Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Memories of Joey Ramone

Today in the freezing, freeeeezing cold I walked past Joey Ramone’s old apartment building on 9th Street. It made me think of other winter nights on that block and what a special guy he was, and what a loss it is not to have him around. 

Here are some of my memories: 

When I was a teenager I brought home Rocket To Russia from the record store (where I had it ordered specially) and my neighbor got off his bike to take a look at what I’d bought. He said, very quietly: “That’s punk rock, isn’t it?” I said, “Yeah…” 

Joey was the first rock star I met when I moved to NY from the sticks of Michigan. He was leaning up against the bar at Danceteria not really talking to anyone. It was the same night Hanoi Rocks played, and I couldn’t believe one of my rock heroes could be found just loitering around the bar. I went up and said, “Hi, I’m Raffaele.” He said “I’m Joey,” and shook my hand. A couple of hours later I picked up Blixa Bargeld for about two minutes, until he tried to dangle me off of the balcony of the Limelight (the fact that he had bits of his wife's hair stapled to his leather vest should have been a tip-off).

A few years down the road Joey gave my band the Cycle Sluts an opening slot for The Ramones at the Ritz. It was our second gig ever and it put us on the map. He was always such a champion for new bands, he just really loved rock and roll. During that period we were constantly yanking on him and screaming drunkenly, in unison, into his face. We had this drunken, bastardized ballet move we made everyone do with us and Joey didn’t have the greatest balance so he would just lift his foot off the floor a few inches to shut us up.

The Sluts hosted many after-hours parties at “Slutquarters” on 4th and B that featured him as a regular. We all did a ton of coke in those days and one night he had some very friendly South American dealers with him that had mounds of the stuff. One kept waving the loaded mirror in my face and saying, “For you, for you!” Joey was always quiet and we were always really, really loud. I think he liked the noise. Later that night (morning) he fell asleep in a chair and we just continued to party around him.

One night at the Lismar Lounge, where we all worked and hung out, a few members of a certain bike club who also hung out there decided they had a problem with Joey. I don’t remember why, but it was a dangerous situation. There were a few truly terrifying minutes when they locked him and someone else (Daniel Rey, maybe?) into the deli next door. One of the Lismar bartenders, who somehow was seeing both one of the bike club members and Joey at the same time, ran out and threw herself at the door and begged them not to hurt him. It was one of those scenes that make you feel so scared you get nauseous inside, but somehow it ended up all right. I think Joey was so gentle that they just decided not to bother.

Joey wearing only his leather jacket and ripped jeans in the freezing cold at the Pet Sematary video shoot.

Joey on the roof of Coney Island High for a barbeque, eating a hot dog and smiling.

The sound of his voice, saying “Hey Raff…”

Going to the cloisters to film a video for Joey’s protégées, The Independents. I was dressed as a vampire queen and I walked slowly, trying to look very serious without cracking up, down cement stairs in a cape towards Joey, who was standing a few feet behind the camera. He said, “That was great, Raff.” Later in the car he put some money in my hand, which I hadn’t asked for or expected.

Being on the train w/my ex Jesse after we got the news Joey was dead, just staring out the window and feeling sad.

I wasn’t one of his closest friends, but I like to think that he counted me as more than an acquaintance. I know I’ll never walk past the corner of 9th Street and 3rd Avenue without thinking of him with affection. He was a true rock star and a truly lovely person, and I’m looking forward to seeing him on the other side.

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