Depp Vs. Heard
A Rambling Recap
“When you're down and out, there's no meaner place to live than Hollywood. You can get away with your embezzlements and your lies and your murders, but you can never get away with failing.” - Dominck Dunne
Over the past two weeks I’ve tried half a dozen times to sit down and draft a proper recap here to get us all caught up to speed on a trial that has gripped the nation with the kind of intensity we haven’t seen since OJ staked claim on our TV screens 30 years ago. Honestly, where my undying fascination with celebrity trials likely stems. I remember how invested my whole family was during that eight month stretch. My mom even letting me skip school on certain days when the heavy hitting witnesses were set to take the stand. I’ll never forget Nicole’s sister and parents seated together in that room everyday, or Kato Kaelin on the stand. All sun kissed feathered hair and pretty white teeth beaming back at us between all those gruesome murder pics.
Even though I was only in high school I could sense the grip it held over us as a country, united by the quest for justice. When it failed us, we shared in a collective rage too. I remember bursting into tears when the ‘not guilty’ verdict was read. Turning to my mother and asking “how?”
This trial feels very similar. Possessing the same gripping hold over the masses. And connecting people based on their allegiance. I keep joking that Depp Vs. Heard is singlehandedly saving the country, or at least turning things around by reviving fresh camaraderie after two brutal years of fighting each other over just about everything. This televised circus - powered by the plight for truth - has people laughing and musing and conversing again. Like we haven’t done in a long time.
From construction workers to celebrities, everyone seems to be invested to some degree. Part of the appeal I think comes thanks to a revived nostalgia for an icon we all grew up with, and then kind of forget about at the center of this modern Shakespearean drama. A monolithic tale of love lost, constructed by elaborate sets-us, weaponized sex, addictions, betrayal, blackmail, and all the other pitfalls that come attached to wealth and celebrity.
Plus, it’s got all the same salaciousness fodder as the crime mysteries we love so much, minus the murder. Unless of course anyone is counting the slaughtered reputation of Johnny Depp. Which I like to imagine Hunter S. Thompson might have ….
Whatever the case, we’re all hooked. From the grandmas to the middle school kids, Amber and Johnny is all anyone wants to talk about (Trust me I know, all of my boys are informed thanks to TIk Tok and when I went to our annual community market a couple weekends ago I couldn’t make it more than a few feet without someone stopping me, wanting to rehash chapters of the trial amidst my frenzied hunt for a perfectly worn pair of faded Levis)
It’s to the point where life feels newly divided by “Before Johnny Depp” and “AJD.” One month in and most of us don’t even remember what our days were like before coffee came paired with a slick haired icon swaggering into the courtroom at 6:50 am sharp. Or overanalyzing Amber Heard’s rotation of odd hairstyles weirdly resembling various versions of prairie girl, pilgrim, pastor’s wife.
The twining (copied) wardrobes really sent us, did they not?
Thanks to Johnny, we all have new lingo. Happily toasting mega pints and trading tik tok memes about fecal matter and Amica cream while reading Disco Blood Bath and nursing new crushes on the most unexpected characters. Hello Dr. Curry, Alejandro Romero, Isaac Baruch.
And when we’re not unloading our theories and opinions onto friends who are (thankfully) just as obsessed as us, we’re scouring the internet for the newest, most amusing memes. Which itself almost becomes a full time job.
Behind the scenes - or screens I should say - life is a little messy. Ever since I started covering these trials (in a dedicated manner anyway) I’ve had to accept myself as a walking disaster throughout the duration of them. Meaning I wake up and shuffle around in pajamas all day and don’t do my hair or drink enough water, or eat balanced meals, and basically don't unwind or unplug until a verdict is read. I have to figure - because of the all encompassing obsessive style I myself prefer, a ragged wardrobe and temporarily scattered home is a small price to pay. Consuming but fleeting.
On occasion - when I want to torture myself - I imagine how seamless and stressless life with a small team behind me would be. To designate tasks and source and organize all the incoming information. Because, as far as prep goes my time and attention are fired in every direction needed to find imagery, collect links, scour Tik Tok / Twitter, edit photos and videos I plan to include, and arrange the order of it all. On top of picking songs and creating reels as fillers to include in stories.
But this trial reads like a chapter pulled from the pages of my woozy teenage fever dream. How it weaves together all the elements of literature I loved at that age, and fringe society characters, celebrity worship, gossip and revenge. Toss in some good music and the onslaught of quality palaver, and you have a recipe for instant screen addiction.
When I stop to consider everything that’s happened though, in the span of this past month, my brain shakes in disbelief.
The best part? All the untouched ‘behind the scenes’ details I can’t unfold until way after trial has ended.
So while sidetones are simmering, let’s rewind…
The Unexpected Phone Call
Days before the trial was set to begin I announced on IG (in a few brief teaser slides) that I intended to cover the Johnny Depp libel trial in its entirety. The response I got that day was decent but not rabid.
However, this little teaser lead to my first significant connection a couple days later. When I get a late night phone call from someone I didn’t recognize on the other end. An opening line that went something like “I hear you are not afraid to take on unpopular opinions?”
“This is true,” I replied. “But who are you?”
This beings my tethered line to the inner workings of this whole situation. A source who directed me to additional means of evidence, information, source sites, documents, and witnesses that shifted my intentions of offering unbiased coverage completely.
At one point, this person even inquired if I knew who the father of Heard’s baby was, when I answered confidently their faith in me was solidified.
One thing I haven’t talked openly about is how this story was on my radar for years. But Ignored purposely. Initially I believed all the allegations of Johnny when they came out, just like everyone else. I remember feeling extremely disappointed learning that everything we knew and loved about Depp was a fraud. I took the news for what it was: him as a violent wife beater exposed by a young woman we called “brave” for coming forward as an example to other victims of domestic abuse.
Fast forward to the UK trial. Where press started to trickle over into the states. I can recall sitting in my van in a parking garage with my jaw on the floor for two hours listening to the leaked audio recordings of Heard berating and bating and beating Depp. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, how twisted everything we were led to believe suddenly seemed.
Secretly I followed the story’s developments without any public mention out of respect for I.O Tillet Wright, whom I had befriended on IG a couple years before.
As enamored as I was by the twists that were unfolding in the case, I figured it was one story I could overlook to spare any unnecessary tensions between us.
But the resistance got harder to stick with the more I learned, the more convinced I became of Depp’s innocence.
When I finally decided to cover it, as expected, I.O. was quick to unfollow.
I regretted what I uncovered about I.O.’s role in this. How, like everyone in Amber’s intimate circle, he took full advantage of Johnny’s generosity from the start. And then turned around and betrayed him by lending himself to the web of ever changing lies Heard was building.
The stuff I gleaned from the sources close to Heard during this time, who contacted me specifically to explain to me the extent of her lies, described this crew as basic Hollywood takers. Traipsing around exotic corners of the world on Johnny’s dime. And using him for connections to sell their book deals and screenplays. Taking up rent-free residency in his LA lofts, partying on his island and his French estates and anywhere else his name or connections opened up for them.
The Worst Advice
After four solid days of phone calls and research I deiced I needed to head to Virginia to scope out the scene unfolding at the trial. Which Mike thought was a bad idea.
“No one is going to care what goes down in a celebrity divorce” he told me. (In the 20+ years we’’ve been together he’s never got on board with my celebrity obsessions. Which has actually worked out just fine. Except, in instances like this, where I know he’s wrong and his miscalculation is only due to his disinterest in all things celebrity related)
“I definitely think you’re wrong on this one.” I told him. Which did not warrant much debate because by now he’s learned it’s better to just trust me on such things.
Four days later I was on a red eye to Fairfax Virginia. Landing early morning to make my way to a local Hilton hotel where I was informed that my room wouldn’t be ready for “a few hours,” so I took my silent disgruntled self to the furtherest corner in the lobby to plug in all of my devices to charge as I slept, and collapsed onto a powder blue sectional where I awoke hours later to Jess standing over me carting wine and snacks. Fresh from a four hour drive from NY to Fairfax.
In our hotel room she worked while I watched the trial from my laptop, taking calls and reading up on documents in between.
The following day I showed up to the Fairfax County Courthouse early morning where a small gathering of fans were in lined up and collecting wristbands out front. Once inside I was seated amongst the most devoted of Depp’s fanhood. Blue haired, pirate inspired, tattooed and adoring. Clad in shredded tees and studded belts.
One woman on the other side of the room snagged my attention immediately because of an uncanny resemblance to a young Ghislaine Maxwell (If Ghislaine had a punk edge and was fond of ribbed tank tops & skinny jeans) The similarities were so striking I had a hard time focusing on anything besides her. Which naturally caused to sit and entertain the outlandish simulation conspiracy yet again - like I tend to when things seem especially bizarre, or repetitive or coincidental.
Sitting there, studying this woman’s pointed profile and dark shifty eyes with an identical shoulder length Maxwell bob, I found myself amused - wondering who might be controlling this experience. Because whoever tossed in a counter cultured version of Ghislaine Maxwell just to mess with me, has my utmost respect
When the court finally takes shape and I’m rattled away from my tin foiled conspiracies, I readjust all focus to the backdoor where Johnny’s team comes waltzing in. Him last, wearing violet tinged sunglasses paired with his signature star swagger, which invites an audible swoon from the crowd around me. I even catch the woman next to me crying softly to herself as he enters.
Most of the hour I spend staring at the back of Johnny’s head. A boring, but familiar outline from an angle that pales in comparison to the court TV cameras stalking everyone’s facial expressions and body language. By mid afternoon though when the sun breaks through a slice of skylight above him it lends a godly aspect to the halo of light framing him. In that moment, under a naturally dramatic spotlight outlining his frame with a golden edge, his whole enigma comes to life in front of us.
Under a sliver of sunlight he appears unarguably lovely to look at. Traces of his star power radiating effortlessly even from my petty backroom view.
Later, during sidebar, I glance over and catch Amber glaring back at me from the front of the room which I didn't think much of until I remember how she’s hired a full time task force to comb through social media sites looking for any posts that could be deemed threatening to her. A feat I see in working action when a few fans get booted from the room by a tap on the shoulder from a court marshall.
When her eyes catch mine I smile back. Stupidly amused because my last notable court eye lock was with Maxwell, the woman who’s little black book could dismantle the whole free world, turning around in her seat and locking me in a five second (unblinking) gaze with an intensity so fierce I thought it was going to burn a hole in my ray bans straight though to my soul. So in this moment, Heidi with a scowl peering back at me, feels like child’s play in comparison.
During lunch break I wander out front in search of some sun. Warmth to mend a deep sinking cold stuck in my bones thanks to an over active AC cranking in court. But when I find a space away from all the cameras, a handful of reporters are hovering over me, introducing themselves and their sites and their channels. New attention gathered thanks to one woman finding my Instagram handle and sharing it with all the rest.Because I’m terrible at telling people no, I politely excuse myself for a bathroom run where I end up getting lost in a courtyard maze trying to escape the pressured promises I agreed to to appear on their podcasts and live streams after court.
When I make it back to the hotel, Jess and I drink wine and watch TV. Eventually venturing out to a local strip mall in search of salmon. On her last morning she spends the hour lecturing me on my obscene volume control. Insinuating that I’m partially deaf because I turn everything up “way too loud.” And should probably see a doctor about it.
On my way out, a day after she leaves, I ended up connecting with another source close to Heard during the early days of their marriage. Someone who sent me their personal photos of the wedding on the island. An event they describe as “messy” and “chaotic.”And Johnny, they tell me, is “the kindest, most gentle and generous soul.” Traits they say that ultimately burned him in the end.
The Art of Gossip
This brings us to the point we’re at now - leading up to my favored tactic designed by Dominck Dunne. Gossip induced unraveling. Ideally suited for a libel I case in which “Defamation” is essentially a crime of word inflicted.
What better way to gage truth than speaking directly to the people at the center of it?Hersey paired alongside cold hard facts presented to construct a full bodied version of truth.
I’ll pick up here this week. To tie up this whole angle, essentially carved by each of these anonymous sources lending themselves to peeling away the layers of this whole wild tale.
“People are fascinated by the rich: Shakespeare wrote plays about kings, not beggars” ... Dominck Dunne
Courtney’s response to discovering my instagram
Sharon’s unexpected endorsement
And, of course, the troll folk harassing me on mothers day