As most everyone knows the Ramones were decidedly not Los Angeles. They were New York City tried & true, pure and simple. The accents, the attitude, the wardrobe represented straight ahead CBGBs- original punk, dark and dirty. So why write about one of the Ramones in a column that celebrates L.A. and its particular oddities?
Well, Los Angeles is the city where both Johnny Ramone and Dee Dee Ramone lived out their final years. It was in our sun-scorched metropolis that each of their hearts thumped its final 4/4 beat. It was our smog-filled air from which they each drew their final breaths. It is under the surreal blue skies of Hollywood Forever Cemetery that Johnny’s elaborate memorial stands tall and proud, poised in an eternal guitar lick, a stone’s throw away from the actual grave of his bandmate Dee Dee. It is here, in the Sherman Oaks hills, that Johnny’s widow, the cool and fashionable Linda Ramone, continues to live in the house that she shared with her late husband.
Linda has made it a mission to honor her husband’s life and legacy. She organizes a yearly tribute to celebrate some of the things that Johnny loved most, namely cult movies and a mish-mash of cool music ranging from rockabilly to garage to punk and everything in between. The 9th Annual Johnny Ramone Tribute, held this past Sunday at Hollywood Forever Cemetery was something that Johnny would have been proud of. The event’s main feature was a screening of the fun and intentionally askew 1990 film Cry-Baby, directed by cult film master John Waters. But this was no ordinary cemetery screening. Because Linda Ramone was the organizer and hostess with the mostest, many of her famous and electic friends were stirred into the mix.
While listening to an amazing soundtrack of songs ranging from Wanda Jackson’s Funnel of Love to The Phantom’s Love Me to songs by T-Rex, The Cramps, Redd Kross and more, event guests had the amazing opportunity to meet John Waters himself. John Waters fans brought books, film stills and memorabilia for the director to autograph. This Offbeat L.A. author brought a vintage 1970 Russ Berrie statuette reading “Dirty Old Men Need Love Too,” which Mr. Waters signed with a knowing and sarcastic chuckle. People waited patiently for their few minutes with the maestro of schlock and were given a friendly and generous welcome, a chance to chat and even a photo op.
Event goers also hob knobbed with Cry-Baby stars Traci Lords and Joe Dallesandro, the latter most famously known as one of Andy Warhol’s superstars. John Waters commented on Joe’s legacy while discussing the film, “Joe Dallesandro, to me, was the Clark Gable of the Warhol/Paul Morrissey films. And basically, you would never see Michael Fassbender’s penis today unless Joe had broken every rule first.”
Before the film was shown, a panel discussion was organized, featuring John, Traci and Joe, but the audience was thrilled to witness a surprise appearance by both Johnny Depp and Ricki Lake. Los Angeles rockabilly singer, James Intveld, who had done the film’s actual singing for the Cry-Baby role, also joined the panel. The group was introduced by burlesque queen Dita Von Teese and then lead by Steve Jones, ex-Sex Pistol and Jonesy’s Jukebox hero. Ricki Lake spoke about losing her virginity during the making of the film, while Johnny Depp mumbled about identifying with his character via the weirdness that is the city of Baltimore. He then told about trying to dig a tunnel out from under his 21 Jump Street contract while making Cry-Baby, his very first motion picture.
In his fun and gossipy introduction to the film John Waters told amusing stories about auditioning Carol Channing, Cyd Charisse and Brad Pitt, all actors who didn’t get a part. He connected the 1950’s theme of the movie back to the honoree of the day, Johnny Ramone, by telling the audience, “The Ramones, in some ways, loved everything that I love. They’re from Queens, I’m from Baltimore- believe me, it’s not that different. They loved the Shangri-las, they loved girl groups. They liked bubblegum music, garage music and most importantly they loved Elvis. When I was 8-years old and I first saw Elvis, not only did I know I was gay, but I wanted to cause trouble for the rest of my life…
“Let’s pretend tonight, as we watch the movie, that we’re in a drive-in with dead people. Let’s do the Monster Mash ’cause this is a graveyard smash. Long live Johnny Ramone! Long live cult films!”