City Of Angels: Linda Ramone

City Of Angels: Linda Ramone

FOR V100, HEDI SLIMANE PRESENTS THE VETERANS AND THE RISING STARS OF LOS ANGELES'S PUNK ROCK SCENE. HERE, LINDA RAMONE, WIDOW TO JOHNNY RAMONE, LOOKS BACK ON A LIFE OF RUMOURS, REBELLION, AND ROCK-AND-ROLL WITH ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL BANDS IN MUSIC HISTORY

FOR V100, HEDI SLIMANE PRESENTS THE VETERANS AND THE RISING STARS OF LOS ANGELES'S PUNK ROCK SCENE. HERE, LINDA RAMONE, WIDOW TO JOHNNY RAMONE, LOOKS BACK ON A LIFE OF RUMOURS, REBELLION, AND ROCK-AND-ROLL WITH ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL BANDS IN MUSIC HISTORY

Photography: Hedi Slimane

Text: Natasha Stagg

I’ve heard that your house has themed rooms.

LINDA RAMONE Yes, well, when we lived in the city, Johnny and me, and while we lived in our one bedroom in Chelsea, waiting for Johnny to retire, to get a house one day, we would sit in the apartment and go, “When we move, and Johnny retires, we’re gonna have a theme house.” Because we were both collectors—we collected movie posters; Johnny collected baseball stuff, he was heavy into collecting and having a lot of hobbies, which kept everyone sane. So, Johnny decided it was enough with the Ramones and we were gonna retire and we were gonna move to L.A. because Rob Zombie convinced us to. We always liked L.A. because of the weather, but they convinced us, Rob and Sheri [Moon Zombie]. We came out here and we rented a house. The first time we walked in, we walked into the middle of the house and we went, “Elvis room.” Because we always knew we were gonna have an Elvis room. Still have the Elvis room. And now we have a horror room, we have a rock’n’roll room, we have a Disney room… every room is a theme room. We patterned outside, though, like the Beverly Hills Hotel. Beverly Hills Hotel meets Disneyland.

It’s cool that you’re the expert on punk rock, yet you have your own style that’s really glam.

LR Yeah, I think of myself more as the Princess of Punk. I got my idea of wearing tiaras from the Disney princesses. That’s why they call me POP at the office. It’s nice. I did grow up liking glam, of course. My favorite group was the Dolls, the New York Dolls. Growing up, I didn’t get to go into the city when the Dolls were playing until their last leg. I caught the first day of punk, though. But, you know, you always want the generation before, that you missed. So, I was totally into T. Rex, Alice Cooper, you know, and I still am. Like, I listen to glitter rock, punk rock, and the British invasion.

That’s what most people that were at the CBGB shows were listening to, right? Before they started doing their own stuff.

LR Oh, yeah, I mean the Ramones, Johnny went to see the New York Dolls and dressed up in glitter. He got all his stuff from [vintage store] Granny Takes a Trip. Because the Ramones, they’re totally into the Dolls. Tommy Ramone convinces Johnny and Joey and Dee Dee that Middle America, they were never gonna catch on to glitter rock because guys cannot fit into spandex. You have to weigh like 120 pounds to wear spandex, otherwise you’re out of shape, and overweight, and you don’t look good. So Johnny and Dee Dee and Joey, everybody was into glam rock, but the vision of the Ramones was leather jackets, T-shirts, ripped jeans, and sneakers. And it felt like it was more universal—everyone everywhere could wear that. So that was the whole thing about the Ramones. And you know, the chains on the jacket, I mean, they started the ripped jeans thing. You know how many ripped jeans I see a day now?

So, whose idea was it?

LR Oh, Johnny was already wearing a leather jacket. The ripped jeans, all of them started wearing the jeans cause they just wore out. I mean, nobody ever cut their jeans for a rip. You look at all the early Ramones photos you see that the jeans are all torn in Joey’s knees and Johnny’s knees because their knees are too big, you know. And that’s it. And do you know, the whole time they were in the band, no one ever gave them a free pair of jeans or a free leather jacket, ever? Isn’t that crazy? Now I go out every day and I see all these people with ripped jeans and I’m like, Oh, okay, you know, it’s some sort of fashion thing now. But then I think, a store ripped your jeans for you? I don’t know—that’s kind of sad.

How did the [2012] story on your house in Harper’s Bazaar come about?

LR I’m friendly with [editor-in-chief] Glenda Bailey. Glenda came to the house. Glenda’s super into punk rock. She’s seen the Ramones; she’s seen the Clash; she’s seen everybody, Glenda and [Stephen Sumner], they went to punk rock clubs—I mean, she’s a punk, a true punk. So, she came to my house to visit and she decided to do a story on me.

You just have the most eclectic friend group. I was reading an interview between you and Henry Rollins, in which you described the fight between Joey and Johnny over you. You said that the fight was about your friendship more than having you as a girlfriend.

LR Oh, yeah, I mean, when I was dating Joey, Johnny became my best friend. So, with that, it’s always strange having a best friend as a guy, because there’s always somewhat more to it. I mean they become their best friend because you really like them. Whenever you see people say, Oh, that’s my best friend, you always kind of think, Well, then why aren’t you together? That’s kind of how it is. But, the truth is, everybody thinks Johnny and Joey hated each other until the end, but Joey would send Johnny Christmas cards. Yeah, okay, they were a little bit separated. Yeah, true, it was because of what happened with me and Joey and Johnny. But the truth is they stayed together in the band until the end. So, am I a Yoko Ono? The band never broke up. Okay, yeah, it made it more stressful, but the Ramones were stressful anyway. Being in the same band with the same people year after year, there’s no way you can get along. There’s just no way. Everybody has musical differences, too. Joey wanted a hit single. Johnny decided he didn’t care. Johnny didn’t want to change the sound of the Ramones. Joey liked to experiment more. Their argument was more about that than me. I’m not saying I had nothing to do with it, but it was more about that.

So was it Joey’s idea then, to get Phil Spector to produce End of the Century?

LR Well, it was Phil Spector’s idea to get Phil Spector, honestly. He was a huge Ramones fan, but a bigger Joey Ramone fan. At that point I was with Joey, so I was at the studio every day with Joey with Phil. And Phil, he loved Joey. I mean, he thought Joey was the male version of Ronnie Spector. So we’d go to the house and he’d sit at the piano and start singing love songs to Joey. “I love you so much Joey, you’re so tall…” It was like, a lot. It was crazy. Phil was crazy every day. That was the problem. I mean, Phil—I don’t know what he was on, but believe me, whatever was in his soda can, it wasn’t Fresca, that was for sure. Johnny just hated End of the Century because he hated the guitar sounds. The Ramones aren’t even on “Baby, I Love You”—none of them are, except Joey’s singing it. That day, everyone left and went back to New York. The only ones who stayed behind were Joey and me. And Joey sang “Baby, I Love You” with all of Phil’s friends. So it was like Joey’s solo single. No Ramone is on it. Dee Dee’s not on it, Marky’s not on it, Johnny’s not on it. Johnny doesn’t play on “Baby, I Love You” either—it’s all strings. So it’s Joey’s solo single. Phil would always be more into Joey…You know, everyone always wants to pull away the singer. But Joey never left and Joey would’ve never left the Ramones to go solo. Their destiny was to be together. But it was actually Joey and Johnny who stayed together. Dee Dee left, and then he got replaced. So I really don’t know how you could hate each other that much if you stayed together the whole entire time. A lot of things happen throughout your career in a band. People grow apart. I don’t think there’s that much love between Mick and Keith. They stay together now because they can tour and make a lot of money but how much can you like each other after being together that long anyway?

We ran an interview with Lisa Marie Presley in V[88, 2014], and she said that you, Eddie Vedder, Rob Zombie, Pete Yorn, and Steve Jones were in the room when Johnny died. Are the quotes on Johnny’s gravestone from all the people that were in that room?

LR Yes. But there were other people in the room like Rob Zombie’s wife Sheri and Lisa’s husband [Michael] Lockwood. But the people on the stone are really all of Johnny’s best friends that stayed. The whole time he was sick they were here all the time. Like Lisa, I think Lisa came to see Johnny the most in the hospital. She’d come every day. I would leave to go home and feed the cats and take care of whatever I had to do at home and she’d sit with Johnny so he wouldn’t be alone. She sat there every day. Lisa was one of Johnny’s best friends and I still see Lisa all the time. I think we introduced Lisa to Nic[olas] Cage. They met at a birthday party at the house, at Ramones Ranch. And Rob and Sheri were here every day, and John Frusciante and Vincent Gallo. Vincent was Johnny and my best friend for about three years in New York City. We had dinner together probably three nights a week. I’d cook for Johnny and Vincent three nights a week.

Do you listen to new music and do you hear the Ramones in it?

LR I don’t hear any new music that sounds kind of like the Ramones now. Maybe there are punk bands, or bands that are underground, but I don’t think there is an underground anymore because of iTunes and Instagram and everything. Everything is out in the open. So I haven’t really seen a scene since grunge. Hedi said there are surf bands that he likes. But I don’t really go out to many clubs anymore. J.D., the person I’m with now—I’ve been with J.D. for years, since Johnny died—he does cool music. It’s back to the ’60s, a little Todd Rundgren, a little Beatles; he’s influenced by a whole bunch of stuff. But, he has his own sound. For me to go see somebody play it usually has to be a friend playing. I don’t really go see new bands with anybody at this point because there are no clubs. But I think the Ramones are more influential in the look. Do you go out and see any new bands like the Ramones?

Not anymore. I think you’re right: there aren’t scenes. A lot of people are making music all by themselves in their bedroom on a computer.

LR Yeah, which is fine, but, you know, it’s not the same. At one point, oh my God, if you go back to even like, the Misfits, early Misfits—I hadn’t heard the Mistfits in so long and we were at John Frusciante’s house and he was playing the Misfits and I jut realized how much they sounded like the Ramones. It was like, Whoa, wait a minute, this is funny. There are no more bands like that because I don’t think there are any clubs to play anymore. God, the last club that had stuff like that was Coney Island High, and that was a long time ago in the City. Like, even the Whiskey. L.A. I feel is not punk rock at all, really. L.A. is more hair metal, to me, which I’m not a big fan of. Ugh, hair metal, I don’t like it at all. I don’t hate it like I hate rap—I don’t listen to rap at all, but it’s just not my thing. I don’t see a punk scene starting again. But maybe it will, you never know. See, that’s the thing about punk. Because it never got fully huge and exploited, it always comes back out and it’s new. It never hit mainstream. Like, Green Day might’ve hit mainstream but it was for a short period of time and it wasn’t a whole scene. There’s always room for punk to come back. It never got to a point when it’s not cool to like the Ramones and it never will because the Ramones are the coolest band. No matter what. Even with T-shirts. Giving kids T-shirts, kids don’t wanna wear the Who or Led Zeppelin. They don’t get it. But no one ever says they don’t wanna wear a Ramones shirt. The music is for everybody. The music is for young kids, old kids, the music’s universal. Each year we get bigger and bigger because the music—they’re just great songs. All the songs are great.

Do you ever just want to talk about something else [other than the Ramones]?

LR Never. No, never. I do Ramones and I do Johnny Ramone Army. You know, I came up with Johnny Ramone Army, and so I’m president of the Johnny Ramone Army, and that keeps me busy. No, I could do it every day. You know what was funny? The other day I went to the Grammy Museum, because I’m thinking that the next step after New York, if we do a museum with the Ramones, it would come out to LA. And the Grammy Museum is looking into it, wanting to be partners and everything, and I went to the Frank Sinatra opening, because I love Frank Sinatra. I love the Rat Pack. What Italian doesn’t love Frank Sinatra? I listen to Frank Sinatra Sirius all the time in the car. But when they took my photo and then asked me about Frank Sinatra, it was awful. For a moment, I was frozen. I was like, “Oh wow, I love Frank Sinatra and I listen to the radio station all the time.” I couldn’t think because I realized then that all I talk about is the Ramones. I looked at J.D. and I go, “Did I sound okay?” He goes, “Well, you got off to a slow start.” And it’s only because I’m constantly—the Ramones, I could talk about in my sleep. When it’s your life, it’s so easy to talk about it. Talking about Phil Spector, I was there every day, so of course it’s gonna be easy. And I was never on drugs. I never took drugs, ever. So it’s easy to have stories because all you do is repeat what happened to you in your life. So now all of a sudden, I walked away and I thought, Oh my God, there were so many good things I could say about Frank Sinatra. I’m a huge fan! It was the first time out in public when I wasn’t talking about the Ramones. It’s just really weird.

You’re the last one talking about them too, so you have the added pressure of keeping it alive.

LR Well, we have other people that were in the band later on, but they’re not original members and I don’t really talk to any of them. Not because I didn’t, it’s just the way it worked out with them. I think what happens is when you’re a replacement and you’re not in the original line up, I think you always want to be more important than you actually are. And that becomes a problem. And you try to get along with everyone the best you can, but it doesn’t really work because they always want more than it is. The original line up is the original line up. Without Tommy, without Johnny, without Joey, without Dee Dee, there is no Ramones. I mean, you can’t say that about the other ones. Without Marky, without C.J., without Richie, you would’ve just had a different Ramones.

And without you?

LR Well, I inspired some good songs, so that’s good. And the truth is, I love doing Ramones.

And you never wanted to be part of the band?

LR Nuh-uh. Yeah, no, I wasn’t meant to do that.

Did you ever try playing music?

LR Never. I grew up in Queens. I was lucky to get out of my bedroom. It took me years to get out of Queens to go into the City. I had to meet people. I wrote on my high school desk all the time, “I love the New York Dolls.” And then, finally, I met this girl who called herself Ollie Ronson, and she wrote to me, “Let’s meet after school.” And when she met me, she was disappointed because she was in 12th grade and I was in 9th grade. But she still hung out with me, and she took me into the City for the first time. And she knew the New York Dolls cause she was already going into the City and going out.

You do a Johnny Ramone tribute every year at Hollywood Forever.

LR Yep, and Henry Rollins and Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols are the first two people I asked to do stuff for me. People always think that Henry is intimidating but I feel really comfortable with him. Henry does a lot—almost everything I would want and ask of him. He always does everything, and Jonesy too. I guess—because Johnny was very intimidating to people—I get along with that type of person very well and they never felt intimidating to me.

John Frusciante and Rob Zombie seem intimidating, too.

LR Yeah, I think I like that type of personality maybe. I never felt that way with Johnny ever. I was never intimidated, obviously. The first thing he said to me was, “He's in the back,” and I said, “Not for much longer.” So I think that started me and him off right away. And then Joey, I remember sitting in the back with Joey and I go, “I don't want to sit in this row. I don't like this row. This is the last row. I want sit in the first row.” And he goes, “No, that's John's row.” Then I go, “No, you're the singer. What do you mean you're sitting in the back row?” And he goes, “No, no, no, that that's Johnny's row.” I was like, “Okay.” Before the end of that tour, I’d moved to the second row. I couldn't get Johnny out of his row, but I definitely moved up from the last row. Who would want to sit in the last row of the van? It was freezing cold. It was awful, the last row. But Joey was totally different. Joey was quiet. Quiet and more romantic, definitely. He we always writing me love songs, which was really nice, but you know what? Johnny fell in love with me and that was it. And Joey knew it, and there was no way—that was it. As Joey said, “Johnny gets what Johnny wants.” But there was never a moment in Joey's mind he would have had to leave the band, and he never wanted to do that. The band came first, always, with all of us. And I do think Joey thought he'd find someone else. He had a couple other girlfriends, but he never got married. I probably would have stayed with Joey if that didn't happen with Johnny, but you know what? I 'm in my twenties at that point. You don't really know what's going on then. You do, but you don't think about it. I thought about how Anita left Bryan for Keith. Don't forget that Bryan left the band. I didn't really think that one out. I thought it would be easy, but it wasn't really that easy.

So, now you’re in L.A., and all your crazy friends come to the Ramones Ranch…

LR It's funny—you come out to L.A. and you just meet everybody. L.A. has like, three different circles. And it kind of seems like the same people, everybody knows each other in a way. It always comes around to another circle. And they all kind of intertwine out here. That's what it seems. It’s different in New York because you could live uptown, downtown…Here, I don't know, maybe it's just the circle I'm in. It's either you're connected to music or you you're connected to the movies. Somehow, because we came out here, Johnny and me, for some reason—maybe because of Vincent—we were connected to the movies. And I was friends with Sofia Coppola in New York. That’s how we met Nic Cage, at one of Sophia's parties. We became immediately friendly with Nic and hung out with him all the time.

You really have a fascinating life.

LR It's definitely interesting. And there's nothing worse than boring.

Credits: PRODUCTION KIM POLLOCK AND YANN RZEPKA DIGITAL TECHNICIAN ALEX THEMISTOCLEOUS (MILK STUDIOS)  PHOTO ASSISTANTS FRANK TERRY, MATT HARTZ, JAMES PERRY RETOUCHING DTOUCH  EQUIPMENT MILK STUDIOS  LOCATION QUIXOTE STUDIOS  CATERING FOOD LAB

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The 2016 CFDA Awards Nominees