Johnny Depp steals show at Cooper's Christmas Pudding


Photo by Sharlene Celeskey
Actor Johnny Depp performed this year at Alice Cooper's annual Christmas Pudding benefit concent.

 

A painting by the world’s fastest painter, Rock Demarco, sold for $27,000.

An autographed guitar went for $23,000.

Was this a recent auction held at Sotheby’s in London or Christie’s in New York?

No.

This auction was held in Downtown Phoenix on Dec. 8, 2012 at Comerica Theatre. The event was Alice Cooper’s 12th Christmas Pudding concert to benefit his teen center Solid Rock Fountain now at 32nd St reet and Thunderbird Road Proceeds from this auction reached a record high of $80,000. According to a seasoned usher who works every Christmas Pudding the attendance doubled this year, as well. And that is why they did not give out the traditional Christmas pudding this year.

Every year Cooper has showcased teen dancers and musicians from his Solid Rock Foundation and every year they get better and better. They only made up a small part of the entertainment, as most of the evening’s performers were well-know musicians, bands and comedians. This year, he had the usual variety  — metal band “LA Guns ”: Don Felder from the classic rock band, “The Eagles ”; Sebastian Bach from glam band, “Skid Row ”; John O’ Hurley from Seinfeld. And this year, Cooper had a very special high profile guest that doubled the attendance and dramatically raised the auction bids. Attendees came from out of town and out of state and locals attended for the first time to see him.

You could feel the high-level excitement and anticipation before the show started and kno w it was going to be a very special evening. You did not have to be a medium to know most crowd members were thinking, “When is he coming on stage?”

He is “Johnny D from Kentucky,” as Cooper referred to legendary movie star Johnny Depp. He was a high school drop out, failed musician, and was raised by a single mother. This man who came from modest beginnings is one of the biggest stars on the planet. Both critics and fans of all ages love this versatile actor. His list of films number over 30 and include blockbusters as well as independent films. His non-conformist dress and unassuming attitude add to his draw. And, of course, he is exceptionally good looking as confirmed by the large percentage of women in the audience. The female auctioneer told the audience before they bid on his guitar and portrait that he was even better looking in person than on the screen ,and she enticed the crowd to raise their bids when she announced the winner of each item would go back stage and meet Depp.

Two 13 year olds in the front row were all giggles and whispers when Depp was slated to come on. They kept asking each other, “Where is he, and is that him,” as they looked at the side of the stage. They could not contain their anticipation.

It is not unusual to be asking when your favorite band is appearing, but in this case, the performer they are waiting to see had never had a hit record or even released a record. Still, this is a star that doubled the attendance of an annual concert, his portrait and autographed guitar fetched $43 ,000, and he attracted attendees from out of state to see him play rhythm guitar.

This year’s concert was compelling and the acts kept you interested until Cooper took the stage. He started right in with his hit, “ No More Mr. Nice Guy,” and had the audience immediately on their feet. The anticipation was growing and the audience found it hard to contain their excitement, as they knew Depp was the last act on the bill. They could barely stay in front of their seats, but security was high and no one was able to get down front unless they had a floor ticket.

After Cooper came to the end of his third song, “Billion Dollar Babies,” the audience was growing restless, and then he announced he wanted to dedicate several songs to his drinking brothers who are no longer here. As soon as the Doors’ “Break on through to the Other Side,” started Johnny Depp with his guitar comes on the stage to wild clapping and lots of screams and shouts. Then Cooper dedicates this song to Jim Morrison . He will go on to dedicate The Beatles’ “Revolution” to John Lennon, The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Foxy Lady” to Jimi Hendrix, and, finally, “The Who’s My Generation” to Keith Moon. Depp dressed in a brown beret looks like the famous picture of a bereted Che Guevara. He stays shyly in the background and concentrates on his skillful guitar playing. He laughs with the other musicians and has a really good time on stage. He never takes the spotlight away from Cooper or his lead guitarist the talented Orianthi Panagaris. (You may have recognize her as Michael Jackson’s guitarist in “This is it.”)

A 65- year-old woman in the second row had been coughing and looking miserable all evening. As soon as Depp came on stage, she immediately stood up screaming and clapping excitedly while her illness seemingly vanished. Middle-aged women all around kept screaming, “Johnny I love you.”

Cooper started rocking harder with “Under My Wheels” and his 80’s MTV hit “Poison.” Depp really showed his guitar skills on these two songs . Cooper and band finished out his set with the ever-popular mash up of “Schools Out” and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2.”

Then all the performers came onstage for the finale and sang Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run.” Then faux snow started falling to add the perfect festive touch and everyone on stage started having a jolly good time. By now security had relaxed and let the fans in the front rows move up to the stage to get a closer look at their idol.

The excitement still ran high and could be felt in the theater as the audience started to leave. Depp never said a word, played rhythm guitar on only eight songs in less than 30 minutes; but listening to the after-concert chatter on the way out, no one was disappointed as they praised Depp’s performance . Rather, they were thrilled to see him live. He made a difference to Phoenix and Cooper’s Rock Solid Foundation as he made this the most successful Christmas Pudding yet. It was a very special night for many. He was truly the star and the draw of the show.

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