Before Johnny Depp became an actor, he played lead guitar in a band called The Kids, based in south Florida; the band's bassist and lead singer was Bruce Witkin, who would become JD's lifelong friend. Bruce's mom, Sheila Witkin, was an integral part of the south Florida music scene in the 1980s--band manager, booking agent, dedicated dynamo on behalf of local musicians, and, according to a disk jockey who remembers her well, "everybody's Jewish mother." Sadly, Sheila Witkin died, much too young, on April 2, 2006. On January 28, 2007, the bands Sheila Witkin helped to promote gathered at Club Cinema in Pompano Beach, Florida, to honor her memory with a benefit concert, raising more than $30,000 for The Sheila Witkin Foundation, which supports children's charities. The Kid--Bruce Witkin, Joey Malone, Beano Hanti, and Johnny Depp--reunited and played live for the first time in many years.
These photographs document that historic Sunday afternoon in Pompano Beach, and we thank all our contributors who shared them with us, especially Bonnie, AnaMaria, and FantasticJD. "Johnny was in his element with his old friends and bandmates . . . completely relaxed and having a good time," reports Chenault, one of several Zoners who were fortunate enough to attend the concert. "It was such a beautiful sight." The set list included the core Kids repertoire, like "Time to Explain" and "Nothing's for Nothing," plus covers of U2's "I Will Follow," the Clash's "Train in Vain" and--reaching back to the first days of the British Invasion--the Dave Clark Five's "Glad All Over." For "Brand New Cadillac," the Kids were joined onstage by Bruce Witkin's 15-year-old daughter Veronica, who played guitar with them, showcasing another aspect of Sheila Witkin's musical legacy--the very talented next generation.
The Kids were the final band to take the stage on that Sunday evening, following Blank Tape, Charlie Pickett, Critical Mass, Z-Cars, Slyder, and Tight Squeeze. Their set began about 9:30 p.m. and lasted nearly two hours. "When Johnny came out to play, he came out on the stage very unceremoniously with no introduction; the guys just walked on stage quietly and picked up their instruments," Kelly, another Zoner in attendance, told us. "I thought I was going to die. Here he was right in front of me doing what he loves to do--play guitar with his friends. From the moment he came on stage, I truly forgot that there was anyone around me. It was such an intimate experience."
In an August 2008 interview with a Florida radio station, Johnny Depp looked back fondly on the first Sheila Witkin Memorial Concert. "The experience was beautiful," he recalled. "It was just like going back to the most comfortable feeling in your life. It was sort of our high school reunion, in a way."