A Saturday afternoon text told me about the passing of my old friend Arturo Vega. You may not know the name, but you know his work. He designed and produced all those Ramones t-shirts. He helped begin the band and was involved with their legacy through the website and merchandizing, long after three of the fabulous four or more had also shuffled off this mortal coil.
Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and now Arturo left us too soon but left us with so much. The affect of the Ramones on our world will be debated long after all of us have moved on. They helped shape not just a sound, but a downtown culture. They took us from there to here as much as anyone. Financial success eluded them for most of their run, with t-shirt sales far surpassing album sales. Arturo’s contribution – a graphic identity as well as a brilliant lighting display during shows – cannot be underestimated. The Ramones’ slick punk image appealed to a cognizant set that demands creative aesthetics. Spin placed the band just after the Beatles in influence.
Marky Ramone is touring the globe with a Ramones cover band, with Andrew W.K. playing the lead. It’s doing well. He was in Argentina when the news came. His Marion and I talked about the loss, how he didn’t tell us, and how our world is accumulating casualties. Vera, Dee Dee’s wife, was also "freaked out" to offer much more than:
"The news of Arturo Vega’s passing has been numbing, and all too familiar. Good Times and Great Memories…..I will miss him. R.I.P. Arturo – All Good Cretins Go To Heaven."
Arturo’s facebook page was a thousand quotes and photos from people he touched from all over the world.
I barely remember the beginning, but can’t get a handle on this end yet. I met him at CBGBs. He was tough, sharp, aloof, but interested. We suddenly became friends. He was there for me always. I am saddened that I wasn’t there for him when he was going. According to plan, I’ll remember him as he was.
I named my best dog after him. My chihuahua Arturo loved the human Arturo unconditionally. I guess dogs can sense the importance their best friends feel for another. I’d bring him by the loft and Arturo the human would just laugh at the feisty little guy who might bite everyone except for those he loved and even those peeps sometimes.
What happens to the loft and all the art now that Artie’s no longer home? The brilliant collection that chronicled downtown, the file cabinets filled with history. I remember when he tossed all of his clothes out and dressed in workers’ jumpsuits. Then it was marathons and mountains.
I’ve been reading Please Kill Me author Legs McNeil;s facebook page. He was real close to Arturo. His girl Amy is best friends with my gal Amanda and I guess Arturo is all up in that. He posted:
"One of the best friends anyone could ever hope for. I knew and hung out with Arturo since 1976 – 37 fucking years, if my math is correct – and if it weren’t for Arturo, Joey and I would’ve starved to death in those early years. Artie was so fucking fun– he made everything into an adventure. The world just became a much colder and lonelier place – as if it wasn’t getting that way already. Fuck, I miss him so much already."
I’m going to be a little short of eloquent today. I feel like I’ve been hit with a sledgehammer, and that sword that dangles above all of our heads just moved a lot closer to mine. Arturo expected a lot from me. He supported me and my work. He never said yes when he meant no. He never said great when he meant so-so. He expected the same from me. The silver lining of this dark cloud is that I have reconnected with so many that I love and don’t see very much of anymore.
In fact, an old friend that Arturo told me had passed is found out to be very much alive. Hopefully, some gathering to celebrate his life will bring us together. I hear there’s a small gathering tonight at Manitoba’s. I’m gonna show.