Visiting Johnny & Dee Dee
When I was in LA in July, I made a side trip to pay my respects to both Johnny and Dee Dee, who are buried in the same cemetery in Los Angeles. On the occasion of Johnny’s birthday, I thought I’d mention it here.
When I look at the photograph above, all I can see is the bad composition. In my defense, it wasn’t my fault.
I hadn’t been there for more than a minute or two, and had just taken a handful of shots, when a minivan stopped in front of the grave site. The driver rolled down their window and may have called out to us, but I was too busy ignoring them.
Eventually, someone got out of the minivan and walked over to us.
In very broken, French-accented English: “Excuse me, but – who is?”
In a cemetery, this strikes me as the dumbest thing ever to ask, because the person’s name is on the gravestone. Furthermore, even if you didn’t know who Johnny Ramone was, given the nature of the monument, it should be very clear that he played the rock and roll music.
In the hopes of getting this person to go away and leave me alone, I said, “Johnny Ramone.”
“But – who is?”
“He was in the Ramones.” I point at the plaque on the memorial which clearly says “legendary guitarist for the Ramones”.
“The Ramones?” I was about to mimic playing guitar, when I realized how completely freaking stupid it was, given, again, what was in front of us, a bronze statue of a long-haired guy in a leather jacket with an electric guitar in his hands. I realized that I was about to explain to some family of four from France who didn’t speak English and clearly couldn’t read nor possessed any common sense about the Ramones, which of course leads me into a Legs McNeil-style internal tirade about how they never got the attention they deserved, and Johnny has to get it now with this grandiose monument just steps from Douglas Fairbanks’ reflecting pool (not kidding) and some tourists who don’t really care, who are just worried they’re missing out on something important on their grand trip to the US of A are bothering me when I am trying to pay my respects to a musician I already have a conflicted, troubled fan relationship to. I wanted to spit.
As we walked back to our car, they herded their kids out of the minivan and posed them in front of the grave. I was glad at that moment that I was inside something so I could yell epithets at them unhindered.
I just wanted a couple of minutes. I wanted to stand there and think about the Ramones and remember what it was like to see them and hear them and be a fan. I wanted to say thank you one last time. I didn’t want very much. But of course, I was in LA, and I should have known better.
Please note that someone took the trouble to leave their cd for Johnny. (I will also note that there are no pebbles to be found anywhere at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, so I could not even follow the Jewish custom of leaving a stone on the grave.)
I was happier – if that’s possible in a cemetery – to find Dee Dee a short distance away. He’s a little bit in from the road, so you have to look carefully for him, but it was more comforting to me. While there weren’t any grandiose tribute quotes featured on the stone, there were candles and flowers and a virtual rainbow of guitar picks and half a dozen notes. Dee Dee is well visited, and well loved.
The minivan slowly creeped up the road just as I was getting back into the car. I gave them the finger, and felt much better. Or at least as better as I was going to feel at that moment.
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