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Fear and Loathing in a Highgate Mansion: Johnny Depp Is Decadent and Depraved

Posted on | June 26, 2018 | 1 Comment

Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in 2003 (left) and as a loser in 2018 (right).

If you haven’t read Rolling Stone‘s 10,000-word profile of Johnny Depp, I can summarize it briefly: He’s wrecked. He’s ruined. The Pirates of the Caribbean star has utterly destroyed his career and reputation, and is rapidly approaching financial ruin. The drug-addled 55-year-old actor is living out a 21st-century version of Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress.

Do you realize that the five Pirates films grossed a combined $4.5 billion? And that Depp’s cut of that gold mine was $600 million? Basic arithmetic tells you that Depp was making $40 million a year — about $750,000 a week — for more than a decade, and there is no logical explanation for why he should be teetering on the brink of bankruptcy now, except for the unfortunate fact that Johnny Depp is a fool. When he first starred as Jack Sparrow, Depp was 40 and had been a celebrity for almost 20 years. He became a teen idol in the late 1980s for his role on the TV series 21 Jump Street, and it’s bizarre to compare the pathetic wreck Depp has become to the handsome young star whose face was once a pinup on the bedroom walls of nearly every 14-year-old girl in America.

Johnny Depp as a teen magazine pinup idol in 1988.

What happened to Johnny Depp? It’s a long and sordid story. Rolling Stone reporter Stephen Rodrick spent three days interviewing Depp at the mansion the actor is renting in London’s Highgate neighborhood, and found Depp mired in self-pity, bitterly scapegoating others for a series of personal and financial misfortunes that are actually his own fault.

Depp is suing his former business manager, accusing Joel Mandel’s firm of swindling him out money. The lawsuit itself was evidence of Depp’s bad judgment because, by suing Mandel’s firm, he gave them a pretext to countersue. When the press got hold of their complaint, detailing the prodigal extravagance of the actor’s lifestyle, the result was a devastating public-relations disaster for Depp, who was already radioactive because of his nasty 2016 divorce from actress Amber Heard. One of the little details Rodrick captures is that one of Depp’s tattoos has been recently altered from “SLIM” (his nickname for Heard) to “SCUM.”

Amber Heard was Mrs. Johnny Depp just long enough to destroy him.

Never marry a bisexual. Excuse me for saying that, but Depp’s marriage to the openly bisexual Heard certainly isn’t the first example of a discernible pattern — guy with a kinky streak marries a bisexual woman thinking he’s found the gold mine of sexual adventure, only to discover that “bisexual” is a synonym for emotionally disturbed.

As a young man, Johnny Depp cut quite a swath through Hollywood, dating actress Winona Ryder and supermodel Kate Moss before settling down in 1998 with French actress Vanessa Paradis, with whom he had two children, Lily-Rose and Jack. In 2006, Depp credited fatherhood with helping him hit his stride as an actor. “You have to have some sort of legacy in truth and honesty that you leave to your kiddies and the people you love,” he said in an interview after the release of the second Pirates film, saying fatherhood gave him a “real foundation, a real strong place to stand in life, in work, in everything.”

Five years later, Depp threw that foundation away. Heard was cast as Depp’s romantic interest in The Rum Diary, based on Hunter S. Thompson’s early novel about his dissolute life as a young reporter in Puerto Rico. Since Depp was executive producer of the movie, obviously he must have approved Heard for that role and, if he was casting his new girlfriend, so to speak, he certainly had an excellent eye for beauty.

Beware of pretty faces that you find.
A pretty face can hide an evil mind. . . .
Odds are you won’t live to see tomorrow.

The lyrics of that old R&B hit might have saved Johnny Depp a world of woe and a lot of money. The plot of The Rum Diary has Depp’s character stealing Heard’s character away from her fiancé, a real-estate developer who is also his boss, which is rather ironic, in retrospect.

Amber Heard was only 22 when she starred with Depp in The Rum Diary.

When filming of The Rum Diary began in 2009, Heard was not yet 23, and Johnny Depp was 45, although he was playing a much younger character. (Thompson was 24 when he wrote the novel.) Heard was a lapsed Catholic girl from Texas who had become an atheist libertarian and a lesbian — or, at least, a lesbian’s girlfriend. In 2008, Heard became the lover of L.A. photographer Tasya van Ree, a woman 10 years her senior. This could not have been a secret to Johnny Depp. Heard publicly “came out” in 2010 at a gay media gala in Hollywood:

I think when I became aware of my role in the media, I had to ask myself an important question “Am I part of the problem?” And I think that when millions and millions of hard-working, tax paying Americans are denied their rights and denied their equality you have to ask yourself what are the factors that are an epidemic problem and that’s what this is. Injustice can never be stood for. It always must be fought against and I just was sick of it being a problem. . . .
I think that the injustice of people staying in the closet is more than I can bear with a clear conscience and I couldn’t sleep at night if I was a part of that problem, if I was part of the lies.
I personally think that if you deny something or if you hide something you’re inadvertently admitting it’s wrong. I don’t feel like I’m wrong. I don’t feel like millions of people are wrong because they love who they love or they were born how they were born. I’m proud to be on the right side of history and I can do nothing more than encourage people to look at their lives and ask “What side of history am I on? Am I doing the right thing or am I doing the wrong thing?”

Oh, no, “the right side of history”!

If her atheism and bisexuality were not enough to warn any man to avoid Amber Heard, that phrase should have been the final deal-breaker. Never date anyone who thinks they’re on “the right side of history.”

Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot — totalitarians always claim to “be on the right side of history,” as Johnny Depp was about to learn.

What was Johnny thinking when he decided to abandon the mother of his two children to take up with a girl half his age who’d been dating a lesbian since she was 22? Well, of course, he wasn’t thinking at all, at least not with the frontal lobes of his cerebral cortex.

Feminists insist that human sexual behavior is “socially constructed,” as if nothing as simple as primal urges could be involved. The thin veneer of civilization which restrains humanity’s animal instincts is more fragile than some allegedly enlightened intellectuals would have us believe. What do we expect to happen when a former teen idol who has made a fortune playing a pirate — by definition, an outlaw — encounters a beautiful young atheist lesbian who considers her sexuality a political statement about being on “the right side of history”?


“Don’t do it, Johnny!” the ghostly voice of Hunter S. Thompson might have been heard warning Depp. “Can’t you see that girl is crazy? She’s as decadent and depraved as Churchill Downs on Derby Day!”

Alas, Depp didn’t heed any voices of caution, ghostly or otherwise. Basic common sense, or the lyrics of that 1966 Johnny Rivers song, should have been enough to tell him that Amber Heard was just poison in a pretty package, but when a guy’s making $40 million a year, he probably figures he can afford to take a long-shot gamble like that. Depp, who had never bothered to marry the mother of his children, dumped her for Heard in 2012, and the couple were married in February 2015. All the omens of the Depp-Heard romance were bad from the start. The Rum Diary was a box-office disaster, panned by critics and ignored by audiences, earning barely half the $45 million it cost to produce. Depp’s marriage to Heard lasted barely a year. She filed for divorce in May 2016, and in December of that year, Heard publicly accused Depp of domestic violence.

She’s on “the right side of history,” remember?

It’s as if a terrible curse has befallen Johnny Depp:

Over the past 18 months, there has been little but bad news for Depp. In addition to the financial woes, there were reports he couldn’t remember his lines and had to have them fed to him through an earpiece. He had split from his longtime lawyer and agent. And he was alone. His tabloid-scarred divorce from actress Heard is complete, but not before there were persuasive allegations of physical abuse that Depp vehemently denies. Depp’s inner circle had begged him to not wed Heard or to at least obtain a prenup. Depp ignored his loved ones’ advice. And there were whispers that Depp’s recreational drug and alcohol use were crippling him.
During my London visit, Depp is alternately hilarious, sly and incoherent. The days begin after dark and run until first light. There is a scared, hunted look about him. Despite grand talks about hitting the town, we never leave the house. As Depp’s mind leads us down various rabbit holes, I often think of a line that he recited as the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland: “Have I gone mad?”

You can read the rest of that sad tale, and if you have sons — I’ve got four of them — you should send it to them via email or Facebook, as a warning of what horrors might await them, should they ever be foolish enough to think they can live like a Caribbean pirate in real life.

Captain Jack Sparrow is now shipwrecked, and probably doomed beyond all hope of redemption. Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum.




One Response to “Fear and Loathing in a Highgate Mansion: Johnny Depp Is Decadent and Depraved”

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    […] Fear and Loathing in a Highgate Mansion: Johnny Depp Is Decadent and Depraved – Depp is suing his former business manager, accusing Joel Mandel’s firm of. […]