot of fun. I had a blast. But I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone.

What did you learn in Missouri? You grew up on a farm, correct?
I learned that if you want to get anything done, you gotta get out of the fuckin’ Midwest. Uh oh. I’m gonna get a lotta mail over this.

What should every man experience?
Traveling – which I highly recommend for every American. We’d have a much more interesting and informed public if there were a requirement that everyone travel. Because when you actually have a relationship with people, when you’re with a person from the Middle East or France or Africa or from Asia, you realize, “Oh, wow – that’s me! I am that person.” By the simple act of traveling, you take us and them out of it.

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