Rumor mill goes off the Depp end


Who’s behind these Foster Grants?

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.

Have you seen this man?

“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.

Perfect for a discreet get-away

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.

Mumbling movie mook mars mountain milieu

About two weeks ago, when she first heard something rooting through her garbage cans after dark, Evergreen resident Brie Kammhem-Behr was annoyed. Sunday night, after she staked out her driveway and caught the culprit in a flashlight’s accusing beam, she became truly frightened.

“At first all I could see was a dark shape hunched over a pile of trash and tearing at a half-eaten Hot-Pocket with its teeth,” she said on Monday morning, still clutching an aluminum baseball bat and clearly shaken. “Then he looked up and snarled at me and his eyes reflected the light like a pair of golden globes. It was Johnny Depp.”

Mook amok.


As unlikely as that sounds, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office investigators believe that Kammhem-Behr’s terrifying discovery may go far toward explaining the sudden rash of over-turned trash cans, frightened household pets and soaring Cutty Sark sales that have plagued central Evergreen during the last three weeks.

“It’s starting to add up,” explains deputy Gilbert Grape, carefully dusting a deeply-chewed, silver-tipped ebony cigarette holder for fingerprints. “A jogger found this in a porta-potty at Evergreen Lake that we think Depp may be using for shelter.”

For one Main Street business owner who wishes to remain anonymous until she’s heard back from her agent, the J.D. sighting provides the missing piece of a messy puzzle.

“Every morning when I come in, the delivery porch is littered with stale croissant ends and Galois butts,” she says. “Now that I know Johnny might be crashing in there, I should be able to get a fortune for them on e-Bay.”

Reached by telephone at his Los Angeles office, film-agent Morey Amsterdam declined to give Depp’s present location, or even say when he and his most illustrious client last spoke. He did confirm, however, that Depp walked off the set of his latest picture, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Planks a Million,” nearly a month ago, putting the project on indefinite hiatus

Still, one must ask what personal demons could drive a celebrity of Depp’s stature to such wretched depths. According to the megastar’s therapist, celebrity headshrinker Dr. Royce Carruthers, the answer is tragically simple.

“Basically, he began to feel snubbed by your community and it sent him around the bend,” Carruthers explains. “He fell in love with your town last year, and did his best to embrace it with his whole heart. He went house-hunting among your beautiful hills, shopped in your quaint groceries, noshed at your local bagelries, even took to walking around your lovely lake early each morning. Yet everybody acted like he wasn’t even there. For a film artist who’s adored by millions, that was intolerable. Medically speaking, he went Froot Loops.”

While the thought of an unhinged Hollywood icon skulking around Evergreen’s quiet neighborhoods is certainly disturbing, it’s not without ample precedent. In late 2002, cinema tough-guy Al Pacino terrorized the quiet township of Cactus Creek, Nev., for nearly a month after the local Bijou closed his latest picture, “The Sense of a Wombat,” after only two weeks. And just last year, Hollywood heavyweight Susan Sarandon, esteemed in industries circles as an actress of great seriousness, spent several days wandering the tiny hamlet of Quaker Oaks, N.H., sleeping in the park and eating from birdfeeders. According to Amsterdam, the episode began when Sarandon learned that the popular half-pound “Susan Saran-Ton” garden burger at Mimi’s Silver Screen Diner in downtown Quaker Oaks had been renamed the “Adam Sandler-wich” after the prominent ham stopped to disburden himself on a dwarf chestnut tree on nearby Rural Route 86.

A Sarandon scorned.


Even now, county personnel are bending their efforts to catching the troubled superstar. Authorities hope that deftly camouflaged snares laid in Dedisse Park and baited with plastic Oscar trophy replicas will snare the two-time nominee so that he can be safely darted and relocated to a less natural environment.

“We don’t want to hurt him,” Grape says. “We just want to end the fear and loathing in Evergreen.”

Do not engage!

Johnny Depp Redux

Our recent exploration of local chatter regarding Johnny Depp prompted numerous readers to contact the newspaper – some positive, some otherwise – and at least two offered clues to the rumors’ origins.

As near as can be determined, the first second-hand Johnny Depp sighting surfaced approximately three months ago. It may be no coincidence that King Soopers cashier Matt Villareal noticed a person matching Depp’s description buying milk, cereal and fruit at his register at about that time.

Have you seen this man?

According to Villareal, an unshaven fellow clad in a stained, gray trench coat and wearing a type of hat often associated with Johnny Depp appeared in the Bergen Park grocery 10 or 12 weeks ago. While shabby shoppers aren’t ordinarily noteworthy, they are when they look suspiciously like famous people and Villareal was immediately struck by the man’s resemblance to Johnny Depp.

“At least two other employees saw him check out, too, and we all thought he looked a lot like Johnny Depp,” Villareal says. “After he paid, I checked the credit card slip but the signature was illegible.” In itself, Villareal’s account is unremarkable. Added to his next statement, however, it could explain a great deal. “This was before all the rumors started, so I pretty much just shrugged the whole thing off.”

But not before sharing the incident freely with their friends and co-workers. Thus, at least three local residents had reason to suspect a brush with greatness on the eve of an epidemic of alleged Johnny Depp sightings. Taken together, they’re what Bill Nye the Science Guy might call a “causal relationship.”

While suggestive, Villareal’s report does nothing to explain the oft-repeated tale that Depp has, or soon will, buy real estate on Upper Bear Creek Road. Fortunately, longtime Upper Bear resident and local Realtor DeWitt Petty offers a plausible theory as to how an unverified Depp sighting became Hollywood West.

Shortly after Villareal’s curious encounter, Petty brokered the sale of a large property on the Clear Creek County end of Upper Bear Creek Road. Freshly infected with the Depp fever, an acquaintance phoned Petty and asked him to confirm her personal belief that the famed actor had purchased the $8 million estate. Whether motivated by commendable professional tact or a keen sense of mischief, Petty equivocated.

“I told her I wasn’t at liberty to tell her that,” Petty says.

What’s not secret is that, when offered a “no comment,” most people immediately attach a mental nudge and a wink to it, and it’s entirely possible that the tales of Depp’s Evergreen house-hunting can be traced directly back to Petty’s inquisitive friend. In any case, the property was sold to a Denver couple with no known cinematic associations.

For his part, Petty finds the gossip machine’s current product especially entertaining in view of a persistent celebrity fiction that’s plagued him for nearly two decades. Some 19 years ago, Petty was interested to learn that the sale of a nearby home was based in part on the strength of its Hollywood pedigree.

“The sellers were telling everybody that Farrah Fawcett used to live there,” Petty says. “As a Realtor, I got curious and did a title search on it.” He wasn’t surprised to discover that the one-time Angel had no more connection to the home than Charlie did, a fact that did nothing to dispel the notion in the popular imagination.

“In the last 19 years, I’ve sold that house three times,” Petty says, “and every time I do, someone says ‘hey, you sold Farrah Fawcett’s house,’ and I always say ‘yeah, I guess I did.’”