Former bad kids Johnson and Griffith are finally expecting a kid on their own
February 27, 1989
and Jenny Cullen, Jacqueline Savaiano,
Eleanor Hoover and David Marlow in Los Angeles
At a Working Girl party, Don and Melanie look classier than they did in 1975, when he was 25 and she 18.
Curled up like a kitten on the sofa of her suite in the Beverly Hills Hotel not long ago, Melanie Griffith was luxuriating in the glow of her newly brilliant career. Two days before, she'd won a Golden Globe for Working Girl, and her future had never looked brighter. It had taken her 13 films over 13 years to get this close to real stardom. But right now, the one thing more dazzling to her than her professional prospects was a four‑carat rock on the third finger of her left hand, a gift from her once‑and‑future husband, Don Johnson. "It's pretty, isn't it?" she burbled in her little-girl voice. "It looks like it came out of a bubble‑gum machine."
But that was then, and last week was something else. Last week, which had to be the best week of Melanie Griffith's life, she had a lot more than a diamond ring and a Golden Globe to crow about. Early Wednesday morning she found out she'd been nominated as Oscar's Best Actress for Working Girl. And the day before, on Valentine's Day, no less, she and Don ended weeks of speculation with the happy announcement that they are going to have a baby by late September or early October. "She's up in the clouds, she's so happy," says her mom, actress Tippi Hedren. "[The baby] is something Melanie has wanted for a very long time, since she first met Don. He's the love of her life."
Melanie gave him the word on the Miami Vice set, where she's been spending much time of late. "I got completely stupid," says Johnson. "I've been mush-faced ever since." The pregnancy was a surprise but a welcome one. Melanie had made no secret of her wish for his child, and when she told Don, he was as thrilled as she was, Hedren reports. "This is God's plan," Don told her last week. And the wedding plans that have been vague‑unto nonexistent for the last few months are starting to firm up: Right now, they say, they're aiming for April.
One good sign for their future: They've already been through the worst with each other. It was 16 years ago that Griffith began a four‑year adolescent romance with Johnson; their rocky marriage in 1976 barely outlasted the wedding cake. Each went on to parenthood, though not with each other. Melanie, 31, has 3‑year-old Alexander from a turbulent two‑year marriage to actor Steven (Scarface) Bauer. Don, 39, shares custody of 6‑year‑old son Jesse with his former long‑term live‑in, actress Patti D'Arbanville. Along the way each had to conquer addictions to alcohol and drugs ‑most recently Melanie, with Don's help. Now, having found each other on the other side of so much Sturm und Drang, they're swearing that love is sweeter this second time around.
"Everything is better now because of all of that," says Melanie, her long legs tucked beneath her. "We were always friends, and we always stayed in touch. There was always this connection. I can't explain it. It's almost like soulmates, and it always was. I didn't want it to be like that sometimes, and sometimes I wanted not to love him. But maybe it was karma, and you have to go through all that to get to where we are now. Now it's different. It's like it was in the very beginning, but there is so much more."
She's eager for the wedding. "I wish it was tomorrow. He's wonderful," she purrs. "I believe some relationships are fated, and ours was probably one of them. I'll always love him. He was my first love."
Even Melanie's mom, who objected to the couple's first marriage, seems optimistic about their odds now. "The first time they married in a little chapel in Las Vegas," says Hedren. "This time she wants to have a big wedding. And when they marry, it will be till death do us part."
Skeptics will be skeptical, of course. It was only last September, after all, when Johnson, otherwise known as Don Juanson in Hollywood, was fervently squiring Barbra Streisand, who seemed smitten to the point of distraction. Always the perfectionist in her work, she recorded Till I Loved You, a duet with Johnson, which the critics despised. "She was crazy about the guy, absolutely nutsy," says a longtime friend of hers. "And why not? Don was different from the others. He was the only guy she couldn't give anything to."
According to observers in Aspen, where Johnson and Streisand started their relationship, it was a dangerous liaison from the start. Says one Aspen acquaintance: "While they were dating, he was also seeing other women. One weekend Barbra would be in Aspen as his houseguest. The next weekend he'd be hosting some other fair young thing. A starlet, a girlfriend ‑I don't know, nobody familiar." But Streisand persisted,. even scouting for her own house just down the road from his $1 million spread on the outskirts of Aspen.
It was last spring, while Don was in the middle of his affair with Streisand and Melanie was shooting Working Girl, that their star‑crossed lives crossed again. Rumors of strife were rampant during the filming of Working Girl, though Griffith insists she never drank on the set. "I used to drink to relax," she says. "I never drank when I was working, but I drank at night. It was a never‑ending story. It's a terrible thing to be in."
Johnson came to her rescue, persuading her to check herself in for the treatment program at Minnesota's Hazelden Foundation in May. "He'd been trying to have me go to Hazelden for about two years," she says. "That makes me sound like I was shooting up or something. But it doesn't take that when you're an alcoholic. One drink is poison. I went into the clinic because I just realized finally that I couldn't stop by myself." Johnson, a self-confessed drug and alcohol addict who joined AA in 1983, helped pull Melanie through. "I called him and talked to him all the time," she says. "He was there for me all the way."
Three months later, when Griffith went to Miami to visit family, she and Johnson rekindled their romance. He was still seeing Streisand then, and for a few weeks ricocheted between the two women. Barbra was "very, very crushed by what happened," says a close friend. Streisand's mother warned friends not to ask about Johnson.
Given Griffith's history with Johnson, a love story that could only have happened in Hollywood, Streisand probably never had a chance. Melanie was 14 when she first spotted Johnson, her mother's 22‑year‑old co‑star in The Harrad Experiment. "She fell almost instantly in love with him," recalls Hedren. "It was an adolescent crush." Johnson wasn't an easy‑or faithful‑catch. "I was skeptical because of her age," he said later. "But she was more woman than most of the girls I'd been going out with." After being booted from a Catholic high school for "questioning the religion," Griffith moved into a rented Laurel Canyon home with Johnson when she was 15. "By the time we were 14, half of my girlfriends had had abortions," Melanie once said. Added Don: "Our first time wasn't in the back seat of a car, like people of our parents' generation. At least we were upfront about it."
“We spend everything,” said Melanie while living with Don in 1975, “except we have $20 in our checking account.”
Engaged on Melanie's 18th birthday, the couple wed in 1976. In retrospect, omens for the marriage were bad. On the evening before the wedding, "I had been with [ex‑Miss World] Marjorie Wallace most of the night," Johnson later admitted. "Melanie called at about 4 or 5 in the morning. We professed undying love and flew to Las Vegas and got married." It lasted less than a year. "It just wasn't working for us, but we couldn't split up," said Melanie. "We thought it might work better if we were married. It didn't. I got married in order to end the relationship." She walked away from the marriage with little more than the tattoo of a pear, reportedly a pet name for Johnson, on her derriere.
Both went on to earn well‑deserved reputations as hard‑core Hollywood party‑goers. Ever precocious, Melanie nearly flamed out on cocaine and alcohol before she hit 20. Her movie roles were no less provocative than her romances. Until Working Girl, her best known role was playing a porn film star in Brian De Palma's controversial thriller Body Double. In 1983 she settled down long enough to marry actor Steven (Scarface) Bauer and have a son, but the couple separated two years later, and the marriage does not bring back fond memories for Griffith.
Johnson was equally adventurous in affairs of the heart. Twice‑married at an early age, he began a four‑year live‑in with actress Patti D'Arbanville after meeting her ‑and unceremoniously dumping then‑girlfriend Tanya Tucker -one night at a chic L.A. restaurant. "[Patti] moved in that night, and we stayed in bed for about eight days," Johnson once said. "The houseboy kept bringing in food and water."
Not that Melanie was entirely forgotten. In 1987 Johnson called Griffith and said he had the "perfect" part for his ex-wife ‑a high‑class madam in a Miami Vice guest spot‑and the two then began dating sporadically. But while making Working Girl in Manhattan the following year, Griffith started a romance with Wall Street investment banker Liam Dalton, who was an adviser on the film. "Pretty much from the start, there was an attraction," says Dalton. "I thought she was off balance in a cute way and vulnerable. She also has an intense side to her that shows she means business." The end of the affair coincided with her reconciliation with Johnson. Says her mom: "Melanie was finding being with him wonderful again."
In recent months the lovers have been paragons of clean living. "Don and I run together," Griffith says. "He does about 5 1/2 miles, but I only do four. Then I tell him, 'I'll wait here until you come back on your way home!"' For now, home could mean either Johnson's ranch near Aspen or the couple's equally pricey new Miami pad, which Melanie's decorating in a favorite theme ‑hearts. All this domesticity could alter Griffith's image. She reportedly turned down the starring role of notorious stripper Blaze Starr opposite Paul Newman in the drama Blaze because Johnson preferred his fiancée not do nude scenes anymore. No matter, she says languidly: "I kind of like being a housewife right now."
Johnson seems equally happy at home. "It's wonderful," he said in the glow of last week's big news. "We're just like an Ozzie and Harriet family down here." Melanie is sleeping a lot, but not experiencing morning sickness. Alexander, who lives with the couple, and Jesse, who's a frequent visitor, are clamoring for a baby sister. "Everybody wants a girl," says Hedren, who adds that no names have been picked out. And for Don and Melanie, the pregnancy seems to come as a signal reward for having faced and beaten their demons. Says Melanie of her pre‑Hazelden days: "It feels so good to be out of that. The more time that goes by, the more life just looks better and better." Don couldn't agree more. "When you're straight," he says, "all kinds of good things happen."