Alec Baldwin as Frederick J. Frenger Jr., sociopathic ex-con
Miami, Fall 1989
Film: Miami Blues
Release Date: April 20, 1990
Director: George Armitage
Costume Designer: Eugenie Bafaloukos
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
I wanted to write about some pastels leading up to Easter and stumbled upon this chaotic look from Miami Blues, an adaptation of Charles Willeford’s 1984 novel that was the first in his Hoke Moseley series. “Nobody writes a better crime novel,” Elmore Leonard had once said of Willeford, who died in March 1988, two years before the novel made it to the screen. Miami Blues was only the second cinematic adaptation of a Willeford novel, following the 1974 release of Cockfighter starring Warren Oates.
Fred Ward—who also served as executive producer—starred as Moseley while Alec Baldwin (who celebrates his 63rd birthday today) played the sociopathic Frederick J. Frenger Jr., wreaking havoc through the Magic City with a badge stolen from Moseley. Along for the ride is Susie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a sincere—if naïve—community college student who was initially hired by Junior when she was moonlighting as a prostitute before the two fell into their bizarre version of love.
What’d He Wear?
If Miami Vice illustrated how fashionable ’80s pastels could look (and, don’t worry, you’ll see plenty more of Crockett and Tubbs in upcoming posts!), Miami Blues showed us how wearing these bright colors takes a little more… finesse. (Though Paul Gleason‘s crooked vice cop could have walked straight off the Miami Vice set in his white linen double-breasted suit and yellow open-neck, fly-front shirt.)
Junior throws together an outfit of a crested blazer, OCBD, and plaid trousers that may be more conventionally styled than Don Johnson’s boxy linen suits and T-shirts, but the mishmash of colors creates a look just as delightfully chaotic as his crime spree, which culminates as he recruits Susie to be the unwitting wheelman in his pawn shop robbery.
Junior wears a bright rose pink blazer, likely made from a woven wool and polyester blend and fastened with two crested gilt buttons, each embossed with crossed golf clubs. The welted breast pocket is personalized with an embroidered crest, consisting of a gold shield-shaped border and “X”-shape that divides it into two blue and two red quadrants, each in turn detailed with a smaller gold cross. This blazer also has hip pockets with straight flaps, padded shoulders, a single vent, and three decorative buttons on each cuff that echo those on the front of the jacket. A black manufacturer’s label is stitched onto the right side of the white polyester lining.
Junior’s yellow oxford cotton shirt has a button-down collar, front placket, and breast pocket. Though he never removes the blazer, the fact that we don’t see any shirt cuffs suggests that this is likely a short-sleeved shirt, perhaps chosen to keep cool in the Miami heat as Junior would have little consideration for how his sweat would affect the inside of the jacket sleeves (especially considering the amount of his blood, sweat, and tears eventually stain the garment!)
If you’re going to wear plaid pants, at least Junior brings all the colors back together with these flat front cotton trousers patterned in a pastel-hued mint, pink, yellow, lavender, and cornflower plaid. These colorful trousers have gently slanted side pockets, jetted back pockets, plain-hemmed bottoms, and belt loops for his russet edge-stitched leather belt that closes through a gold-toned square single-prong buckle.
Junior’s outfit may evoke images of the quintessential Florida retiree, but he foregoes the white shoes celebrated in Jerry Seinfeld’s monologues for a pair of more versatile saddle tan leather loafers with beige socks.
Junior cycles through at least three or four pairs of sunglasses in Miami Blues, ending his adventure wearing perhaps the most iconic frames of the ’80s: the Ray-Ban Wayfarer in black acetate with green lenses.
Less prominently seen, Junior also rotates between a few wristwatches, and I believe he’s wearing here a gold tank watch on a dark leather strap rather than the all-gold watch he wears in some other scenes.
Though there’s little that can be considered smart about his half-assed pawn shop robbery, Junior at least opts for a more easily concealed weapon than the massive Desert Eagle he burglarized from Susie’s neighbor, now packing Hoke Moseley’s Smith & Wesson Model 36 that he stole alongside the badge. Smith & Wesson debuted this popular “snub nose” .38 Special revolver with its five-shot cylinder at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) convention in 1950, where it was dubbed the “Chiefs Special” following a vote though it was re-designated the Model 36 seven years later when Smith & Wesson moved to its number-based nomenclature.
Hoke’s blued Model 36 has black rubber grips, which Junior wraps with rubber bands.
The robbery turns foul when the pawnbroker, Edie Wulgemuth (Shirley Stoler from The Honeymoon Killers), chops off three of Junior’s left knuckles with a machete. The pained Junior retaliates by shooting Edie, then digs into her cash drawer where he finds a second revolver, a Smith & Wesson Model 66 with wooden grips and a 4″ barrel. This .357 Magnum revolver was introduced in the early ’70s as a stainless steel variant of the Smith & Wesson Model 19.
With its longer barrel and a full six-round cylinder loaded with powerful .357 Magnum ammunition, the Model 66 naturally becomes Junior’s new weapon of choice as he shoots his way out of the pawn store predicament and back to the relative comforts of Susie’s bright abode.
What to Imbibe
Junior self-medicates after the loss of his knuckles by pouring himself a glass of Seagram’s dry gin, paired with pilfered prescription medications and his Merit cigarettes.
How to Get the Look
From manners to menswear, Junior—er, Herman Gottlieb—doesn’t leave much to be desired, but he goes out with a bang dressed in Miami-friendly pastels with his crested pink blazer, yellow OCBD, and bright plaid trousers that tie it all together.
- Rose pink woven wool/polyester single-breasted blazer with 2 golf-motif gilt buttons, welted breast pocket (with gold, blue, and red embroidered crest), straight flapped patch hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and single vent
- Yellow oxford cotton short-sleeved shirt with button-down collar, front placket, and breast pocket
- Mint, pink, yellow, lavender, and cornflower plaid cotton flat front trousers with belt loops, slanted side pockets, jetted back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Russet brown edge-stitched leather belt with gold-toned square single-prong buckle
- Saddle tan leather loafers
- Beige socks
- Ray-Ban Wayfarer black acetate-framed sunglasses with green lenses
- Gold tank watch on dark leathers trap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie and Charles Willeford’s novel, the first of four in the Hoke Moseley series. (The novel actually features on Miami Vice when we see Zito—played by John Diehl—reading it in the second season episode “Bought and Paid for”.)
Susie’s gonna get you, Sarge.