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Tribute to Our Friend Dee Dee Ramone|
By Ida S. Langsam
Photos by John Holmstrom and John Nikolai; Copyright © 2002 by respective photographers.
"This was a very special evening. The bands, the Ramones' fans and the atmosphere in the club were charged with a feeling of great love and appreciation for what Dee Dee Ramone brought to our lives." So stated Trigger, owner of legendary New York City club Continental, who created the idea for and donated the use of his venue to a very special musical event called "A Tribute To Our Friend Dee Dee Ramone." The concert took place Tuesday evening, July 2nd, just one month after punk rock icon Dee Dee Ramone died in his Los Angeles home. The famed singer/songwriter was a founding member and bass player with internationally renowned band The Ramones; he was just a month short of his 50th birthday.
Dee Dee and his bandmates were frequent visitors to the Continental, both as audience members and performers on stage. After leaving The Ramones, Dee Dee often played at the club with his new groups. Trigger explains: "I wanted to do something to honor his memory, and approached Marky [Ramone]. He immediately said, 'Yes, but let's do it right.' CJ [Ramone] told me, 'I'm there - Dee Dee was like a big brother to me.' [Ramones record producer] Daniel Rey was also very enthusiastic about it." And so the event was born, with superstars of the NY music scene coming out to pay homage to the man known as the quintessential punk rocker.
Dee Dee's widow Barbara gave her blessing to the event, requesting that proceeds be donated to UNICEF. The "house band" was formed with Marky on drums, CJ on bass and Daniel on guitar, and as word spread in the rock and roll community, musicians came forward on very little notice to donate their talents without payment. Drawing appearances by the likes of Dictators' Handsome Dick Manitoba, the Misfits' Jerry Only, Murphy's Law's Jimmy G, the Heartbreakers' Walter Lure, the Lunachicks' Theo, and special surprise guests like Tommy Ramone. The evening also featured up-and-coming bands performing their renditions of classic Ramones songs.
The entire proceeds from the $15 ticket price went to UNICEF resulting in a check for several thousand dollars to the charity. The Continental's doors opened at 9 p.m. and the line waiting to get in stretched around the block, so the evening became an instant, sold-out success. Free copies of Dee Dee's books (autobiography Lobotomy and novel Chelsea Horror Hotel) were handed out to the first few hundred patrons, courtesy of the publisher. Throughout the night, the audience was treated to amazing renditions of Ramones songs by a wide array of rock and roll's finest musicians.
Fans and bands alike paid homage to Dee Dee all night in words and song. The stage was adorned with an oversized black and white photo of Dee Dee playing his guitar, his expression showing all his love and emotion for his craft. Serving as the evening's MC, Jerry Only (The Misfits) said: "Dee Dee was 'the man.' He was unpredictable and spontaneous. I enjoyed his company and his music. He was my friend and my brother. I will always keep him in my heart." Musically, the evening kicked off with a rousing two-tune set by Charm School ("Ramona"), followed by buzz band the Star Spangles ("53rd & 3rd," "Time Bomb"), Furious George, ("Betty Crocker," "Today Your Love?"), led by New York Press columnist George Tabb, and the Toilet Boys ("Carbona Not Glue," "Something To Do") fronted by transsexual lead singer Miss Guy. Lead guitarist Sean Pierce said: "Dee Dee was awesome. He was really cool, he really treated us right as a band and as people. It was a pleasure getting to hang out with him and play shows with him. It's an honor to be here to remember him tonight." Tabb added: "Dee Dee Ramone was one of a kind. There will never be another like him. I am honored to have been best man at his wedding to Barbara, and even more honored to be asked to play at his memorial. Dee Dee was one of the biggest influences on my life, and his humor and niceness will stay with me forever."
Trigger spoke a heartfelt memorial and revealed that three years ago, Dee Dee had decorated the walls of the club's private dressing room with his own special brand of graffiti art that has been preserved. He promised that at the end of the night, those who wanted to see the artwork would be given an escorted look. This led into a screening of a never-before-seen 15-minute "home movie" video with footage of Dee Dee through the years. [Editor's Note: This was produced by Beth Lasch of F-Sharp TV, who hosts videos of Dee Dee, many punk rock stars and even yours truly! You can see the video - and much more - at: www.fsharp.tv]
When it was over, The Bullys took the stage ("Cretin Hop," "I Don't Want You," "53rd & 3rd"), joined on "Questioningly" by Mickey Leigh - brother of the late Joey Ramone and a recording artist in his own right - filling in for the band's former guitarist John Heffernan, a volunteer firefighter who was lost in the WTC tragedy. Leigh - who knew Dee Dee perhaps longer than anyone else there - said: "My friendship with Dee Dee began 32 years ago when Johnny introduced us in 1970. He lived across the street from Joey and me and, needless to say, his character and immense talent greatly affected our lives. The loss of another 'brother' in our extended family was eased somewhat by the graciousness of Trigger and the staff of Continental. Once again, the outpouring of love, respect and support from the community was overwhelming at this beautiful and moving musical memorial. I hope I don't have to go to another one for a long, long time." A version of The Misfits (Jerry Only, Marky Ramone, Dez Cadena of Black Flag) rocked out on "Havana Affair," "I Don't Care," Garden Of Serenity" and "Pet Cemetery." "Dee Dee was like a Tasmanian devil, a whirling dervish of rock," Dez revealed. "It was a joy to know him the last year of his life on earth."
After Jesse Malin (D Generation) and Joe McGinty (Loser's Lounge) performed an acoustic version of "Questioningly," Marky, CJ and Daniel Rey thrilled the audience with blistering versions of "Strength To Endure," "Long Way Back To Germany," "Warthog," "Pinhead," and "Swallow My Pride," with Daniel and CJ trading off lead vocals. "I think that Dee Dee was the greatest at what he did," said Marky, "He was the blueprint of punk. After him, the mold broke. Obviously his influence and The Ramones' influence spread and keeps spreading throughout the world." Daniel added: "Dee Dee was one of a kind - a fearless talent with a pure heart. He was the soul of the Ramones and the prototype for the entire punk rock scene." Poignantly, CJ remarked: "I'll miss you a lot, big brother."
Then, with Marky, CJ and Daniel serving as the band, it was time for the special guests to perform. Leading the way were Theo (the Lunachicks) and Sean (the Toilet Boys) on "Commando;" Jimmy G (Murphy's Law) on "Beat On The Brat;" and Handsome Dick Manitoba (The Dictators, Manitoba's Wild Kingdom) on "Rockaway Beach." "Dee Dee was a punk genius," he said. "He wrote some of the best songs of the genre." Next up was Walter Lure (the Heartbreakers) on "Chinese Rocks" and "Born To Lose," and then Marky introduced Ramones long time tour manager Monte Melnick, who spoke briefly but from the heart. "Dee Dee was one of those rare people who walk the razor fine line between genius and insanity. When he slipped over that line into genius, we'll judge it by his brilliant song writing. Unfortunately, he slipped over that dark line of insanity far too often. He will be missed."
Just when the audience thought things couldn't get any better, out came Tommy Ramone, founding member and original drummer for The Ramones. Stepping into the spotlight and up to the microphone after virtually years out of the limelight, Tommy amazed and thrilled the crowd as he sang lead vocals on one of the best-known Ramones songs, "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend." "Dee Dee was the romantic one in the Ramones," he revealed. "He was also one of the major architects of punk rock. His songs set the rules and made the blueprint. I had never heard songs like the ones he wrote - they were totally original and powerful. Like Joey, Dee Dee was loved by so many people because of his unpretentious and friendly personality. It is so sad to have such a treasured person taken from us at such a young age. We are truly fortunate to be left with the bounty of his works. I feel blessed to have been lucky enough to have known him."
The evening ended in the only way it could, with a giant grand finale of all the musicians on stage together performing the Ramones' trademark song "Blitzkrieg Bop." Perhaps it was best summed up by Arturo Vega, creative director for the Ramones and curator of Dee Dee's artwork. "Dee Dee was the 'perfect Ramone.' All his strengths and weaknesses, his personal characteristics, all his talent, fell within the realm of what makes the Ramones great. He showed us how much it hurts and how much fun it is to be a real punk."
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