This must have been just after Denzel Washington appeared in “Malcolm X.” He was having a period of career ubiquity—suddenly he was everywhere, collecting kudos and awards and magazine covers. There was a commercial airing concurrently—for toothpaste or back ointment or day trading, I don’t remember. But the handsome African-American actor cast to extol the product was clearly, clearly selected as a “Denzel Washington type.” It was on often, and one day my boyfriend at the time glanced at the television and remarked “oh, look–it’s DenNIS Washington, his less successful brother.”
It became a game, in my family, and has evolved into a poor-man’s-so-and-so shorthand. Hey look, it’s JERRY Depp. (Who is, of course, Skeet Ulrich.) That sort of thing. Sometimes, if you can’t think of the celebrity you want to name immediately, you can just say “DenNIS Washington” and the other person gets the gist.
Johnny Depp Yeah!
I never saw the whole movie “Benny and Joon,” and can only remember two things about it: Johnny Depp ironing grilled-cheese sandwiches, and that song, The Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” where those gawky Scottish twins sang about all the things they couldn’t bear to do without you: wake up, get drunk, haver, grow old. Between verses about how many hundreds of miles they’d walk to do those things next to you, they had that call-and-response refrain: Da Da DAT Dah! (da da DAT dah!)
It was on the radio constantly, and during one such hearing, my boyfriend shouted out to the tune of the da-dahs instead, “Johnny DEPP yeah!” It totally fits, and more than 15 years later it’s impossible to appreciate the lyric in its original, equally nonsensical format. They often play it between innings at Mariners’ games, and my sister and I still shout our praises to Mr. Depp each time. As you do.