Move over Iraq. Back of the line, immigration. I’ll call you, $3 gasoline, I promise. Right now, Johnny Depp is America’s topic of choice.
Depp’s latest cinematic piratical effort just sent previous box-office records spinning grimly down into dark and watery graves, and Hollywood-watching media-types are beside themselves with admiration for the charismatic fellow.
Popular magazine writers extol Depp’s purported neuroses as endearing and accessible, and prime-time talking heads become faint describing his magnetic screen presence. Teacup-clutching yak mavens sail into transports at mention of his vaguely impudent good looks, and everybody in L.A. who’s ever believed themselves within two city blocks of His Eminence – from producers to actors to the guy who makes the popcorn – are scrambling for a microphone to tell the viewing public all about what a swell Joe their good and great friend Johnny is. Small wonder, then, that the whole country’s gone a little dippy, er, Deppy.
Well, here’s some bad news for Mega-D’s superfans from Napa to Newark:
We were there first.
That’s right. Evergreen’s been in the sweaty grip of raging Depp fever since long before it became “cool,” expanding the frontiers of unreasoning movie-star obsession and providing fresh grist to a local rumor mill that for too long has been scratching out a meager subsistance on little but unlikely lake monsters and phantom chain restaurants.
The madness began perhaps three months ago when some imaginative gossip leaked to a credulous neighbor that the Illustrious Personage had bought a house in Evergreen. Like lightning over the high plains, the story flashed across town, sprouting a zillion vivid arms and charging every gulch and hollow from Shaffer’s Crossing to Squaw Pass with burning expectations. To date, the bolt has produced several million watts of gossip but not one spark of evidence. Based purely on frequency of repetition, Upper Bear Creek Road is the odds-on favorite for Johnny’s new address, though North Turkey Creek and Floyd Hill are slowly gaining advocates.
Talk is cheap, of course, but seeing is believing, and the growing epidemic of sketchy Johnny Depp sightings constitute, for many, proof that Edward Scissorhands will soon appear at someone’s back door and ask to borrow their weed-whacker. In recent months, rumor has placed the Grande Artiste at The Bagelry in Bergen Park, standing in a checkout line at a King Soopers and crooning to an appreciative audience at the Little Bear. Well, even Hollywood marketing constructs have to eat, and showmanship must course through Depp’s veins the way oxygen does in the blood of lesser mortals. While theoretically possible, however, each rumored sighting arrives on the doorstep thickly packaged in layered embellishments and without a return address.
“I’ve heard all the rumors, but they’re always at least three-people removed,” laughs the proprietor of a historic local inn. “One of my maids swears she saw Johnny Depp jogging around Evergreen Lake at 6 o’clock in the morning, and my husband said it would be more believable if she’d seen him smoking at the same time.”
Not long ago, overhearing the staff exchanging Depp-related gossip, a guest mentioned that Depp had recently bought a house near his own. “He was from Vermont,” she laughs. “I guess we’re not the only town with rumors.”
A longtime Evergreen resident and respected local businesswoman, the innkeeper is one of a precious few who can speak with some authority on the junction of Johnny Depp and Evergreen because, on March 26, 2004, he was her guest. Not buying it? Check out the autographed photo he left in his room. “Thanx,” he wrote, in a sharp, somewhat abstract hand, “Johnny Depp.” It’s ain’t Shakespeare, but it’s for real.
“A guy from Denver called me about holding an engagement party here,” says the woman who, with the natural discretion for which hoteliers are rightly prized, prefers that her name and that of her business not be made public. “He and Depp are friends and they’ve work together. He said Depp would be coming and wanted it kept as quiet as possible. We had a verbal confidentiality agreement.”
Granted, Depp wasn’t her first A-list sleepover. “Tim Allen and David Schwimmer stayed here,” she says. “People like that come here to get away, to hide. Privacy is very important to them, which is why I have to be careful how much I say.”
To ensure the greatest possible confidentiality, she told no one of their VIP visitor except the duty manager and her public relations agent. “It was killing her, but she didn’t say anything.” The party was about 20 strong, champagne flowed freely and secrecy was tighter than Hunter S. Thompson in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”
“They were very careful about their privacy,” she says. “Everybody was very nice, but they kept to themselves and really kept Depp under wraps. After the proposal, a bunch of them went to the Ice House Bar. Depp went with them, but wasn’t recognized.”
Despite lavishing her guests with every indulgence and consideration, the lodge owner never laid eyes on the Glorious Curiosity until the next morning.
“I was standing in the lobby when this guy walked across the lawn and got in the back of this big, silver Bentley with tinted windows,” she says. “As it pulled out, we waved to each other. I can’t think of who else it would have been but Johnny Depp.” By noon, nothing remained but creeping exhaustion and a signed picture of Big D wearing faded blue jeans, a muscle shirt and his trademark sulky expression.
According to the innkeeper, Depp’s friend – the one who arranged the soiree – is a regular guest who works with numerous dignitaries and public lights.
“I told him that, if he ever brings someone of that caliber here again, I don’t want him to tell me,” she says. “Everybody says Johnny Depp’s a really down-to-earth, laid-back guy, but there’s just no way you can really do enough for someone like that. I started worrying about everything, like whether the bowls on my red-wine glasses were big enough. It was just too nerve-wracking.”
And for those wagging tongues that look forward to having a famous new neighbor, there may be a lesson in that.