June 18, 2008 -- Just when the Brand family was beginning to think all celebrities were rude, drunk, disorderly and selfish, Johnny Depp did something to prove them wrong.
Last week, a package arrived at the Brand family home in Oshkosh, Wis., addressed to the Brands' 12-year-old son Jack Taylor. It contained a used vintage tan and gray fedora hat and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" paraphernalia for the rest of the family, along with a note that read: "Here is a hat for you. Hope you like this and assorted fun bits." It was signed by Depp, the star of the film.
The actor promised the boy his hat back in April when the two met while Depp was in Taylor's hometown filming scenes for his upcoming movie, "Public Enemies." But it was a promise the family did not expect him to keep.
"For [Depp] to do something for an ordinary child is really something," his mother, Kris Brand said. "You hear who is doing drugs, who is sleeping with who, but you never hear a celeb saying 'of course' to an ordinary kid. We don't need to hear about Paris Hilton not wearing clothes, we need to hear about Depp doing something for a kid for no reason."
But, it's the negative headlines about celebrities that dominate the media: Amy Winehouse in a drug-abusing video, Britney Spears showing up at a nightclub without underwear, Paris Hilton getting arrested for a DUI.
Two weeks ago, the New York Daily News reported that Nicole Richie was dancing with Mary-Kate Olsen at the Crown Bar in Los Angeles, when she saw a fan snap a photo, grabbed the woman's camera and deleted the photos of herself.
Before that, Lindsay Lohan was in the news for allegedly stealing a $12,000 fur coat from a college student at a private New York City party. The co-ed has filed a lawsuit against her.
Depp's trying to be the antidote to all that.
"Celebrities are always looking to do nice things for people and to use their celebrity for good. This is just an example of Johnny Depp being a great guy," said Bradley Jacobs, senior editor for Us magazine. "He is not the type to be out partying and feuding ... He's a children's hero."
Depp and Taylor crossed paths at a meet and greet line in downtown Oshkosh, where the Brand family was waiting to shake hands with the star. When Taylor, who loves and collects hats, reached the front of the line, he looked up at Depp and said, "Hi, nice to meet you. I like your hat, can I have it?"
Taylor's mother, who was borderline embarrassed by her blunt 12-year-old's remark, never believed that Depp meant it when he said, "As soon as I am done with it, it's yours."
"Jack went around telling all of his friends that he was getting Johnny Depp's hat," Brand said. As she reminded Taylor not to get his hopes up, Brand did what any mother would -- she tried to make his wish come true.
On April 23, she e-mailed Depp's production company and told them the story of what happened. After almost losing hope, Brand received an e-mail back, asking for Taylor's address, nearly three weeks later. "I figured we'd get an autographed picture or something," Brand said.
Instead, Taylor received a package containing a battered fedora, along with a picture frame, a nightlight, two pillows and two pencil cases -- everything except the hat had the "Chocolate Factory" logo. Initially, he said his four siblings were "jealous, but I shared my stuff with them.
"My sisters get the pillows. My brothers get one of the pencil cases and I get everything else. Mom wants the picture frame," he added.
Taylor's mother admitted she has been a fan of Depp's since his role in "21 Jump Street."
While the family is "1,000 percent positive" the fedora is not the same hat Depp was wearing that day, it is tattered and shows signs of wear. The thought of auctioning the hat or putting it up for sale online has not even crossed the minds of the Brand family.
"I was very surprised," Taylor said about receiving the hat. "Now, I can show everyone that I have Depp's hat, and they can say, 'Oh, that's really cool.'"
"It's June, and Jack is walking around with Johnny's hat on," his mom said.