“We’re here for one reason, and one reason only: to pay tribute to our good friend Johnny Ramone,” said Rob Zombie at the Johnny Ramone birthday party at Hollywood Forever Cemetery this Sunday night.
Zombie performed five Ramones songs with his great band of John 5, Ginger Fish and Piggy D, and also hosted a Q&A with the cast of his 2005 film The Devil’s Rejects (including Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Mosely, Sid Haig and Danny Trejo) before a screening of the film on the cemetery’s giant outdoor wall.
“I miss [Johnny] every day,” said Zombie. “He was a wonderful kind guy. There was nobody like him. There was nothing like the Ramones, so we’re here for Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee and Tommy.”
In fact, all four Ramones, the punk band from Queens, are now gone. But their music was alive on this night. Besides Zombie, there were great sets of Ramones music by Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, Billy Idol and comic star Fred Armisen, ably backed by Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses and others.
Zombie mentioned several times that he and his band rehearsed a lot, so as to do justice to this music. They went through five songs in mere minutes: “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School,” “Beat on the Brat,” “Lobotomy” and “R.A.M.O.N.E.S” by Motörhead.
Linda Ramone, Johnny’s widow, confirmed the Zombie dedication: “Rob and his band rehearsed for weeks. This is a Johnny Ramone room. You have to rehearse. You can’t go out there and not be good. You see how everybody here was tight and great?”
In a Q&A prior to the concert, Fred Armisen said, “When I die…” interrupted by the blustery Steve Jones, who said, “Who cares?” to much laughter.
But Armisen continued. “When I die,” he said, “I want a real creepy, real spooky funeral, okay? With bats and upside-down crosses.”
McKagan admitted in the Q&A to being impacted forever by the band and their energy.
“I was freaked out by the Ramones,” he said. “As a 13-year-old kid living up in Seattle, the Ramones were the first punk band to come play. They were like my KISS. So 10 or 12 years later, Appetite [for Destruction] came out, I got an opportunity to meet the Ramones, and I actually didn’t want to because I didn’t want to ruin anything. They still remain bigger than life to me.”
In addition to the concert, movie and panels, the 3,000-plus guests in attendance were able to view, in the same old mausoleums where Rudolph Valentino is interred, a display of Kirk Hammett’s horror memorabilia, which was especially spooky surrounded by crypts and marble statues of saints.
Linda Ramone said that next year’s event will be a tribute to all the Ramones. “The Ramones legacy is really important to me,” she said. “This is my life.”
Hollywood Forever was the first cemetery in Hollywood, and it’s on its ground that Paramount Pictures was built, and still adjoins. It is the final resting places for legions of Hollywood legends, including Rudolph Valentino, Cecil B. DeMille, Joe Frisco, Peter Lorre, Hattie McDaniels, Mickey Rooney, Douglas Fairbanks, Marion Davies, Virginia Rappe, Tyrone Powers, John Huston and many others.
All proceeds of the event went to The Johnny Ramone Foundation.