The cover of the current Rolling Stone magazine features mega movie star Johnny Depp hugging mega rock star Keith Richards. In the world’s top-grossing movie of the moment these two “blood brothers,” as Rolling Stone calls them, team up as father-son. Throughout the RS article, Depp, who moved to Hollywood as an amateur rock guitarist only to see his fortunes blossom elsewhere in the entertainment industry, gushes about the Rolling Stones, and Keith Richards in particular, as his ” models, inspiration,” etc. etc.
Hanging from Depp’s neck during the Rolling Stone photo shoot is his famous pendant with the face of another “counter-culture” legend who serves as a wellspring of Depp inspiration: Ernesto “Che” Guevara. A few years ago in a Vibe magazine interview Depp proclaimed his “digging” of Che Guevara.
As a rocker-hipster fan of Che Guevara Johnny Depp has plenty of company.
“Che Guevara has given rise to a cult of almost religious hero worship among radical intellectuals and students across much of the Western world,” proclaimed Time magazine in May 1968. With his hippie hair and wispy revolutionary beard, Che is the perfect postmodern conduit to the nonconformist, seditious ’60s.”
“1968 actually began in 1967 with the murder of Che,” recounts Christopher Hitchens. “His death meant a lot to me, and countless like me, at the time. He was a role model.”
“1968 was the onset of a totally new age, with a new conception of how people should be: they should not to be governed by authorities from above.” Gushed Kai Kracht, West Germany’s version of Abbie Hoffman. We studied the great revolutionaries of our century: Lenin, Mao, Che (apparently none of these governed from above!) we wanted to learn from their success. Our revolution was young, and full of groovy slogans.”
Oddly, considering his profession and lifestyle, Depp’s Pirates “blood brother” Keith Richards, seems immune to (or perhaps simply oblivious of) Che-Mania. The Stones, after all, in their classic Sympathy for the Devil cast Lucifer as directing Che’s mentors, models and early suitors — the Bolsheviks: “Stood around St Petersburg when I saw it was a time for a change…killed the Czar and his ministers….Anastasia screamed in vain.”
Had Johnny Depp been born two decades earlier and in Cuba and attempted the lifestyle of a U.S. teenager or campus rebel, his “digging” would have been of a more literal nature. Depp would have found himself digging ditches and mass-graves in a prison camp system inspired by the man glorified on his little pendant. Had his digging lagged, a “groovy” Czech machine-gun butt might have shattered his teeth or perhaps some “groovy” Soviet bayonets slashed his buttocks.
In a famous speech in 1961 Che Guevara denounced the very “spirit of rebellion” as “reprehensible.” “Youth must refrain from ungrateful questioning of governmental mandates” commanded Guevara. “Instead they must dedicate themselves to study, work and military service.”
And woe to those youths “who stayed up late at might and thus reported to work (government forced-labor) tardily.” Youth, wrote Guevara, ” should learn to think and act as a mass.” “Those who chose their own path” (as in growing long hair and listening to Yankee-Imperialist Rock & Roll) were denounced as worthless “lumpen” and “delinquents.” In his famous speech Che Guevara even vowed, “to make individualism disappear from Cuba! It is criminal to think of individuals!”
Tens of thousands of Cuban youths learned that Che Guevara’s admonitions were more than idle bombast. In Che Guevara the hundreds of Soviet KGB and East German STASI “consultants” who flooded Cuba in the early 60’s, found an extremely eager acolyte. By the mid 60’s the crime of a “rocker” lifestyle or effeminate behavior got thousands of youths yanked off Cuba’s streets and parks by secret police and dumped in prison camps with “Work Will Make Men Out of You” in bold letters above the gate and with machine gunners posted on the watchtowers. The initials for these camps were UMAP, not GULAG, but the conditions were identical.
Today the world’s largest Che Guevara image adorns Cuba’s headquarters for its KGB-trained secret police. And Johnny Depp seems delighted to flaunt this emblem from his pendants, shirts and kerchiefs.
Johnny Depp also “digs” Jack Kerouac’s famous and free-spirited travelogue. “On The Road was my bible for years,” boasts Depp. Yet from his t-shirts to his pendants to his bandanas, Depp habitually flaunts the emblem of a regime that imprisons anyone who attempts travel from one Cuban province to the other without proper police-state “papers,” and machine-guns anyone who tries to travel abroad.
The world’s most famous Rock & Roll publication features the guitarist for the world’s most famous Rock & Roll band, while Rock & Roll fan Johnny Depp proudly sports the face of a Stalinist Police Chief whose KGB-trained goons herded rock and roll fans into prison camps for the crime of being rock and roll fans.
“I bet you were expecting a Hollywood putz,” boasted Depp to his obsequious Vibe magazine interviewer who seemed dazzled by Depp’s penetrating sagacity. “Bet you expected some f**cking commodity without a brain in his head!”
Humberto Fontova [send him mail] is the author of Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him.