The Babylonian excess of Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp's constant insistence that he's "keeping it real" is wearying.


Johnny Depp: "Keeping it real"
(Image credit: Copyright (c) 2016 Rex Features. No use without permission.)

A friend of mine once eavesdropped on a conversation between two rich wives aboard a swanky yacht in the Mediterranean, says Jemima Lewis in The Daily Telegraph. One confessed that while she and her husband had a share in a private jet, it wasn't quite the same as owning one. "Ahhh," she sighed. "How the other half lives."

Imagine the "paroxysms of envy" this non-jet-owning wife would have suffered if she'd known how Johnny Depp lives, says Lewis. Indeed. As news reports told us this week, the Hollywood star has spent more than £60m on 14 houses round the world, including a 12-room mansion on his Provenal estate, which has two rooms devoted to housing his hat collection. More than £14m went on his 156ft yacht. He has 45 luxury cars, 70 collectable guitars, 12 storage warehouses of Hollywood memorabilia and 200 masterpieces by the likes of Andy Warhol and Amedeo Modigliani.

His 40 full-time employees cost him £240,000 a month and another £120,000 goes on round-the-clock security guards to protect his family. His bill for private-jet travel was almost £160,000 a month, with about £24,000 going on wine. Then there were the one-offs, such as £2.4m spent on scattering his mentor Hunter S. Thompson's ashes from a cannon. These tales of what Lewis calls "Babylonian" excess have come to light because Depp is suing his former business advisers, Joel and Robert Mandel, for mismanaging his affairs.

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They, meanwhile, are suing him for living beyond his means, which can't be easy for someone worth £320m. Whatever the truth, as Julia Llewellyn Smith says in The Sunday Times, there's no denying that Depp's existence today is considerably "more cosseted" than his childhood in blue-collar Kentucky, where he was brought up by a civil engineer and a waitress "who painstakingly counted out the coins from her tips every night". "They went into, like, a quadruple bankruptcy every Christmas," Depp has recalled.

His career has been an up and down one, though with enough lucrative ups to turn him into one of the most bankable stars in the world. Along the way there has been a string of heartbroken exes, including Winona Ryder (when they split up he altered his "Winona forever" tattoo to "Wino forever") and Kate Moss. Then last year, says Llewellyn Smith, his image shifted from swinger to "weirdo" when his 15-month marriage to the actress Amber Heard broke down amidst accusations of drink and drug abuse.

But it's his profligacy that is now making headlines. "Johnny's sweet enough at heart, but he became a pampered brat," a film insider who's worked with him tells The Sunday Times. "He'd charter his jet to go to say Madrid for dinner with his entourage, then nobody would be allowed to go to bed because Johnny still wanted to party. The pilot's shift hours would end and they'd have to find a new pilot to get them all home at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds. It's completely normal behaviour from a mega-star, but Johnny's constant insistence that he was keeping it real' made it just that bit more wearying."

Tabloid money turning parliament into a playpen

Former football star David Beckham's emails have been leaked. Despite claims by Beckham's people that they had been doctored, the emails "reveal something really depressing", says Rachel Johnson in The Mail on Sunday "that the main reason he did so much charity [work] was in the needy hope of making Posh n' Becks none other than grand, titled Sir David and Lady B'".

Beckham apparently refused to donate £1m to charity (he is worth £280m and anyone who does anything for charity knows part of the deal is you give your own money in return forthe lustre of the association with their good works), saying: It's my f***ing money'." Of course, claims and counterclaims have been issued "faster than yellow cards in a rainy north London derby", says Johnson. But the damage has been done.

"I know I'm feeling broody when baby stories catch my eye," says Saira Khan in the Sunday Mirror. "So when I saw footage of Speaker John Bercow telling Norwich North MP Chloe Smith not to be sheepish' about bringing her four-month-old son Alastair into Parliament for the Brexit vote, I let out a big ahhhhh." After all, childcare is expensive at an average £117 a week for 25 hours in a nursery for a child under two. And for many without friends or family nearby, that's the only option, says Khan. "It would be nice to know that in emergencies, bosses would welcome our babies into the workplace rather than show them the door."

"An animal rights group has carpet-bombed London with advertisements urging people to become vegan" that show a farm animal next to the slogan "I'm me. Not meat," says Jeremy Clarkson in The Sun. But what if we all shunned meat? "Would the little piggy wiggies be set free to live a life in the wild?" asks Clarkson. "No. If there was no money to be made from farming these animals, they'd all die." If you want to see animals in the countryside, "have a bacon sandwich".