Miami Vice 1985 ©Deborah Feingold
Miami Vice was the first television crime series to cross over into overnight rock star status. With its turquoise and pink palette, crazy car chases, oodles of cocaine and two Armani-clad detectives named James “Sonny” Crockett (played by Don Johnson) and Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs (played by Philip Michael Thomas), the series just exploded in popularity. Critics raved about the soundtrack (Jan Hammer’s New Wavey instrumentals) as much as they did about the show.
RollingStone was the first publication to grab these two for a cover shoot. And I was lucky enough to call this my first RollingStone cover. The art direction was straightforward: the two actors dressed in character, at sunset on the beach. It was that simple.
The shoot was great fun. Everyone was excited about being on the cover which made the assignment much easier. We shot for two long days and then quickly traded the tropical weather of Miami for the frigid air of NYC. I spent the night at the lab processing the film for next- day delivery to the magazine. It had all gone down so smoothly and I was feeling very good about myself. Until the phone rang.
In a low voice, the photo editor who had been on the shoot with us, said that Jann Wenner, Rollingstone’s co-founder and publisher, saw the cover images and he was not happy. She went on to explain Wenner’s strong opposition to guns since the death of his close friend John Lennon. That translated to no guns onRollingStone covers-ever, making my mages, as shot, unusable.
What happened next surprised everyone, but only if you consider the times. Back in 1985, digital imaging as an industry standard was only in its infancy. Photoshop would not exist in the vernacular for five more years. Remove a wrinkle or two with airbrush, sure, but not much more. More importantly, journalistic integrity was held in very high regard and you simply did not alter photographs. When the issue appeared on the newsstands in March 1985 it was just two cool dudes on the beach, smiling at the camera. The shoulder harness and pistol had been removed, without a trace, from Don Johnson’s shoulders. It wasn’t until a few weeks later when word spread about the digital removal of the guns that my phone started ringing for interviews, which I politely declined.
It soon became very clear how big this small change really was.