Ever wonder what it would be like to take a vacation with Johnny Depp on his private Caribbean island? Vanity Fair contributing editor Douglas Brinkley, who, like Depp, was a close friend of the late gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, did just that. As he reports in the July cover story, “Johnny Depp’s Great Escape,” it’s pretty damn great. To read the complete article, pick up the July issue of Vanity Fair, which is on newsstands in New York and Los Angeles on June 3, nationwide on June 9.

Depp named one of the six beaches on his island Gonzo, for Hunter S. Thompson (others are named Paradis, Lily Rose, Jack, and Brando, after his partner, kids, and other great mentor). Gonzo Beach features glass tables with Thompson’s face etched in the center. – from Vanity Fair

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NEW YORK, N.Y.–Johnny Depp shows Vanity Fair contributing editor Douglas Brinkley around his 45-acre private Bahamian island, Little Hall’s Pond Cay, and tells Brinkley that the island “is my decompression. It’s my way of trying to return to normalcy…. Escapism is survival to me.”

When Brinkley asks Depp if there is any Hollywood icon he still hopes to spend time with, he says, “I already met her. Elizabeth Taylor.” Depp once attended dinner with Taylor and found her to be “the best old-school dame I’ve ever met. A regular, wonderful person. Billy Bob Thornton and Steve Martin were also there. Boy, did I take to her. For dinner she ordered liver and onions and just smothered them with salt. I admired that. She’s an astonishingly great broad.”

Little Hall’s Pond has six different beaches–named after Depp’s partner, Vanessa Paradis, and their children, Lily Rose and Jack, as well as his mentors Hunter S. Thompson and Marlon Brando–each with a personality and cove of its own, and one patch of water deemed “Heath’s Place” after the late actor Heath Ledger. There are several small residences, all solar-powered, and transportation consists of a fleet of green golf carts.

“I don’t think I’d ever seen any place so pure and beautiful,” Depp tells Brinkley of the island. “You can feel your pulse rate drop about 20 beats. It’s instant freedom. And that rare beast–simplicity–can be had. And a little morsel of anonymity…. Whenever I was getting frustrated about being ‘novelty boy’ and making movies, I told myself, Calm down. I can come down here and disappear. I spent the Christmas season here with Vanessa and the kids. You can feed hot dogs to the nurse sharks in the Exumas–but it’s best to not swim when doing it.”

Depp spent much of the last year in Chicago filming Public Enemies, and tells Brinkley that it has become his favorite American city. “Everybody [in Chicago] treated me normal. They’d say, ‘Hey, Johnny,’ then left me alone…. I visited the Art Institute and the Chicago Music Exchange. I loved looking out the car window at all those incredible neighborhoods and architecture.”

Depp laments the political correctness of modern Hollywood, telling Brinkley he pines for the old iconoclasts: “Where is our generation of Dean Martins and Frank Sinatras? And the Georgie Jessels and Walter Brennans? I want Tiny Tim and Bix Beiderbecke back.”

Of Tom Cruise’s performance as studio head Les Grossman in last summer’s Tropic Thunder, Depp says, “That’s the best I’ve ever seen Cruise.” When asked if Cruise’s portrayal reminds Depp of any Hollywood executives, he says, “All of them.”

Whenever Depp gets bored or can’t sleep, he paints. “When I can focus on something like guitar or painting, I do,” he says. “I started painting people I admire, like Kerouac, Bob Dylan, Nelson Algren, Marlon Brando, Patti Smith, my girl, my kids. I painted Hunter a couple of times. Keith Richards. What I love to do is paint people’s faces, y’know, their eyes. Because you want to find that emotion, see what’s going on behind their eyes.”

Depp talks about his two late mentors, Marlon Brando and Hunter S. Thompson, each of whom imparted his share of wisdom. He recalls a conversation he had with Brando in 1994, when he was poised to purchase Little Hall’s Pond, but instead of expressing outright enthusiasm, Brando–who once lived on the French Polynesian atoll of Tetiaroa–asked a series of pragmatic questions: “What’s the elevation? How protected are you?” Brando, according to Depp, was being sensible, focused, and paternal. “With hurricanes and all, he just didn’t want me to make a mistake.”

Depp says what he misses about Thompson “isn’t the Too Much Fun Club stuff. It was his steady advice. His radar detector was spot-on. He knew instantly if he didn’t like somebody.” Depp says the beach he named after Hunter on his island is “the most savage and exposed of all the beaches. Gonzo Beach is pure Hunter.”

Talking to Brinkley about his future on the island, Depp says: “Nobody is going to ever ruin the Land and Sea Park. It’s like a rare gem, a diamond. I look forward to my kids growing up on the island, spending months out of the year here … learning about sea life and how to protect sea life … and their kids growing up here, and so on…. Theoretically, this place can add years to your life.” Then he quotes the old adage: “Money doesn’t buy you happiness. But it buys you a big enough yacht to sail right up to it.”

The July issue of Vanity Fair hits newsstands in New York and Los Angeles on June 3 and nationally on June 9.
heir eyes.”

Depp talks about his two late mentors, Marlon Brando and Hunter S. Thompson, each of whom imparted his share of wisdom. He recalls a conversation he had with Brando in 1994, when he was poised to purchase Little Hall’s Pond, but instead of expressing outright enthusiasm, Brando–who once lived on the French Polynesian atoll of Tetiaroa–asked a series of pragmatic questions: “What’s the elevation? How protected are you?” Brando, according to Depp, was being sensible, focused, and paternal. “With hurricanes and all, he just didn’t want me to make a mistake.”

Depp says what he misses about Thompson “isn’t the Too Much Fun Club stuff. It was his steady advice. His radar detector was spot-on. He knew instantly if he didn’t like somebody.” Depp says the beach he named after Hunter on his island is “the most savage and exposed of all the beaches. Gonzo Beach is pure Hunter.”

Talking to Brinkley about his future on the island, Depp says: “Nobody is going to ever ruin the Land and Sea Park. It’s like a rare gem, a diamond. I look forward to my kids growing up on the island, spending months out of the year here … learning about sea life and how to protect sea life … and their kids growing up here, and so on…. Theoretically, this place can add years to your life.” Then he quotes the old adage: “Money doesn’t buy you happiness. But it buys you a big enough yacht to sail right up to it.”

The July issue of Vanity Fair hits newsstands in New York and Los Angeles on June 3 and nationally on June 9.