Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dee Dee

I really miss Dee Dee Ramone. Of all the Ramones, Dee Dee is the one I knew best. We hung out on and off for around 25 years. It was always a pleasure to run into Dee Dee, he always had a funny story, a strange antidote, bizarre things always happened to Dee Dee. In a way he sought them out, but in another way he was just a magnet for nuts and weirdos. Dee Dee was a doer, and not in a small way. Whatever Dee Dee did, he did a lot of, good or bad. When he decided he was going to be a writer he knocked off three books in less than five years, and all three are great: Poison Heart: Surviving The Ramones (with Veronica Kofman) (Firefly, 1997, this has also been published as Lobotomy), Chelsea Horror Hotel (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2001), and Legend Of A Rock Star: The Last Testament Of Dee Dee Ramone (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2002). When he got into painting he churned out hundreds of paintings (with help from wife Barbara and Paul Kostabi) we bought the one pictured above. He wrote thousands of songs. When he decided to move out of New York City, he moved dozens of times, first to Argentina, then Amsterdam, then a small town in the Netherlands, then back to New York, then upstate New York, then L.A., with Ann Arbor thrown in somewhere. He got a dog, an Airedale, it died. He got another dog, also an Airedale, it died, he got another. He couldn't figure out why they kept dying. If Joey had OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), Dee Dee had CCD (Compulsive Compulsive Disorder, a condition I just made up). When I went into the bar biz, Dee Dee really wanted me to do well so he offered to play (for free!) every Tuesday night. But since he'd long since stopped drinking he couldn't wait until show time and would just show up and start playing, sometimes before the audience even got there. If showtime was 9:30 he'd want to go on at eight, and sometimes did. He got Joey onstage with him, two weeks in a row, the first time they'd performed together since he'd left the Ramones eight years earlier, but everyone missed it because Dee Dee was insistent on going on so early! I don't even have a photo. When his novel Chelsea Horror Hotel came out he demanded that the book release party be held at the Lakeside (where the above photo was taken) instead of Barnes and Noble or someplace that would help sell the book. It was the last time I saw him. He sat an autographed books until he got bored, then plugged in his guitar, a rhythm section appeared and he played for an hour. He also gave me a tape of this song, I think it eventually was issued on a small label in Europe, he wanted it to be included if a film was ever made from the book that my wife co-wrote: Please Kill Me (by Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil, Grove Press, 1996) in which Dee Dee plays a major (and hilarious) role. Hopefully such a movie will never be made. It's amazing that he was writing great tunes right up to the end of his life, he never lost his touch. We had a strange conversation that day, he was very bummed out by Joey's death and said something that would later haunt me. He had been clean for years and somebody at the bar offered him some dope, he declined but said, "If I ever kill myself that's how I'm going to do it, I'll shoot up ten bags". Five months later he was dead from an overdose, ten bags in the cooker. I'm sure he killed himself. Of course there was the crazy Dee Dee also, as detailed in the aforementioned PKM, and also in his own books. Chelsea Horror Hotel is an interesting look inside Dee Dee's mind. It starts off like a very well written horror story, then takes a left turn into insanity, much like Dee Dee himself. I only saw the crazy side of Dee Dee occasionally. I saw much more of his good side. He's often compared to a puppy, and that carried over to his loyal side. One story I want to share is that of a guy named Phillip Smith, a rather sleazy, low end drug dealer. Phil had lots of money and lots of coke and therefore lots of friends. Phil contracted AIDS around '90-'91 and went into Cabrini Hospital to die. It was ugly, and Phil's friends soon abandoned him, stealing everything in his apartment, etc. Except Dee Dee. Dee Dee was at the hospital almost every day for months. He gave Phil sponge baths, sang to him, brought him food and magazines and tapes. He never abandoned the guy, he was there until the bitter end. By the final days even Phil's family and girlfriend had stopped coming to the hospital but Dee Dee was loyal and stayed with Phil to the bitter end. My respect for Dee Dee jumped immeasurably. I could understand Dee Dee's freak outs and paranoia better after that, Dee Dee was willing to give a lot of himself to people and couldn't understand why they always let him down. It made him crazy. Or crazier. The only time he ever got mad at me was when he asked me to manage him and I turned him down. He already had a publishing deal and didn't want a big record deal (and couldn't have gotten one if he did) and there was little for a manager to do except babysit and/or keep him on the road touring, something he'd long burned out on after years of touring the world as a Ramone. I felt bad turning him down but as I explained he didn't need to give up 20% of his earnings to somebody who could do little to help him, I suggested he hire a good road manager to babysit. He was mad for a couple of days then forgot about it, but I felt like I let him down. I still feel guilty. One other thing I'd like to add is that by no means was Dee Dee dumb. The press, especially the British press loved to play up Dee Dee as idiot savant but it was an act. His thick Queen accent might have made him sound goofy but he mostly played dumb as a defense mechanism. It gave him a way to feel people out, to see if they'd try and put one over on him, but believe me, uneducated- yes, dumb, no way, Dee Dee didn't miss a trick. I miss running into Dee Dee on the street and hearing his latest crazy story. Or the phone calls (sometimes accidental because for years me and Joey Ramone had similar phone numbers, I was 777-9408 and Joey was 777-6881, so Dee Dee would call me by mistake and often babble for minutes before I could get a word in edgewise: Dee Dee-- "Joey, I have to talk to you, things are not right, this is fucked, we have to talk... Me--"Dee Dee, it's Jim, not Joey, you dialed the wrong number". Dee Dee-- "Jim Marshall? Sorry..." (phone hangs up). (phone rings again) Dee Dee- "Joey, this is Dee Dee... Me-- "Dee Dee, you did it again, it's Jim". Dee Dee-- "Sorry, you got any pot"? Me-- "Yeah, come on over and we'll smoke a bomber..."
Dee Dee Ramone,  he overcame tremendous odds to leave his mark on the world, but leave his mark he did.  Every time I see a Ramones t-shirt, or hear the "Hey Ho" part of Blitzkrieg Bop at a ball game, I think of Dee Dee, and how much I miss him.
The above clip is from Lech Kowalski's movie Hey! Is Dee Dee Home? a short documentary made mostly from left over interview footage from an interview Dee Dee gave Lech for his Johnny Thunders' flick. It gives a good sense of Dee Dee's personality.

8 comments:

J.D. King said...

"Dee Dee was at the hospital almost every day for months. He gave Phil sponge baths, sang to him, brought him food and magazines and tapes. He never abandoned the guy..."

That says a lot.

Mr. Shambolic said...

Thanks for the Blog, I read it every day. What a good piece on Dee Dee Ramone. I didn't know him, but I think about The Ramones and his music all the time.
Your description of him is pretty much exactly the way I imagine him. I saw him play a solo show in Utica, NY in front of about 20 people on a cold night. (He went on very early, you're right!) I was sitting on the edge of the stage when he plopped down next to me and we shot the breeze for a while. Not much of a story, but I will always remember.
All hail Dee Dee.

roscoe said...

Bravo to the Hound and to Dee Dee

uticaclub said...

Great blog post on Dee Dee. I was also at the Utica,NY show and Dee Dee snuck me in because I was only 17. I ended up getting caught by a bouncer and tossed out but Dee Dee and I had hung out earlier in the day and he told me to meet him back at his motel. He got a bit intoxicated and got undressed and boy was that weird, nothing happened, I just had to tell him over and over to get dressed cause he looked funny sitting there in just argile socks. I had met him prior to that and he was one of the most intelligent & caring & crazy people I have ever know. He tried to get me to leave Utica and travel on to Minneapolis with him and the Chinese Dragons and I sometimes regret not going. He stayed in contact over the years and I will never forget what a caring and generous soul he was. Great blog post, I really enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

great post on dee dee. upon watching "end of the century" i realized that there was so much more to dee dee than most could see, and that he was much, much smarter than he let on.

awesome post. i'm a friend of epic's, name is joe. i like lakeside, too - a very cool bar. i've bookmarked your blog, thanks to epic for sharing it with me. cheers.

skylolo99 said...

What a great tune and wonderful blog.
Dee Dee did indeed have 'it' to the end.

Todd McGovern said...

I used to run into Dee Dee at Coney Island High and he always had something funny to say.

I also spoke to him at the book party at Lakeside. It was too crowded to get close to the stage, so I took a seat on the ledge by the window. After the set, he plopped down next to me, shirtless, sweaty -- very concerned about how the sound was from my vantage point.

I love all his books -- Chelsea Hotel Horror is a mind-bender.

Also, I bought a piece of his art. Silver paint on black background - misspellings and all:

God wants you to see you make the effort yourself.
He wants you to be strong. Unlike your enemys.
Me...in my human form, I want you to be strong
so that you'll be happy. So that you can be of use to others and God will admire that. For me For everything is all ready here.

Joe said...

Great, Jim. Thanks.

bonomo

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