Someone Do Something About Johnny Depp

Won’t someone please make Johnny Depp leave me the fuck alone?  I mean it was sweet and kind of cute in the beginning but it’s really starting to get a tish old.

In 1984, I was visiting a friend in Los Angeles.  I was only in town for a couple of days.  There was a new line of Gianni Versace being shown at one of the boutiques on Rodeo Drive and well, I simply couldn’t wait until it arrived at the department stores in Birmingham, Alabama.  Hell, I’d still be waiting!  Most of the three days I had to spend in LA, I planned on shopping and shipping and eating as much as I could at many of the chic LA eating establishments.  But someone had told my friend about an audition they were holding for a new show about a bunch of young undercover detectives called “21 Jump Street.”  She begged me to go audition.  “Oh come on Jeff,” she said as she reached across the table at the Ivy and grabbed my young, toned triceps, “It’ll be fun!”  Finally, just to keep her from nagging me anymore, I agreed to go in and read.   I didn’t have anything prepared.  I figured I’d just go in there and do something off the cuff, maybe make up some poetry on the spot or sing from the Church of Christ hymnal.  Well I didn’t even get my mouth open good before the casting director interrupted.  “Stop right there.  I don’t need to hear anything else!”  I short of chucked and turned to leave.  It was worth a laugh anyway, right?  “Wait!  Where are you going?”  “I thought you said I was done.” I said to her, making my eyes twinkle just a bit.  “Oh, you are so far from done, young man.”  She cast me right there on the spot to play Officer Tom Hanson, the Saxophone-playing, bowling-loving, baby-faced cop with a bit of a sore spot over the constant teasing he gets regarding his looks from criminals and fellow cops alike.  I must say I was thrilled but not too very shocked. I’d always known I had a flare for performance and figured sooner or later I’d end up in Hollywood.  I just never figured it would happen so soon.  But, when the staff started telling me about the particulars of the shooting schedule and how it would probably be best if I got a place there in LA, I was all like “Hey now wait one minute.” I was in my senior year at Walker High School back in Alabama, was the drum major of the marching band and had already been cast in the coveted role of Don Quixote in the theatre department production of “Man of La Mancha.”  I wasn’t about to trade all that in on some flash-in-the-pan TV series.  To this day I thank my lucky stars for my good judgment, even as such a tender age.  I simply smiled a closed-lip smile, shook my head and said to the casting director, “Thanks, but I’m already committed.”  She couldn’t conceal her disappointment as I once again turned to leave the bungalow casting studio.  Then I had a wonderful idea, an idea that could give some hope to one poor boy I’d met the day before.  I reached into the pocket of my Calvin Klein jeans, pulled out a matchbook and handed it to the casting director.  She opened it up and read what was written inside, the simple moniker “Johnny” and an 818 area code phone number.  He was so very 818 back then.  You see, as I was leaving the Ivy the day before, one of the busboys ran up and handed me the matchbook.  “I could probably get fired for this.” He said, “but I couldn’t help noticing that you were looking at me. And I think you’re very hot as well.”  I didn’t have the heart to tell him I was just admiring the job he’d done ironing his shirt, creases and all.  There was no way he could have afforded professional laundering on a busboy’s salary.  I politely smiled and accepted the matchbook.  Little could he have known how fate was stepping in on his behalf.  The next day, after declining the role on “21 Jump Street,” I said to the casting director, “You know, you might consider this a long shot but I have a pretty good eye for these things.  I met a young man who was working at the Ivy yesterday and I believe he just might be perfect for the role of Officer Tom Hanson, the Saxophone-playing, bowling-loving, baby-faced cop with a bit of a sore spot over the constant teasing he gets regarding his looks from criminals and fellow cops alike.”  Well they did call Johnny and as you know, he got the part.  He talked the studio into giving him my number and he just couldn’t wait to call and thank me profusely.  I could barely understand him for all the gushing and blubbering.  “It’s okay, man don’t worry about it.” I laughed.  “Anybody would have done it. And yes, I think you’re cute too but right now I just want to focus on my career.” And I got off the phone as soon as I could.  I was right in the middle of learning the lyrics to “Impossible Dream.”

Cut to:  1990 and I was in Mobile, Alabama where I was preparing for one of the most challenging roles of my career.  Even though shooting wasn’t to begin for several months, I was already on location to do preparation to play “Bugling Sailor on Turret” in the Steven Segal movie “Under Siege.”   The role was incredibly emotionally draining and I must admit that I was hitting the sauce a little too hard.  I was sitting in the bar of the Radisson Admiral Semmes Hotel tossing back the Glenfiddich Special Reserve when I got the feeling that someone was watching me.  I looked down the bar to see this strange looking fellow giving me the eye.  Now as you can imagine, this happens to me quite a bit.  He was kind of cute in a weird, artsy sort of way but when I’m doing a picture, I’m all business.  I just gave him one of those “regrettably, no thank you” smiles and turned away a little bit on the barstool.  He didn’t take the hint.  Before I knew it, he was at my elbow introducing himself.  As it turns out, I was wrong.  He wasn’t hitting on me.  He had something else in mind.  He was actually working as a gaffer on “Under Siege” but was about to shoot a movie of his own!  He was just doing the gaffer gig to scrape up the money for his film.  With an intense and penetrating look, he stuck out his hand and introduced himself.  “Tim Burton!”  I took his cold, clammy hand in mine.  “Jeff Key.”  He bought me another scotch and started to pitch his movie to me.  “Actually,” he said,” when I was watching you from the other end of the bar, I was thinking you’d really be perfect for the title role.  I could tell just by the way you chewed the ice each time you’d finish a highball.  The role is Edward, a sensitive if misunderstood young man who was made by a very old inventor who died before he could finish Edward.  He’d made him everything he needed… except hands!  For hands, the poor bastard only has scissors!”  Tim was clearly excited about his project.  I gave him my best look of amazement and said, “Wow! Incredible.”  All the while thinking to myself , “What a load of crap! Scissors for hands?  Who the hell would ever see a movie like that?!”  Tim ordered me another scotch and said, “Please, Jeff.  I know I just met you but you are absolutely perfect for the role.  Won’t you do it?  Please?”  “Awe, Tim,” I said, trying to let him down easy.  “I’m pretty sure this Under Siege thing is going to take me in a different direction.  I’m guessing I’ll be doing a lot of action film stuff from here on out. It’s sort of the curse of having a body like this.”  “I understand.” He said, trying not to sound too disappointed.  “Buck up kiddo,” I said as I punched him in the arm. “I’m sure you’ll find the right guy.”  (How many times have I said those words to the person on the next barstool?!)  “HEY!  You know what?” I said to Tim as he readjusted the umbrella in his piña colada. “I think I might have just the man for your Edward Scissorhands role.  Have you ever seen that show “21 Jump Street?”

After that the phone calls from Johnny started up again.  “Oh thank you Mr. Key, thank you so much!”  “Please, call me Jeff.”

In 2003, ole Tim Burton called me out of the blue, “Listen thanks for turning me on to Johnny,” he said, “but I’m on to a new project now and the lead is just made for you!”  He went on to tell me about some harebrained idea to turn a Disney amusement park ride into a movie franchise.  “You mean the one with the animatronics pirates and the plastic treasure chests?”  I had to cover the phone so he couldn’t hear me stifling the laugh.  (Hey, the whole Scissorhands thing went all right so who knows?)  Just then the call waiting beeped. “Hang on a second Tim.”  Less than five minutes later I was back.  “Well you won’t believe this,” I told him, “but that was Colin Powell calling from the Pentagon.  Apparently Saddam Hussein has a big stockpile of weapons of mass destruction over there in Iraq and they need me to go over there and get ‘em. Hey why don’t you call Johnny again?”  “Aw man,” he said, “I had this crazy hybrid mix of Keith Richards and PePe La Pew in mind for the lead.  You’d knock that out of the park!”  “Sorry Tim, the nation needs me.  I’m sure Johnny will do a fine job.” I think it was that day that Tim Burton joined the peace movement.  I do know that I wasn’t in Iraq one day that I didn’t get some kind of package from Johnny Depp, Rolex watches, designer clothing, bottles and bottles of champagne.  I had no use for that stuff while I was at war!  I simply gave it to the Iraqi kids.  Let them figure out what to do with it.

Over the years the whole “Tim/Johnny” thing has happened over and over.  Tim gets hired to do some new movie and the first thing he’ll do is call me.  “It’s Sweeny Todd, Jeff!  Yes, the Sondheim musical! You can’t pass on this one!” or “Goddammit Jeff, you are the Mad Hatter!”  He’s just gotten used to hearing me say those two simple words, “Call Johnny.”

Tim’s not the only one either.  Over the years other fine directors have called me to offer me what was in some cases very interesting roles.  But each time it seems life just has something more important in mind for me.  Heck, who’s going to do Adam’s laundry if I’m off on some tropical island shooting a movie?!  In most cases I just try to kick the work over to Johnny.  Hey, I feel a little sorry for the kid you know?  He looked so pitiful that day standing there on the patio of the Ivy with his little bus pan and crooked tie.

But gratitude is one thing, this is getting ridiculous.  If he’d just limit the flowers and candy to birthdays or other holidays!  And I do enjoy hearing some about what’s going on in his life but I simply do not have the time to be on the phone with him for over an hour each day!

Oh my God, you are not going to believe this.  I just went upstairs to microwave a cup of coffee and when I passed the window and glanced out into the driveway, who do you think is out there washing my truck in nothing but Daisy Dukes and a smile?!  This is getting out of hand.  The neighbours have asked me to do something.  Now it’s getting down-right embarrassing.  Some people might not mind having “the great Johnny Depp” nearly naked in their driveway but I… well, I’m just more of a private person I guess.

Can’t someone please do something about Johnny?


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