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A few years ago, when I was the Marketing Director for John Tesh's music I heard that Johnny Depp's trailer was parked right outside my office on the Paramount lot.  He was shooting a film on a stage right behind the Mae West building where I worked. 

That put me in a bit of a fix.  I had a policy against any sort of star deference on the lot.  It was rampant and kind of sickening and I wanted no part of it.  I routinely passed Kevin Costner, Niles from Fraiser, Tom Cruise and others while walking around to the catering truck or on errands and we would smile and nod, like anyone else.  I once had a temp assignment working for Patrick Stewart.  Being no fan of Star Trek, I didn't know who he was until someone told me later that morning.  At lunch, Patrick and his girlfriend came back all lit up.  Apparently Pierce Brosnan was right outside, having also eaten at the Commissary.  I didn't say anything.  

"Pierce Brosnan!" Patrick told me.  "Don't you like him?"  

"I don't know who that is." 

"James Bond!" his girlfriend blurted.  

"James Bond!  Don't you know James Bond?" Patrick asked me, leaning over my desk to make the point right in my face.  

"Listen," I said, "I didn't know who you were until about fifteen minutes ago." 

But Johnny Depp…I knew who he was.  And he was on my short list.  What to do…what to do…

Part of my job was to manage the swag…the merchandise…John Tesh cds, videos, t-shirts.  I didn't have much to offer.  I got out a piece of letterhead and tried to tell him what I needed him to know.

Johnny,

I was in Macon, Georgia when I discovered you three years ago…watching What's Eating Gilbert Grape with my family.  We're still quoting that movie.  So…years of laughs, then.  And then there was Arizona Dream and Benny and Joon and Dead Man.  The thing is, I never thought I'd have the chance to tell you…to thank you for doing what you do.  And to let you know about just one family whose days you made better. 

And also to thank you for not becoming what this industry insists you become.  For doing this on your own terms.

Keep shining…

I pulled one of the coveted wool John Tesh tour jackets from the top shelf and put it in the box.   

PS Didn't want you to be the only one of your friends not to have one of these. 

And with a lick and kiss it was done.  I walked it next door to Stage 19.  

"Is Johnny Depp here?" I asked the stage manager?  

"Yes he's right there -- just finishing up this scene -- give him just a minute."  

"No no -- will you please just give him this for me?"  

"Why don't you give it to him -- I'm sure he'd love that and he'll be done in just a minute," she whispered.  

"Really," I told her, "I've said everything I have to say in the letter -- I don't want to put him on the spot but do please make sure that he gets it.  Will you?"  

"Yeah if you're sure," she said.  

"Thanks."

That was late Friday afternoon. 

What a kick.  To get to let him know.  How often does that happen.

By Sunday I'd forgotten all about it.

Monday morning I walked into my office to a ringing phone.

"John Tesh Productions? "

"I'm looking for Delight."

"This is Delight."

"This is Johnny."

John Tesh is on a plane, I'm thinking, Oklahoma bound, and why is he calling himself Johnny to me.  How creepy.  Too early.  I didn't respond.

"Johnny Depp?"  he continued.

I sat down on top of my desk, reminding myself we're all people and trying to breathe normal and not say anything that would give me away.

"Hi Johnny."  Safe enough.

"Delight?"

"Yes?"

"That is one of the coolest, sweetest, funniest things that's happened to me and I have to meet you."

"Oh you don't," I told him.  "Really that's so good of you but you don't have to do that."

"No I do!  I want to -- I have to meet you.  And by your letterhead I can see you're close.  Will you come to my trailer?" 

"Sure," I said.

"Come soon," he said.  "Today is our last day of shooting and we'll be done by noon.  Will you really come?"  

He sounded entirely earnest.

"Yes I'll come."

"Great -- I'm looking forward to it."

I sat on my desk for a few minutes, replaying the conversation -- burning it into my memory.  Then I called Ingrid upstairs.

"…so how long do I wait?"

"Go now!" she said.  "Johnny Depp has invited you over -- GO!"

"One hour it is!"

The minutes took forever and I knew I was taking a chance to wait.  But pride wouldn't let me do otherwise.

The hour passed.  By the time I got to his trailer, I was having a hard time passing for nonchalant.  Who's nonchalant in the middle of a dream coming true?  How fraudulent.

The door was cracked and I knocked and someone said to come in.  When I opened it the sun poured in on exactly four Johnny Depps sitting side by side on the sofa.  Stand-ins and doubles all dressed exactly the same.  The one on the right end leaned forward, then the one in the middle almost stood up.  The one on the far left smiled and nudged the one next to him.  (Will the real Johnny Depp PLEASE...) "I -- I'm…"

The one on the end stood up.  "Delight?"

"Johnny?"

He leaned down so as not to hit his head as he strode across to the door with his hand out.  Then he came down the steps and hugged me and thanked me and asked if I had time for a walk.  At first I didn't know how to be.  "Yes but I really don't have anything to say -- I told it to you in the letter." 

"That's ok," he said.  "I have some things to say." 

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah!  What's it like working for John Tesh?"

"It's uh…"

We both laughed and it was entirely normal and easy and funny and familiar…like we'd known each other from way back. 

"Well do I look like you imagined me?" I asked at the end.  He looked down and gave my overalls a tug.  "Exactly."

I saw him a couple years later at the party for the premiere of SLEEPY HOLLOW and he stopped talking to Marilyn Manson when I walked by.  He looked at me like you do when someone is vaguely familiar but you're seeing them somewhere you're not used to seeing them and you just can't put it together.  But he did stop talking mid-sentence and smiled and said hello.  It was enough. 

He is enough.  In a town where egos are huge and presents are always looked upon with suspicion or the idea that they are owed, he is more than enough.  He plays a different game.  

A few years later, working in the international marketing department of Paramount Pictures, a publicist acquaintance had to get down an interview with Johnny Depp at the Cannes Film Festival in France where Depp now lives.  He came by my office afterwards.  "How was it?"  I asked, feeling somehow like I was asking after a distant friend. 

He shook his head.  "He doesn't even shower.  He's a lousy interview.  His hair was filthy.  He wouldn't even put on a clean shirt.  He wore the same shirt for three days in a row.  We offered him a clean one."  I was laughing.  "It's not funny," he snorted. 

Oh yes it is.  It's brilliant.  He's found a way to keep the dogs at bay. 

As recently as Sunday night at the Golden Globes, Joan and Melissa Rivers deemed him the absolute worst-dressed.  Must've been a real feather in his cap.   The truth is he's never looked better -- he just didn't look like what the industry had dictated the "look" is for such events. 

Whatever you think, he's inching his way through the cesspool of Hollywood moviestardom.  Tuesday he was officially nominated for his first Oscar -- fittingly enough, a role in which he plays a pirate. 

And from Macon to LA -- we're pulling for you.  We'll be holding the back door open for you -- we've watched long enough to know how you come in. 

--by Delight Underwood



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