During testimony on the second day of evidence in the defamation case against Amber Heard brought by her ex-husband Johnny Depp, much was made of the art deco building in which the couple lived.
Between 2013 and 2016, Depp owned five penthouses on the top floor of the historic Eastern Columbia Building on Broadway, in the Downtown Los Angeles Theater District.
Testifying Wednesday was Depp’s longtime friend and neighbor Isaac Baruch and the building’s general manager, Brandon Patterson.
Baruch explained that he had known Depp since they were teenagers, had been in bands together, and had worked for him at The Viper Room nightclub. Later he became an artist, and Depp his patron, and as part of that arrangement, he let him live in one of the penthouses.
Depp and Heard lived next door with a balcony adjoining Baruch’s, while Heard’s sister Whitney lived in another, and some of their friends occupied the others. They were also by the pool on the roof of the building, overlooking the city.
Three of the units were connected through a door to another used by Baruch as his home and art studio, and to the fifth, that was used as a guest room.
A floor plan of the penthouse attic was presented as evidence to give the jury an idea of the proximity in which they all lived.
The apartments feature large windows, rich dark wood floors, high ceilings with mezzanines, and industrial-looking staircases. There’s an eclectic mix of interior design, from sleek modern kitchens to colorful bedrooms decorated with bohemian themes, proper art deco bathrooms, and accents of color and personality throughout, indicative of the actor’s style
Baruch had good memories of this time of almost semi-communal life, as the members of that group became good friends and received others in their apartments. His initial testimony brought smiles from both Heard and Depp.
Much of the testimony that followed, however, focused on the night of May 21, 2016, and the days that followed, roughly a year after the couple married.
Heard alleges that Depp became violent during an argument and threw a phone at her. When Baruch got to the penthouse floor he found shards of broken glass in the hallway and spilled wine.
The next day, he said he found Heard with a security guard changing the locks on penthouses one, three, and five (he lived in penthouse two) and was told Depp had hit her.
Baruch testified extensively that in the days that followed he did not see that Heard had any markings on several occasions when she was found in the building, and claimed that she was not wearing makeup. Heard’s legal team focused heavily on their knowledge of Heard’s makeup routine during her cross-examination.
General manager Brandon Patterson, introducing himself via a pre-recorded interview, identified numerous preserved video clips from those days in May 2016, showing Depp and Heard and their friends taking the elevator to the penthouse, performing in the art deco lobby, and including the time when police officers arrived on the night of the alleged altercation.
Missing from the videos was a moment mentioned by Depp and Baruch’s lawyers that allegedly shows Whitney Heard pretending to hit her sister, and the two of them laughing at the time of the incident.
Patterson says that none of the legal teams at the time asked for that part of the recording to be preserved, so videos from later dates would have been automatically recorded on the tape.
Once Heard’s accusations about her husband became public, Baruch decided to end all contact with her.
In September 2016, Depp put all five units in the Eastern Columbia Building on the market, either as a package or separately.
The Eastern Columbia Building was originally built as a department store in 1930 and was allowed to exceed the city-imposed height limit with its large clock visible from a distance, directly above where the penthouses now stand.
The building is one of the best examples of Art Deco architecture in Los Angeles, its distinctive turquoise terracotta facade with blue and gold trim, flying buttresses, and clock tower earning it its designation as a Historic-Cultural Landmark in 1985.
Conversion to condominiums occurred in 2006, and Depp purchased the penthouses in 2007.