Johnny Depp and Friends
Anaheim Center for the Performing Arts at Servite
Unbeknownst to me and to the rest of regular folks, Servite High School in Anaheim is apparently the site of a major annual charity gathering of A-List Rockstars called The Imperial Ball. The event, hosted in the shadow of NAMM by Duesenberg Guitars, featured a live performance by Johnny Depp and friends. This year’s confirmed guest was Alice Cooper, although there were some promised surprise guests, and we all know Johnny Depp has some pretty cool friends.
With the price of admission being $125-$500 per ticket, the Weekly wasn’t going to foot the bill just so I could take a few photos, have a few drinks and rock out like I usually do. But I’m lucky enough to have a few cool friends myself. I received a call at around 6:30 p.m. from my close friend Matt Chait, a well-respected studio musician and executive at the recently re-launched Bong Load Custom Records. He’d received a pair of tickets to the Imperial Ball from Chad Fults, owner of Chad’s Hair Store in Tustin. “Do you want to go see Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper at a high school in Anaheim RIGHT NOW,” he asked?
Thirty minutes later I was pulling into the parking lot. No problem finding a spot. It didn’t seem like a rock show with Alice Cooper was about to happen here. Matt was waiting at the entrance with the tickets in hand and we walked through a gated courtyard and past the crowded outdoor bar area to the entrance of the 988 seat school auditorium. We were greeted and given fancy backstage-style laminates featuring an astronaut floating in space connected to a guitar amp. There was no pat down by oversized meathead bouncers, just a smile and a reminder to check out the art and enter the $20 charity raffle. The front lobby of the auditorium had been converted to a pop-up gallery hosted by Gallery 319. McQueen skull scarves, licence plate art, prints, photos and oil paintings of Keith Richards, David Bowie and, of course, Johnny Depp were all for sale with the proceeds going to various charities.
An oil painting of “The Hollywood Vampires” ( signed by Depp, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, and Alice Cooper) by James Crouch, one of Disney’s Imagineers was the featured item of the evening, and brought in almost $20,000 at the live auction held at the conclusion of the night. In an ironic twist, the raffle winner was the painter of the portrait that sold only seconds earlier!
As we walked past the candle-lit stage and found our seats, the evening’s host Nathan Fawley took the stage and talked for a bit about the charities that the show was supporting. Proceeds from the auction and raffle were going to www.TheArtofElysium.org, an organization that brings artists and ill children together in hopes of inspiring them to see their hospital rooms as a place to make great art and create their own reality, and to www.PetOrphans.org, a site that finds orphaned pets new homes. The stars of the documentary, a huge brown dog and an adorable girl were brought out to great applause.
Now on with the show! The opening band was an all-girl (we think.. the drummer’s gender was not entirely clear, which I think was part of the plan) ‘70s glam throwback act called The Glam Skanks. The band seemed a little more glam than skank if you ask me. They reminded me of a prettier, cleaner version of the Lunachicks … without the dope. Lots of makeup, glitter, feather boas and high-waisted short-shorts. The ladies rocked through their set of original songs with titles that like “Miss Androgynous”, “Rock-n-Roll Skank”, and my personal favorite, “Pretty Boy”. They even crammed a few covers into their hour-plus set, including Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” and “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways.
At the end of the set, our host came back on stage to introduce a 2015 In Memoriam video montage featuring various musicians culminating with, as you might expect, Lemmy and Bowie.
Without much fanfare and while the lights were still dimmed, Depp and friends quietly took the stage under their moniker The Band With No Name and launched right into a suite of back to back Bowie covers, kicked off with the iconic opening riff of “Rebel, Rebel”. As I said, the man has some cool friends. The Band With No Name’s main players consisted of Tommy Henriksen of Warlock and the Alice Cooper band, legendary drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. who is most well-known for playing with Paul McCartney, Bruce Witkin of Adam And The Ants and original member of the Kids with Johnny Depp in 1980. Guitarist Joey Malone was also an original member of the Kids.
Even with an all-star band of pro players, all eyes were clearly on Johnny, which clearly seemed to make him uncomfortable as he stood towards the back and let Joey and Bruce take the lead.
One of the guys shouted out for him to speak up as he quietly introduced his next friend as his favorite singer. Immediately I thought, “Here comes Alice!”, but out came another legend—Terry Reid. This is a guy who opened for The Stones and Cream in the ‘60s and famously turned down Jimmy Page’s invitation to join his new band, recommending his friend Robert Plant to be the singer of Led Zeppelin. The band launched into Reid’s classic dark ballad, “Bang Bang” followed by Bowie’s “Suffragette City” with Laboriel Jr. on vocals. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, strutted Alice Cooper all in black with cane in hand.
The crowd seemed to forget all about Johnny Depp for a second as the whole place jumped to its feet for a rousing rendition of “No More Mr. Nice Guy” followed by the classic, “Eighteen”. Alice reminded us he was singing “Eighteen”, not “Eighty”, even though he was closer to the latter at 67 and could still command the stage like true rock star. The next guest musician to join the growing band was introduced as one of Alice’s oldest friends and a member of the only band to take him under wing when he first came to L.A. in the ‘60s. Out walked Robby Krieger of the Doors. Before he could even get his guitar on, the band fired up The Doors classic “Five to One” with Alice on vocals and seamlessly segued into a high-energy version of “Break on Through”. Terry then rejoined the group to play a ballad that he wrote about his mother, accompanied by Johnny on slide guitar.
After a menacingly rocking rendition of the Beatles’ “Come Together”, Alice announced that he was going to need some “Cooper-ettes” from the audience to help him out on the next song. Hands flew up and people started to scream. Even though I was front and center, I didn’t think I had much of a chance. “Calico get up here!,” Alice said as he pointed to a tall brunette in the front row. Once voted one of the ‘30 Hottest Rockstar Daughters’, and longtime performer in Alice’s band, Cooper’s daughter Calico hopped up on stage along with the volunteer audience members and the girls from the Glam Skanks. They closed the show with an unapologetically ironic and rocking performance of “School’s Out”, Cooper’s biggest hit and the perfect song to be played in a high school auditorium. It was a great show, Johnny kept up and held his own alongside the rock legends, and a bunch of money was raised for two great charities.
Not bad for a guy with scissors for hands.