10th Anniversary Johnny Ramone Tribute
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
August 24, 2014
Writing and Photography by TourBusLive.com
You’d think it would be a somber event to celebrate someone’s life in a place that homes the dead, but the TENTH ANNIVERSARY JOHNNY RAMONE TRIBUTE last Sunday at the HOLLYWOOD FOREVER CEMETERY was anything but quiet! Don’t worry – I doubt the residents complained.
And much like the previous annual events, LINDA RAMONE sure put on ONE HELL OF A PARTY! And why not – thrown in honor of her late husband, the quintessential punk guitarist JOHNNY RAMONE, there is much to celebrate – even ten years after his passing (of prostate cancer) – and 40 years since his band, the RAMONES, first hit the scene in that little club in New York called CBGB.
Wow – has it really been TEN years? So hard to believe that it’s been that long since the passing of this punk icon. It’s also hard to believe that we lost singer Joey (in 2001) and bassist Dee Dee (in 2002) as well. And just this past July – only a little more than a month ago, we lost drummer Tommy Ramone – the last original member of the band. Keeping their legacy alive is certainly one reason Linda continues to put on these yearly tributes.
Just as they’ve been each time, “Ramoniacs” were treated to an event that reflected exactly what Johnny’s wife and partner for more than twenty years knows he’d have loved (and would have wanted to attend!) – a night where his fans could gather and enjoy themselves. Johnny loved life, loved music, loved movies, and loved his fans.
And what a treat for those loyal lovers of everything Ramones: With Johnny’s 8-foot-tall bronze statue all dressed up special for the evening with a beautiful flower mosaic at its base, and Dee Dee’s tombstone nearby also decorated with love, Linda also arranged for some of Johnny’s good friends to play a concert in the historic MASONIC LODGE (built in 1927) on the grounds of the cemetery, as well as a screening of “The Devil’s Rejects,” a film by Johnny’s friend and fellow musician Rob Zombie.
Before the event got under way, the more than 3,000 fans who came to pay tribute to Johnny enjoyed the spinnings of DJ (and bass player) HOWIE PYRO (a great selection of crowd-appropriate favorites) while they ate their picnic dinners or browsed the menus of the many food trucks that had parked along the thin cemetery streets. They were also invited to view the collection of horror movie memorabilia brought in by Metallica lead guitarist Kirk Hammet, who shares a love for the horror film genre much like Johnny Ramone.
Just on the other side of the DJ booth was the VIP tent, where celebrities and VIP ticketholders were treated to additional food trucks, a little elbow rubbing with some interesting (and often famous) guests, and even a little dessert in the form of a Johnny Ramone cake! Seriously – that thing was the spittin’ image of the man himself (cake designer Angie Hernandez)!!
As the evening officially got into full swing, a few of the night’s guests were brought up on stage to tell a few stories and to answer audience questions about anything Johnny. On the panel were LINDA RAMONE, ROB ZOMBIE, Stray Cats drummer SLIM JIM PHANTOM, Guns N’ Roses bassist DUFF McKAGAN, actor and comedian FRED ARMISEN, and Sex Pistols guitarist STEVE JONES.
Shortly after, the group was golf-carted over to the Masonic Lodge and it was time for the concert to begin. For the lucky 150 or so fans who bought special tickets that allowed them inside the Lodge, this warm Southern California night was about to get a little warmer. For the rest of the fans who were still back on the Fairbanks Lawn, they watched a simulcast of the concert projected on the huge marble wall of the great Mausoleum. Kicking off the set was ROB ZOMBIE and his band (bassist PIGGY D, drummer GINGER FISH, and guitarist JOHN 5) – who drove through a set of classic RAMONES songs as if they’d written them themselves. Up next was STEVE JONES and DUFF McKAGAN joining drummer GINGER FISH to play a few songs, followed by Duff’s daughter GRACE McKAGAN joining in to sing the Ramones ‘love ballad’ “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker.” Singer JESSE JO STARK joined in to sing “Rockaway Beach,” and then FRED ARMISEN hit the stage as his alter-ego IAN RUBBISH and sang a song or two. Finally, surprise guest of the night BILLY IDOL jumped on stage to finish up with the iconic Ramones hits “I Wanna Be Sedated” and “California Sun.” It wasn’t much of a surprise to anyone who’d spotted him earlier in the night, and much less a surprise for this writer, who watched him stand in the doorway to the green room at the back of the Masonic Lodge singing every single Ramones song being performed. It was actually kinda cool – as Idol lip synched to them with such vigor – as if he were a little boy in his bedroom – wishing he could be on stage. Pretty cool thing to see.
After the concert wrapped, the movie was started and the throngs of fans were treated to a great night both with and under the stars – not far from the gaze of Johnny Ramones’ statue, which we learned earlier in the evening at the Q&A was modeled after a small statue someone once gave him, which turned out to be one of the few likenesses of himself he’d ever approved of.
OH, and one more thing: Without the fanfare of ice water being wasted during this most serious of California droughts, the most important side-note to this great evening was that the net proceeds from the event went to the JOHNNY RAMONE FOUNDATION at the USC Center for Applied Molecular Medicine, which is led by Johnny’s own doctor, Dr. David Agus of the Keck Hospital at USC.
Donations to the Keck Hospital can be made here:
YEAH – we can’t wait for number ELEVEN. HEY, HO, LET’S GO!
SPOTTED IN THE CROWD: Musician Pete Yorn, Actor Steven Weber, Sister Actresses Rosanna and Patricia Arquette, Actor Sid Haig, Actor Danny Trejo, and maybe even Priscilla Presley (was that her?)!