The textbook definition of cool, jazz legend Miles Davis did what he wanted and when he wanted. If he wanted to have two bands playing at each other for Bitches Brew, he got it. If we wanted to open for The Grateful Dead, he opened for The Grateful Dead. And if we wanted to kickstart his acting career on one of the most popular TV shows of the 1980s, then by God he was going to do it.
Miami Vice was a show known for its open-door policy regarding rock stars who wanted to act. The Eagles’ Glenn Frey, Willie Nelson, Phil Collins, Frank Zappa, Sheena Easton, Gloria Estefan, and Gene Simmons are just some of the famous musicians who briefly left their day jobs to make appearances on the show. But when the baddest jazz cat in all the land says he wants to be on an episode, you better make sure that he’s got a good part.
For his appearance in the episode ‘Junk Love’, Davis plays the part of Ivory Jones, a pimp who runs a hotel filled with drug-addicted prostitutes. But because this is mid-1980s Miami, all the drug-addicted prostitutes are beautiful instead of pot-marked and greasy. Davis himself is a little worse for wear: his raspy voice and rail-thin appearance makes him appear rather sickly, but it’s not as if anyone was expecting an Oscar-worthy transformation.
Davis isn’t asked to do all that much, just to simply recite a few lines and have the audience go: “Hey, that Miles Davis?”. It all works well enough, considering that it was an incredibly cheesy show in an incredibly cheesy time, but Davis still radiates that easy detached coolness that makes you believe that he’s running a high-class call girl hotel. Too bad he didn’t go full Zappa by being a drug smuggler named Mario Fuente.
The acting gig on Miami Vice didn’t exactly lead to a second career for Davis as an actor, and when he was tapped for other roles, they were always as variations on himself. While he wouldn’t be “Miles Davis” on shows like Crime Story and films like Scrooged, he was always a musician, and infrequently was given lines to actually say. But we’ll always have his turn as Ivory Jones to remind us that the ’80s were an absolutely batshit crazy time.
Check out the trailer for the ‘Junk Love’ episode down below.