It is a fall afternoon in a New York City hotel restaurant, and Melanie Griffith is giving her order. “I am not going to talk about Don Johnson,” she says. Griffith has come from her home in Los Angeles to publicize the opening of her new movie, Working Girl, a comedy directed by Mike Nichols. The child of actress Tippi Hedren and advertising executive Peter Griffith, she is one of today’s fastest-rising stars, tall, blond and dynamic onscreen. She was seventeen when she made her first film, Night Moves, and now at the age of thirty-one, she has made twelve others, including Body Double, Something Wild, Fear City and Smile.
“I am not going to talk about Don Johnson,” she says, “because we have our thing together, and it’s nobody’s business, and I really don’t want to talk about it.” She met Don Johnson when she was fourteen and he was twenty-two, her mother’s costar in The Harrad Experiment. They lived together for a few years after that, married and then divorced a few months later. Lately there have been rumors that Griffith and Don Johnson are reuniting, but they haven’t been confirmed — until today. “It’s a fine line between gossip and me saying I’m really in love with Don,” Griffith continues in her unusual voice, which sounds like a little girl reciting the alphabet, stoned. “I can say that, but I’m not going to talk about it. I used to talk about everything, and people just misconstrued what I said. [A sample: She once claimed that there was a mix-up at the hospital on the day she was born and that her real mother was Marilyn Monroe, not Tippi Hedren.] So now I keep my private life private.” Don Johnson is only one of the things that Griffith seems not to want to talk about this afternoon. Others are (1) her childhood, (2) politics, (3) her son, (4) books, (5) hobbies, (6) her fans and (7) Hollywood, represented here, today, by a doting, young publicist, who is sent off before lunch with the words “I need a limo and a leg wax. See you at 2:30.”
Griffith sits before a big seafood salad, looking stoic and smashing in a tight black miniskirt suit, black striped tank top, snub-nosed four-inch heels and diamond earrings the size of prawns. After cutting her lunch into small pieces, she continues talking with her head held high, like the queen of Miami. “Let them read about me and Don in the National Enquirer,” she says, “where it’s all lies.” It’s true, though, as the Enquirer reported, that after Griffith and Don Johnson broke up, she began living a life that led to her checking into the Hazelden Foundation for drug and alcohol rehabilitation; and it’s true, as the Star reported, that Don Johnson helped persuade her to check back into Hazelden in the spring of 1988, not long after the birth of her son, Alexander, by ex-husband Steven Bauer (Al Pacino’s sidekick in Scarface). The readdiction came, Griffith says, because she read somewhere that beer was good for breast-feeding and tried it. “Or they can read about me and Don in the Sun,” she says, “where you have all those stories like this woman gave birth to a whale.” She pauses. “I have to eat a little bit now. I love this restaurant. Last night they let me eat here for free.”
Working Girl is the story of a secretary fighting an egomaniacal boss for credit on an idea. Griffith stars as the secretary, and she too is fighting for credit. Though the character she plays is in almost every scene in the movie, Griffith’s billing is third, behind Sigourney Weaver (the boss) and then Harrison Ford. “Mmmmmmmm-hmmmmmmm,” she says, chewing a shrimp, “that’s what Harrison noticed, too. Ha-ha. They didn’t want to give first billing to me, the studio didn’t. I’m not a big star, you know? But I don’t care. It doesn’t really mean shit — I’m in love with Don Johnson.” To get the part of Tess, Griffith asked, auditioned and screen-tested for the role. She has said that her competition for it included “every actress in Hollywood.” And she got it. She smiles. “Things are really good in my life,” she says. “I love my work, my son is the greatest, and my love is the most amazing person I know.” Don Johnson has been recognized for bringing back the Jeffersonian ponytail, has become a champion amateur speedboat racer and has made a movie this year. “I always hoped it would be this good,” she says.
A waiter interrupts. “A better fork, madam.” She nods. Before Working Girl, Melanie Griffith was known mostly for her beautiful body and the way that nearly half her directors suggested she expose it. Thanks to Working Girl, says one of her publicists, “she’s being offered comedies. It’s great. Ask her about that. She doesn’t want to talk about Don Johnson.” But Griffith politely turns down the chance to talk about the new scripts she’s reading. She crosses her legs at the four-leaf-clover tattoo on her right ankle. “You know, I have another tattoo on my ass,” she says with a giggle and shifts her weight. “It’s a pear,” put there in honor of you know who, whom she nicknamed Pear after the French word for father. Was it hard to sit on, say, when she and Don Johnson broke up, when he was dating other women, like Barbra Streisand? “Barbra?” says Griffith. “Barbra is an amazing, amazing woman. And we don’t know each other.” It’s now forty-five minutes into the lunch that began with Griffith swearing off Don Johnson as a topic. But as waiters with lust in their eyes sweep crumbs off the table, she is on a roll: “Don just got these new computerized workout machines. I don’t know how to do them by myself. But I do them every day. They’re Don’s machines. I just happen to be there. I love Miami. I love the skies there…. My son’s half-Cuban, you know. I’m teaching him to love nature there.”
Earlier in the week, much to the surprise of another one of her publicists, who is also quick to warn that “she will not talk about Don Johnson at all,” Griffith let slip on David Letterman’s show that remarriage to Don Johnson would “probably be the best thing” that could happen. Now she is talking about having more children. “Since I’ve been working out so much, my stomach is almost back to normal,” she says. She’s knowledgeable about her body in that specific sort of way. “I don’t even have to try on clothes when I shop,” she says. “I pretty much know what’s going to fit. I like to go into the store and just go, ‘I’d like that, that, that and that.’ ” She points a long, manicured but unpolished nail toward a plate of cookies in front of her. “I love to shop,” she says. “I looked in my closet a couple of months ago and said, ‘Who is this person who wears all these clothes?’ What happens is that I start dressing like my characters. I look in there, and there’s Holly Body, from Body Double, there’s Lulu, from Something Wild, and there’s Tess, and I’m like” — she looks frantically around the room — ” ‘Wait a minute! Who am I? What do I wear?’ “In fact, she’s on her way out to shop right after lunch. “I have to buy something for my son. A present. I want to get him cowboy boots.” She smiles.One more thing about Don Johnson: “Last week at the ranch, Alexander had on his jeans, and Don had on his jeans and cowboy boots, and they almost looked like twins!”
Suddenly a man walks right up to Griffith and grabs her, knocking a crumb of chocolate-chip cookie from her hand. “Jeffrey!” she says, brightly. “What do you want?” “Your bod!” “No way, dude.” It’s Jeffrey, a real-estate student who, along with Warren Beatty, is one of Alexander’s godfathers. “I have something you have to read,” he says, overlooking the fact that Griffith is being interviewed and isn’t talking about Don Johnson today. “Pupples Weekly! It’s like People magazine, only with dogs! And it has this headline, Dog Johnson and Barkbra Streisand. It’s a whole two-page article about how these two dogs, Barkbra and Don, check into the Puppies Hotel in Beverly Hills, and they have a wig and glasses on the Barbra Streisand dog and, oh, ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!” Griffith stares at the godfather of her son. She becomes very quiet. “And hey, Melanie,” Jeffrey says, handing her the $200 from a personal check she has asked him to cash for her, “you left last night without looking at the article about how Princess Caroline’s daughter loves Don so much the princess had to buy the kid a miniature Ferrari like the one Don drives on Vice!” Jeffrey stands as Griffith heads quickly toward the ladies’ room. “I’ve known Melanie since she was sixteen,” he then whispers. “Since she was young and crazy and fun. Her fun was always important to her. It used to be. Fun’s not important to her anymore. She outgrew it. It’s part of her maturation process. The perfect word for Melanie is mature. Oh, she and Don, they’re still crazy about each other. But they’re crazy in a professional way.” Griffith returns. “I love you, Jeffrey,” she says, “but I have to go shopping now.”