10 Years Later: Remembering Dee Dee Ramone

Share Button

It was 10 years ago today that my friend Dee Dee Ramone passed. I was in the joint and a buddy told me the news. I had lent my buddy the autographed copy of Dee Dee’s book Legend of a Rock Star: A Memoir: The Last Testament of Dee Dee Ramone that Dee Dee had sent me to kill some time and say hello. I always wondered how he got it together to get it to me. I remember how helpless I felt, being so far away from the street when I heard the news. Normally I’d be on the phone or on the corner dealing with it, with others who were dealing with it. But at that point, I was far away and with only one buddy to give a damn. Dee Dee had played my club SPA with his latest band and I had missed that too.

He was in Hollywood when a death, long predicted by many, came as a surprise. His addiction finally demanded payment. I will dine with Marky next week, the last of those Mohegans that I knew personally. He’s been touring with his band Blitzkrieg, doing mostly Ramones covers. His bass player yells 1, 2, 3, 4 before each song and it makes me sad. Dee Dee’s tombstone is not far from where Johnny lays at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It has the Ramones seal on it and the line from one of his tracks: "I feel so safe flying on a ray on the highest trails above.” On the bottom of the stone "O.K…I gotta go now" is inscribed. It’s been a dozen years since I last saw him and I think of his bad-boy energy and his friendship and the endless conversations we had in front of the Chelsea where we both lived for a time …where he was always hanging, waiting for something, maybe just a hello or a chat or something else to calm the seething just under the surface.

The first time I saw him was at the club MY FATHER’S PLACE out in Long Island. My date was into punk, I was into jazz. She was stoooopid hot and I aimed to please. I knew of the Ramones as they werefrom Forest Hills, a hood just a bike ride away where the girls were pretty and their brothers didn’t know where I lived. We were in striking distance of the stage when the show began. We were unexpectedly shoved up front by a surge of inhumanity. Dee Dee was inches from me and he pummeled me with noise, sweat, and an occasional stray finger as he slammed his bass and screamed 1,2,3,4 one song after another. He tossed me a Ramones guitar pick which I gave away a couple years ago to a dude from a local band. He will cherish it.

It seems longer than 10 years. It seems like a lifetime ago. I’m sorry if you missed Dee Dee and the Ramones. They were grand. O.K…I gotta go now.

———–

This Thursday, June 7, from 6pm to 9pm The Hole Gallery (kathy@theholenyc.com) which is constantly showing work that interests me is offering PORTRAIT OF A GENERATION, June 7 – August 10, 2012. One hundred artists "who make up the art scene" are exchanging portraits of each other. Three of my favorite people on earth – Erik Foss, Clayton Patterson, and Bijoux Altamirano – are contributing.

 From the release:

"This massive exhibition will serve to give image to a community of people, both renowned and emerging, who are dedicated to making artworks. The works will be hung salon-style on our walls of Gallery 1 and 2, and include painted, drawn and photographic portraits."

Hot Stuff at Hotel Chantelle, Surf’s Up, and Gay Pride

Share Button

Help me, I’m melting! I actually need someone to pour water over me as I just don’t do well in the heat. In a heat-of-the-moment decision, I decided to DJ for free, something my manager Adam over at 4AM frowns upon. The occasion was the Surf’s Up soiree over at Aspen Social Club, which was converted to “Aspen Surf Club” to catch the wave. When I got settled and shook a bunch of hands and kissed the babes on the cheeks I went to the DJ booth where DJ Life was killing it. His offerings of hip-hop, pop, and R&B was just what they wanted so I opted out and headed to Hotel Chantelle where I really wanted to catch Luc Carl’s set.

The Aspen Surf Lodge event had a door proceeds benefactor in the Rockaway Beach Alliance. Every hipster I know is heading out to beaches in Fort Tilden and Rockaway these days. The night before at The Darby I dined with Marky Ramone and his wonderfully-made Marion and my gal Amanda. Marky felt strongly that a street in Rockaway should be named after Dee Dee Ramone, who penned the classic Ramones track “Rockaway Beach.”

That song has tourists from all over the globe flocking there. Marky pointed out that Joey Ramone Place is at 2nd Street and  Bowery, just a hop, skip, and jump from what is affectionately called the Ramone’s loft. It is actually the loft of artist, lighting designer, road guru and all-around genius Arturo Vega who I named my Chihuahua after. “Rockaway Beach” is one of the most recognized tracks from this seminal NY punk band, and a street for Dee Dee would indeed be sweet.
The air-conditioning failed to meet the test at Chantelle and, although we DJs did our best and the crowd tried to make a go of it, everybody ended up on the roof and partied under the stars. I had fun playing tracks that had some sort of heat reference including "Hot Stuff" by The Rolling Stones, "I’ll Melt with You" by Modern English, and eventually "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana. They say the air will be fixed, but it was a bit too late for last night’s party. I’ve always been taught to "never let them see you sweat"…last night, I failed.

I would be remiss and subjugated to much emotional distress by my friends celebrating Gay Pride if I didn’t mention it. My fabulous friend and fiend Patrick Duffy has done it again. A fabulous event will mark my introduction to OUThouse within the THE OUT NYC resort complex. The space is behind a red unmarked door at 510 west 41st Street between 10th and 11th. This is a private affair with a $50 6pm-9pm champagne-and-curated- cocktail reception so if you want into OUThouse you better hustle.

The gift bags are a "must" with “a gorgeous equality candle, jewelry by Chris Habana, and a skin spa gift and much more. The gala has a name: “The Garden of Earthly Delights," a very special Pride benefit for the Courage Campaign and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Campaign. The shindig is hosted by the ever-fabulous Amy Sacco, Peter Davis, Christopher Valiante, Michael Warner, and of course Patrick Duffy. DJ Angola will set the tone, and my favorite Monday Night Bingo buddy Murray Hill will perform. I wouldn’t miss it for the world …unless their air conditioning is on the fritz.

Around The World: Valentine’s Day Parties I Can’t Get To

Share Button

My Facebook page and inboxes are over flowing with Valentine’s Day invites. Susanne Bartsch and Patricia Fields Valentines Day Ball at Marquee is undeniable. If I were in Miami (a rarity) I would surely take Ivan Wilzig up on his offer to attend Valentine’s Day at the World Erotic Art Museum. If I was landed in Bangkok ( a name I always have trouble saying) I’d RSVP to Daryl Scott and go to UB Radio and Bash present Unlucky in Love at Bash. If I found myself in Paris, Frederic Agostini and I would toast ourselves at Slap-Valentine’s Edition with Feadz/Manare/Noahey Green at Wanderlust. If I found myself in quaint San Francisco, I’d do anything to attend Joey Arias’ with Veronica Klaus’ Valentine Day Concert at the Castro Theatre. If I were swept out to Baldwin, Long Island, I surely would be interested in hanging with Todd Shapiro and the VH1 Mob Wives Star Ramona Rizzo at the Coral House.

Alas, fate has me here, and I will probably go to Nick Andreottola’s shindig Champagning at GoldBar. Devorah Rose is having a Valentine’s Day Massacre gala at RSVP but I have never RSVP’d for an event at RSVP before and although I worship Devorah it probably will stay that way.

Another clever gal Natasha Adonzio is having her own unrelated Valentine’s Day Massacre. It’s a fashion show of her very rock and roll clothes. Rock legend Donna Destri will join models Miz Katastrophe, Extasy Micheals, Bonnie Elizabeth, Latoya Muneca, Shannon Fatale, Tiffany Johnson, Laurel Aslaksen, Grace Telephone, Anna Pine, Brittney Haren, Barbie Dematel, Eliane Luduvino, Kortlynd, Glamour Jessica, and Bethany Mae. It’s going to be hot. The show is at the Parkside Lounge, Thursday night at 10pm. There’s a bunch of bands as well, including Krebs & The Maynard G’s, King Bee & The Stingers, Puma Perl, The Rewd Onez, Charm School, and The Bowery Boys. I am no longer doing my rock night at Hotel Chantelle so I will be in attendance and probably in heaven.

Now, back in the day a friend of mine named Jillian Black died of an overdose of heroin on her second try at the junk. I was livid and obsessed. At that time, St. Marks and the surrounding streets were places where dealers set up shop. I decided to support the newish local business with a series of huge events to support them and drive the dealers elsewhere. Natasha Adonzio had a store on St. Marks across from the still-relevant Trash and Vaudeville near Enz’s , Manic Panic, and many others. I threw the "East Village Look," a fashion show at Danceteria with over 20 designers. It made all the papers and my nightlife career began. I had thrown Dee Dee Ramone’s birthday party at Max’s Kansas City prior to this event, but this party got me hooked on nightlife as a career. 

Natasha was the first person to say yes to me. All the other designers came on board because she legitimized me. Thousands came and everybody who owned a club wanted me to do events with them. I am one who rarely forgets a disservice and always remembers a favor. Natasha Adonzio is fabulous and I cannot wait to see her  show and hang at her party.

Get my column in your inbox before anyone else by signing up for the biweekly Good Night Mr. Lewis email blast. 

When the Bowery Was Electric

Share Button

Some writer way smarter than me once noted, “You can’t go home again.” That’s Thomas Wolfe. I wrote a paper about it in my college days. If I had some time, I would go back to college and get formal educations in writing and design so my editors and partners would have more hair as they age, but what Wolfe said is true. Last night I went home to the Bowery in the early 80s. Back then I weighed in at a buck thirty five, wore ripped jeans, manic-panic pointy shoes, and a well thought out T-shirt. I was working on Wall Street during the day, on my way to becoming a commodities trader, but at night I became a punk rocker. When I DJ, I offer lots of stuff from that era which captured my heart. I bought all those punk anthems new, and many remain at my mom’s house. After quoting Wolfe I’m unclear if I’m allowed to go home to pick them up. Maybe mom will FedEx them. Last night I went to Vera Ramone King’s book release party at Bowery Electric for Poisoned Heart: I Married Dee Dee Ramone; Vera was a wife of my dearly departed friend Dee Dee Ramone.

Jesse Malin and Johnny T’s Bowery Electric is as close to going home as I’m going to get, located a mere second and a half from the street sign dedicated to Joey Ramone (2nd Street and The Bowery) and a half block north of where CBGBs should be. It’s around the corner from the Ramones’ loft where my dog’s godfather and namesake Arturo Vega — the artist who designed all those Ramones T-shirts worn by hipsters and old crows alike — still lives. He also did the lights and taught me showbiz. Bowery Electric is Bowery rock at its purist. Vera’s party was in the upstairs bar where Jon Derian pendant lights gave off kind illumination for the aging attendees. I hadn’t seen Vera in maybe 20-plus years. Back then I’d pick up her and maybe a sister and we would meet Dee Dee at the old Ritz or something like that. She lived in College Point, while I lived in Jackson Heights with Ramones roadie Danny Zykowski. I would stay close with Dee Dee in later years after the divorce as we both lived in the Chelsea Hotel.

Bowery Electric was jammed with a “who’s who was that?” gathering of Ramones followers. Everybody said I looked great, and it felt strange to be like the third-youngest person in a room. I chatted up Monte Melnick, the Ramones’ road manager, who told me about his book, On the Road with The Ramones, now in its third printing. His card has “Gabba Gabba Hey!” printed on it. Photographer Bob Gruen (you know him from his famous shot of John Lennon with sunglasses wearing a T-shirt with “New York City” on it) was accompanied by his brilliant artist wife Elizabeth Gregory-Gruen. Jimmy of Trash and Vaudeville fame was there, and I think he was wearing the same outfit from the last time I saw him back in 1986. Natasha Adonzio, who I produced fashion shows for before back in the day, was telling me she’s re-launching her line of spandex and wanted me to help in show production. I told her, “Spandex is coming back in a big way, but I personally can’t go home again.” Rock comedian Dave Street was there 20 years sober and still writing songs with my old pal Bobby Steele, lead man of The Undead. Their new record — coming out this week — is “I Made a Monster,” with “Sometimes You Gotta Laugh at Yourself” on the flip. These sentiments seem to perfectly describe my recent life, but still I told him I might not be able to go there. I mumbled something about Thomas Wolfe, and he looked at me like I had purple hair.

I watched an elderly woman dancing enthusiastically but alone in the back room. Her purple boa top contrasted brilliantly with her long gray hair. I think “Teenage Kicks” was blaring. She was straight out of hullabaloo or some other show from an even earlier era. Marky Ramone leaned over and said “go-go dancer,” and I turned to hug him. The last of the four Ramones (that I knew) greeted me like a brother. I told his beautiful wife Marion that I’m going to help them with their apartment this very week. It’s in writing, so it must be true. Marky and I talked a little business and reminisced. Some photos were taken, and I chatted up my friend Starr and Sarah from Stay Thirsty magazine. I started to leave as an important BBQ was awaiting. Mickey Hyman, Joey Ramone’s brother, squinted at me, and I said hello. He knew my face but couldn’t remember from where, and I was very relieved. I told him how he might know me, and he said “yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,” about a dozen times.

Vera was signing books at the front of the joint. She was all decked out in rock and roll finery, chatting up friends as she wrote personalized messages. She was back home once again on the Bowery, armed with tales of her exploits and those of her punk legend husband. A large poster of her and Dee Dee in a different era was easeled behind her, and people were signing it. Back in the day, CBGBs’ walls were adorned with the signatures of the thousands who came through. My name was there in a spot eye-high, to the left of the door going down to the bathrooms. I picked up a sharpie and was about to write something. I looked over at Vera and back at the crowd, and thought maybe old Thomas Wolfe didn’t have a clue. I signed and felt great that I had indeed gone home again.

1-2-3-4, Joey Ramone & the Time Before

Share Button

imageMy club career began a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. I was sort of a friend, accessory and co-conspirator of the Ramones. I was dragged to see the band one night by a Staten Island girl named Teressa, who could have gotten me to go anywhere. At that time I was listening to classical music and jazz and was a regular at places like Fat Tuesdays and Smalls. Teressa dragged me through the throngs until we were a foot from Ramones’ bassist Dee Dee. I had never seen anything like them. Three or four minute explosions of catchy tracks with only a 1-2-3-4 shouted into the mike by the nearby rockstar to indicate that a new song had actually begun. Eyes that would later see through the frenzy and noise of crowded nightclubs to some necessary truths began to analyze what could endear me to my new obsession. I noticed the needs of the roadies, the only other calm people in the room that night, and the next week I caught up with the band at a Long Island gig with a couple of neighborhood blondes of bad reputation.

I hung with the roadies, who liked my friends and gave me access to the band and most importantly to my dear friend Arturo Vega. Arturo was the artist behind the band. He designed and hawked the famous logoed t-shirts, did their lights, and more importantly owned the loft on East 2nd Street — now Joey Ramone Place — which was the epicenter of all things Ramone. My chihuahua and true love of my life is named Arturo after my skinny and sometimes quick-tempered friend from Chihuahua, Mexico. Later I would befriend Dee Dee, who had slapped me in the face as he banged his bass at that Teressa-inspired gig. At the end of the show, he flipped me a guitar pick with “Ramones” stamped into it. The same stamp was inside my forehead, and jazz and classical music would be reserved forever for taxi rides with intellectual cabbies. I approached Dee Dee one afternoon before sound-check at an Amityville, Long Island hot spot. I was with the two neighborhood sluts who had also succumbed to a Ramones addiction.

We approached the volatile rock star armed with only a silly question, “Hey Dee Dee, do you like playing these small club gigs as much as the larger concert halls?” He replied by putting on his spy sunglasses and leaning his head against the clubs’ facade. Not a glance and no words, only cigarette smoke from Dee Dee. He, of course, had no obligation to answer a silly question from some annoying fan, but I stood there with my two groupie companions and chatted about Queens, Long Island, and I’m sure lots of embarrassing stuff. About 20 minutes later, Dee Dee lowered his sunglasses and said something like, “I like the big concert clubs but I like the small places too. I can get real close to the crowd.” He hadn’t been ignoring me, but taking his time and thinking about a query from one of the most important people in his life: a fan.

That attitude, that the fan — or in my case, the patron of my clubs — was one of the most important entities in my life is what made me successful. Dee Dee’s ex-wife Vera wrote a book about her experiences, which will be celebrated this June 7. I caught up with Vera on Facebook recently, and it was grand. It was Vera who asked me to produce a Dee Dee birthday bash, which would be the first party I ever threw. In months to come I became a fixture around the Ramones’ haunts and a regular at Arturo’s’ loft where Joey and his gal Linda where living.

One summer afternoon my roommate, Ramones roadie Danny Zykowski, Joey, and I went to an amusement park in New Jersey where the lanky rock n’ roll icon was rarely recognized. A couple of 12-year-old boys took delight in tormenting the gangly Joey in the bumper boats, and I was beyond hysterical seeing his knees above his head as he sat impossibly in a go-cart designed for humans with a different shape. He laughed all day, always taking time to sign an autograph or make someone feel important. Joey would be talking to you while crossing the Bowery, and just as you would be about to step on the curb on the other side of the street, he would dash back to the safety of the starting curb. My association with Joey, Dee Dee, and later Johnny gave me some juice at nightclub doors. I would double-date with Johnny, who had political views a little to the right of Attila the Hun. I tried to overlook our differences and celebrate what it was that we had in common. This Dalai Lama approach to friendship had its rewards, as doors in hotspots around town noted the fact that I had famous friends.

Later, Johnny would betray Joey, stealing his gal Linda away from him, and it was never the same backstage after that. Even I stopped believing in Johnny, except for his ability to keep the band going and stay true to its fan base. Joey referred to this betrayal by his right-wing guitarist in the song “The KKK Took My Baby Away.” “She went away for the holidays / Said she’s going to L.A. / But she never got there / She never got there / She never got there, they say,” is how it went. I remember hearing it for the first time in disbelief that Johnny was playing lead for it. I never got up the guts to ask him if he knew it was about him. I’m sure he would have said, “Of course, but it was a good song.”

They celebrated the life of Joey at a benefit at Irving Plaza last night. Rock legends, with every part of them aged save for their hairdos, gave tribute to a real nice man who lead a group of misfits out of the boredom of Queens and into international stardom. Before there was the Ramones, there was pre-Stevie Fleetwood Mac, and a boredom of music that was similar to our current club circuit. Punk changed the way we looked at rock. The genre took club life out of the doldrums and infused it with a basic energy and raw sexuality that has been lacking lately. Not since the birth of house and hip hop in the 80s has a musical genre taken the club world into a new, vibrant direction. Mash-up and electro and sounds spinning off of those are only now bringing excitement to a Serato-pacified DJ class. The Ramones lifted me up and put me down in a new and more enlightening place. I’ve got to thank my dear old friend Joey — or as some called him, Jeffrey — for taking the time to show me a better world. He, Johnny, and Dee Dee have all passed, yet they are now recognized as one of the most important rock bands ever. Spin magazine named them number 2, only behind The Beatles. It was Paul McCartney’s often-used alias Paul Ramone that inspired the name. Say it ain’t so Joey! Jeffrey Hyman, a.k.a. Joey Ramone, would have been 58 yesterday.