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Life imitates art, art imitates life and TV always imitates something. This time it’s Glenn Frey’s recent single “Smuggler’s Blues,” which has been transformed into an entire upcoming episode of NBC’s hit cop show, “Miami Vice.”

“As soon as I heard the song on the radio, I thought it would make a great show,” said executive producer Michael Mann, who hired playwright Miguel Pinero (“Short Eyes”) to write the episode, which is scheduled to air Feb. 1.

“The song has some of the most literate lyrics I’d heard this year,” Mann added. “The whole theme of the ‘politics of contraband’ and the trials of being a smuggler fit perfectly into the show. We decided to have our characters, Crockett and Tubbs, go undercover, posing as smugglers, trying to elude both law enforcement and rip-off artists as they try to get a load of contraband back into the country.”


Searching for an actor to play a freewheeling pilot who ferries them in and out of Colombia, Mann sought out Frey for the part. “I still don’t know exactly how it happened,” said Frey, who’s currently on the pop charts with “The Heat Is On,” a single from the “Beverly Hills Cop” sound track. “I didn’t even really audition. I think experiment would be a better word. Michael never even asked if I could act. I got all dressed up to meet him for lunch and he just started talking about my episode.”

Frey plays what Mann described as a “spaced-out audiophile-junkie pilot” who wears a three-day beard and Hawaiian shirts decorated with palm trees and hangs out in a Quonset hut that doubles as an airplane hangar. Frey survives a gun battle as well as a mad dash to the airport. “We were going to kill him off at the end,” Mann said. “But after we saw the first batch of dailies, he was so good that we decided to let him live so we can try and maybe use him as a recurring character.”

According to Mann, Frey’s song will also play a prominent role in the episode, which he said is structured with “an opera-style” motif. “We took some key lyrics and used them as dialogue throughout the show. So you’ll hear the song several times during the show, echoing the spoken words of the cast.”

Mann said that Frey is “a natural. He could have a whole new career with this.”

Frey agreed: “But I’m not going to be a dilettante about it. It’s hard work. I can’t imagine how those guys do a show every week. It was like a roller-coaster ride. I mean, my heart was pounding for the first few days.

“It’s a lot more difficult than making an album--it would be like trying to record nine songs in one day. There’s no time for screwing around. You really have to be on your toes. It’s like multiplying the difficulty factor of making a record times four.”

Even an Eagles record? Frey laughed. “Well, I guess if you’re talking about an Eagles album, maybe the difficulty factor wouldn’t go up so much after all.”


WAIT, DON’T TURN THAT DIAL: Capitol and EMI-America Records have been losing A&R; staffers the way Rose Mary Woods used to misplace Watergate tapes. But Bobby Colomby, 40, longtime A&R; man (and former Blood, Sweat & Tears drummer), unlike most of the labels’ other recent execs, isn’t signing with another record company. He’s moving over to TV, joining “Entertainment Tonight” as a music reporter. He surfaced last week, interviewing the likes of U2, Pat Benatar and Ozzy Osbourne, who talked about his recent stay at the Betty Ford Center.

“It’s been fun so far, but it’s like opening a door and walking into another planet,” said Colomby, who, if nothing else, can boast of being the first TV entertainment reporter to have a pair of Grammys on his mantel. “I’m still a little nervous, because I’m learning a whole new language of crazy TV terms. I didn’t even know what a reversal shot meant until last week. But I think my music background will help the show’s coverage. Until recently, TV had really underestimated its audience. I think people care about what goes on behind the scenes in the pop world as much as all the surface fluff.”

Colomby hastily added that we shouldn’t expect “Entertainment Tonight” to suddenly zero in on a lot of obscure critic’s favorites: “It’s obvious that we don’t get a lot of new bands on the show, because it would take a half-hour to explain who they are, which is more time than we’ve got.” But Colomby has developed a nose for the exotic feature angle so popular at “ET” these days. One upcoming piece will profile Eugene Wilde, an up ‘n’ coming popster who Colomby said fasts four days a week, donating the meal money he saves to Ethiopian famine victims.

AND NOW HERE’S THE NEWS: Two members of Duran Duran--John Taylor and Andy Taylor, to be exact--have taken a temporary break from the Fab Five (that’s temporary , Duranies) to put together a band (and a new album) called the Power Station. The results of the new solo project will be out next month on Capitol, featuring such stellar musicians as Chic founder Bernard Edwards (who produced the record), Chic drummer Tony Thompson and vocalist Robert Palmer. The band’s debut single, which should be popping up on your radio dial any day now, is titled “Some Like It Hot.” . . . Guess who’s being sued after all these years--Buddy Holly. After a wait of 28 years, a trio of gospel musicians has filed suit claiming that the late pop singer’s 1957 hit “That’ll Be the Day” was copied from one of its original compositions. Jerry Fairbanks, an attorney representing Arthur, Al and Allaire Homburg, charges that Holly heard his clients perform the song at an Oklahoma concert in the 1950s. The attorney said the brothers, who had since gone their separate ways, only learned they could file suit when they reunited last year to record a gospel album. . . . And talk about a summit meeting: Last year, Afrika Bambaataa got together with James Brown, and now he’s joined forces with none other than PiL’s John Lydon. The twosome, using the name Time Zone, has released a new punk-funk single called “World Destruction.”

ON THE TOWN: The Blasters, who sold out both nights of last weekend’s dates at the Palace, gave the hometown crowd its first peek at most of the new songs from their “Hardline” album, due out Feb. 25. Highlights included “Dark Night,” a Creedence-style song (John Fogerty reportedly said, “Gee, that sounds familiar,” when he first heard a tape of it); “Samson and Delilah,” which Phil Alvin performed with vocalists Bobby King and Herman Johnson (the Jubilee Train Singers); “Colored Lights,” a new song written for the band by John Cougar Mellencamp, and “Little Honey,” a song co-written by Dave Alvin and X’s John Doe, who plans to use a radically different version of it on X’s upcoming album. . . . L.A.’s most eclectic radio outpost, KCRW-FM, got credit for another first Wednesday night, becoming the first radio station to air the sound track of Prince’s “Purple Rain” film in its entirety as part of a simulcast with SelecTV. Well, almost in its entirety. Rather than air certain questionable language, the station’s broadcast of the film (which aired at 9 p.m.) bleeped out a few key obscenities along the way. . . . X will headline a benefit concert Saturday at the Stardust Ballroom in support of Beyond Baroque Literary/Arts Center, L.A.’s prominent literary center, which has been hard hit in recent years by severe cuts in federal funding. The center has a special place in the group’s heart--X songwriters John Doe and Exene Cervenka first met in 1976 at one of its poetry workshops. Tickets are $9. For more information, call 822-3006.