Friday, June 23, 2017


Poor, old, aging heartthrob Johnny Depp hazarding remarks hinting at John Wilkes Booth and the assassination of a president clearly has completely lost his ever loving mind. He will be the first person in the history of the world to try to turn John Wilkes Booth into a hero for killing one of the greatest men who ever lived and bringing an era of unnecessary suffering to a nation that was already suffering. And yes, Booth was an actor. (But so were Reagan and John Wayne, so not all actors are certifiable.) I guess Johnny Depp has a very advanced case of what we used to call Hollywood Brain Dead syndrome.  

Hollywood Brain Dead is a condition that New York actors arriving in Tinsel Town coined to account for what happened to our friends who'd worked there for awhile. Actors who'd previously been able to hold a sensible conversation and have a normal perspective on life, suddenly morphed into incessant babblers. Given the slightest pause in the conversation, they'd breathlessly chatter on and on about what Hollywood bigshot had spoken to them, what a great audition they'd just done with so and so, or what in crowd parties they'd been invited to. They lost all sense that there was a big world out there of which Hollywood was only one small part. It was scary to be around anyone who'd spent too much time in Hollywood, they were never the same fun person they used to be, and worse, they seemed unaware of that they were acting so strangely.

Johnny Depp, who used to be a nice person, and I can attest to that because we knew him when he was doing 21 Jump Street. Back then, he was a dedicated actor, hardworking, no big ego, and nice to everyone. He was not one of those prancing, preening actors always holding up production to walk their dog or finish a phone call, while others sweated the waste of time and budget, like so many other actors out there. He was a good guy and a very good actor, as many of his early performances show.

How does this happen to someone? It's the result of how Hollywood is run. Casting is based solely on how hot the person with the power is for you. The love interest gets any role, any slight bump, their mentor can give them. It's all about who's boffing who and who would like to be boffing who. Of course, casting your love interest is extremely common in show business, and many businesses. It's funny and scary to see the Comey and Mueller love in and realize the FBI seems to be run the same way as Hollywood. But back in those innocent days, when we Americans thought we lived in a meritocracy, Tom and I were shocked that those type of shenanigans happened all the way up at the network level in the casting of a major roles in nighttime television productions. We had expected the networks to be run in a more businesslike fashion, which would have meant casting the actor who was best at playing the role so the show would be a hit and make the network some money.

Well, no. Hollywood (and perhaps Washington, DC, too) is run as a sort of Byzantine spoils system. The spoils are divided up among those who are in control and those whom they are tentatively considering inviting into their very small, exclusive club. Hollywood is a little rabbit warren of fiefdoms which are constantly at war with each other. Talent, popularity and all those things that matter to the audience mean nothing to the people controlling the purse strings. Of necessity, their views were very short sighted. They wanted to have their job tomorrow, and the most reliable way to keep that job was to curry favor with the higher ups, as opposed to pursuing the chancy proposition of putting together a successful show. Far better "to polish up the handles on the big brass doors."

I can speak from firsthand experience, watching many good friends turn into self-obsessed nut jobs, when I say that living and working in a system like that completely destroys a person's moral fiber, their common sense, their sense of proportion, their sense of humor and turns them Hollywood Brain Dead, kind of Walking Dead Zombies. Sadly, Johnny Depp seems to have suffered that fate.

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