LAWTON, Okla. – Anticipation and excitement is exploding throughout the Comanche Nation headquarters near Lawton, Okla. People are snuggled as close to the road as possible waiting for the 21st annual Comanche Nation Fair parade to begin. No one seems to care about the rain. The only forecast they’re interested in is when honorary tribal member Johnny Depp is coming.
“The road was lined with hoodies and umbrellas,” Regina Brannock, Comanche Nation tribal member, said. “It’s sprinkling/drizzling, but no one’s spirits or enthusiasm are dampened.”
Most Comanche members learned of Depp’s visit to the fair late this summer, and Saturday Sept. 29, 2012 couldn’t have come sooner.
“Three SUV’s came driving by and a rear passenger window was open with an arm out waving – Johnny Depp. No warning, no announcement, just a drive by,” Brannock said. “Since we’ve been waiting so long, they decided to give us a tease to appease us.”
Depp cruised through the parade in a black convertible with one arm around Comanche tribal member LaDonna Harris and the other arm waving to the hundreds of people who came to welcome him to Comanche country. Harris adopted Depp on May 16 as an honorary member of the tribe at her home in Albuquerque, N.M. Depp is on location in New Mexico filming his role as Tonto in the upcoming “Lone Ranger” film due out next year.
Parade watchers yelled out “Johnny,” and lulu’s could be heard from the ladies as Depp served as grand marshal of the parade. He made it a point to speak to the Comanche children after the parade and answer their questions, as well as pose for pictures and sign a few autographs.
“I thought it was really neat. It was just like a really cool thing to go to,” Sha Ingram, 15, said. “I think the funniest part was when he quoted something from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and he did it in his little Jack Sparrow voice.”
Ingram waited in line 45 minutes to see Depp. Only children 18 years and younger were allowed in the gym to hear Depp speak. Younger children could be accompanied by one parent. Ingram took the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie with her for Depp to sign, but she didn’t get that opportunity. She said she wanted to ask him for advice on becoming an actor.
As soon as Depp entered the gym, there was a roar usually heard at the beginning of a rock concert. Yelling, screaming and whistling came more at times from the parents. All the children were seated on the floor, much like a school assembly, and they all raised their hands to ask Depp questions.
Depp said his favorite role thus far was Edward Scissorhands, and he enjoyed playing in “Pirates of the Caribbean” because he could go to work and act as goofy as he wanted to. He told the kids they can achieve anything they want with hard work because, “you have warrior spirit in you.” One teenage girl asked Depp why he was so sexy, while another attendee asked Depp to autograph his stomach so he could have his name tattooed that afternoon. One little girl asked Depp if he would return to the Comanche Fair next year. He said, “yeah of course.”
Also speaking was actor Gil Birmingham, who played Billy Black in “The Twilight Series.” Birmingham is portraying Red Knee in the upcoming “Lone Ranger” film. “Comanche Boy” George Tahdooahnippah and football player Antonio Perkins were also at the fair.
Depp made time to shake hands, take pictures and lift up little kids to take pictures after he spoke. He also went on a tour of the area and visited the tribe’s SIA program where he had lunch. SIA is the tribe’s Ethno-Ornithological initiative dedicated to preserving Eagles. Depp was then taken to Fort Sill’s Commanding General’s home for a welcoming ceremony. Comanche Nation Chairman Wallace Coffey told Depp the history of the Comanche people and they visited the gravesites of Comanche Chiefs Ten Bears and Quanah Parker.
At Depp’s side throughout his visit was his Comanche mom LaDonna Harris, who is the president of Americans for Indian Opportunity.
“LaDonna was with us the whole time. He didn’t go anywhere without LaDonna. He loves LaDonna,” Asa Attocknie, tribal member, said. “He’s very thoughtful. He was shocked the chairman gave him a proclamation making him an honorary Comanche. He didn’t expect that at all. He was very humble.”
After his private tour of the area, gifts were exchanged with Depp.
“He was very respectful of the chairman and everybody around him. He’s a good guy … He took time to see the kids; give the kids a handshake, I thought that was thoughtful of him.”
Attocknie said even though the day of Depp’s visit was “paparazzi style,” Depp remained humble about the parade turnout and continually thanked everyone. He said Depp really wanted to visit the Comanches and was honored he was invited.
Actor Johnny Depp speaks to children and signs autographs Sept. 29 during the Comanche Nation Fair in Lawton, Okla.
PHOTO BY SHA INGRAM | COURTESY