Frank Zappa’s bizarre appearance on ‘Miami Vice’ from 1986
We’re dipping our hands into the Far Out vault and bringing out one of the more curious pieces of film to include the mercurial musician Frank Zappa. When you consider the man in question, to have the ultimate bizarre footage of Zappa, is truly something.
Frank Zappa has had many roles over the years. At first, he was the experimental musician, then the perennial agitator of the music scene prodding and poking, he even took over SNL for one disastrous night. But perhaps his most iconic, if all for the wrong reasons, is his appearance in the stinking bishop of all cheesy police shows, Miami Vice.
As cheesy as the show is—and it’s a pastel suit-wearing, neon silk loving, speedboat-across-the-marina-to-stop-anuclear-bomb, big stinking ball of cheese—Miami Vice did provide its audience with one of the best soundtracks on television at the time.
Whenever you tuned you could be expected to hear the best of the new wave with the likes of DEVO, The Tubes, Depeche Mode, and countless others. Sometimes they even appeared on screen and stole the spotlight, with Leonard Cohen’s performance being among the greatest.
One such moment came on the show’s 1986 episode Payback, which saw the iconic moustachioed musician, Zappa play his final acting role as the villainous “weasel dust” drug dealer Mario Fuente. Depending on your disposition, this performance is either masterful or moronic, but either way, it’s impossible to stop watching and we challenge you to try.
The scene below begins with a typical aqua blue backdrop as Crockett and Tubbs take a speed boat (naturally) to a yacht that so happens to be filled with bikini-clad girls machine-gun touting thugs all in the name of protecting Zappa’s ‘Fuente’ (of course).
Miami Vice has proven to be a safe haven for ailing musicians trying to have a pop at acting, as well as legendary jazzman Mile Davis’ appearance, there was the iconic role taken by Leonard Cohen in his own episode just two before Zappa made his appearance. While Cohen’s decision to take the cameo role surprised many of his fans at the time, the musician later revealed that he opted to take the chance to seemingly impress his son who has a huge fan of the show. However, the plan didn’t exactly go perfectly well.
“In truth, I had a much bigger part. I went down there and did my first scene and the assistant director rang me up and said, ‘You were really great, truly wonderful’,” Cohen once explained in an interview with Q Magazine.
“And I said, ‘OK, thanks a lot.’ Then the casting director from New York called me up and said, ‘You were fantastic, truly wonderful!’ And I said, ‘You mean I’m fired.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, we’re cutting all your other scenes and giving them to another guy.’”
Back to Zasppa’s performance and it becomes increasingly hard to watch the clip as Zappa flits between accents and cadence before the forgiving cut. It makes us glad that this was the last role of Zappa’s short career as an actor, he’s far superior with a guitar than with a script—but it’s certainly worth a few minutes.