Hollyhwood, CA- As dusk slowly draped itself over Hollywood Forever Cemetery last Sunday night, the hip-shaking sounds of rock ‘n roll echoed loudly, past granite headstones, beckoning ghosts from far and wide. DJ Howie Pyro put the record needle to the grooves of Lou Reed, the Cramps, Little Richard and T-Rex, essentially taunting some of this graveyard’s famous musical residents to join in the dance party. Dee Dee Ramone, Kim Fowley and Chris Cornell were here in spirit, but it was Johnny Ramone who took center stage, engaged in an eternal guitar riff in a sculpture on top of his nearby tombstone. The occasion was the annual Johnny Ramone Tribute, a fundraiser lovingly curated by fiery Linda Ramone, Johnny’s widow and the main torch holder of the Ramones legacy. Dressed exquisitely in a mint green dress with matching cape and chapeau, along with shiny gold boots, she radiated a 1960s vintage elegance as she hosted a memorable shindig that brought friends and fans from far and wide.
As the crowd placed picnic blankets upon the well-tended cemetery lawn, anticipating a screening of the film Buffalo ’66 and acoustic performances by Billy Idol, the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones and Fred Armisen, a small party in the VIP area was attended by guests such as Kim Gordon, Shepard Fairey, Moby, Rosanna Arquette, Vincent Gallo and many more talented artists, actors, musicians and writers. An exhibit of Ramones memorabilia was organized in the mausoleum and included handwritten lyrics, band flyers and personal artifacts from the private collections of both Johnny and Tommy Ramone.
When darkness finally settled in, revealing a sliver of crescent moon, Linda Ramone took to the stage to present the festivities. I grabbed a seat on the dew dampened grass, stage front and center, to watch several musical numbers by actor Fred Armisen and Steve Jones, who sat side by side with microphones and acoustic guitars. They tripped and stumbled over the lyrics to the Sex Pistols song “Lonely Boy” which added to an impromptu jam session feeling and was all the more endearing. Penned by Jones, it was also the title of his recent autobiography, a highly engaging book that I devoured in two solid days of reading this summer.
Soon Armisen and Jones were joined onstage by ’80s hitmaker Billy Idol, who also pulled up a chair, and the trio dove into Idol’s ’70s punk rock past performing three poppy and melodic Generation X songs, “Ready Steady Go,” “Wild Youth,” and “The Untouchables.” This was a highlight for me, because as a young teen the music of Generation X moved me far more than Billy Idol’s later, much more popular and lucrative, solo work. Billy announced that this was the first time he’d played “Wild Youth” sInce 1979 and I happily sang along to every word.
After some speeches from Moby and Vincent Gallo, a video tribute to recently deceased Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell was shown on a large movie screen in front of the crowd. Cornell’s widow, Vicky, stood nearby, making this sad memorial slightly surreal, but even more heartfelt.
Finally, the crowd settled in for a screening of the excellent, but depressing, 1998 film “Buffalo ’66.” Being a Buffalo-born girl, I’ve seen this movie several times and more than that I have actually lived it. I decided to get another glass of wine and turn my attention once again to the lively party in the VIP section. The presence of the ghosts within these cemetery walls softly guided me to focus on my present rather than look back upon my past.
For more details, visit: www.johnnyramone.com.
If an image below is pixelated, please click through the “view full size” link for a better view.