It’s been five years since the world lost RAMONES guitarist JOHNNY RAMONE after a long battle with prostate cancer. But the man (born John Cummings) who is still widely regarded as one of the best and most innovative electric guitarists of all time is far from gone. That’s thanks in part to his widow, LINDA RAMONE, with whom he entrusted the preservation of his legacy. For the fifth year now, Linda is throwing a massive celebration for Johnny at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. This year’s event, scheduled for Oct. 3, is actually much more than a tribute to Ramone. It will also feature the world premiere of the 3D version of George Romero’s classic Night Of The Living Dead (one of Ramone’s favorite horror films), a display of Ramones memorabilia and plenty more. We spoke with Linda Ramone about this year’s event, and she says that if you’re unable to make it to L.A. this weekend, you’re missing out on a show that would’ve made Johnny proud.



INTERVIEW: Tim Karan



Did you have any idea when you planned the first tribute that this would become an annual event?

No. What happened was that when Johnny was dying, we decided to have a statue made. The previous Christmas, Rob Zombie had given him a small statue that said, “Legend.” As Johnny got sicker and sicker, we’d always pass by this John Wayne statue and say, “Oh, that’s an amazing statue.” So at one point, when he knew he was dying, he said, “What should we do?” I said, “I don’t know, maybe we should do a statue.” We decided to get Wayne Toth-who did the small statue-to do a life-size bronze statue. But Johnny was alive when all that was going on, so he knew how the statue would eventually look, but he knew he wouldn’t be alive for when the statue would be done. So I said, “When the statue is unveiled, I’ll have all your friends come and talk.” And Johnny loved that. He said, “The most important thing in your lifetime is to keep my legacy alive. I’d love to do it myself, but if I could pick one person in the world to do it, it would be you.” That was such a great honor. The Ramones legacy was the most important thing to him.



Was that a lot of pressure for you?

No, that’s just what I do. Who would want to do anything else? [Laughs.] You’re given Johnny Ramone’s legacy and the legacy of the Ramones, and that’s your job? You couldn’t find a better job in the world aside from being Johnny Ramone.



And that led to the first event.

Right. That turned into the statue unveiling at Hollywood Forever Cemetery because that’s where Dee Dee was buried. The turnout was so great that day–Lisa Marie Presley, Eddie Vedder, Nicolas Cage and John Frusciante and all his closest friends came and made speeches. It went so amazing that Hollywood Forever then approached me to do a Ramones night and show a Ramones movie. But I’d never done any sort of tributes or anything like that. Then I decided to show Rock ’N’ Roll High School. I knew [director] Allan Arkush and [actor] P.J. Soles. They said they would come, then before I knew it, everyone from the movie was coming. It just turned into this big, huge thing. It was just a lot of friends doing little things here and there that turned it into a success. It went over so well that I decided to do it each year and show Rock ’N’ Roll High School. But after the second year I showed it, I decided I had to do something else. So the third year, I started showing Ramones movies and last year, because Johnny was such a horror movie fan, I decided to show a Ramones movie and one of Johnny’s favorite horror films-[1932’s] Freaks. Then this year, Night Of The Living Dead–another one of Johnny’s favorite horror movies–is going to premiere in 3D. That’s why I think this year is so big–it’s the movie premiere plus a Johnny Ramone tribute. And on top of that, any of our friends who are celebrities who are around usually come. Last year, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers introduced the movie and Henry Rollins did it the year before. It’s always cool.







How many fans typically come?

Typically from 1,500 to 2,000 fans. Last year, I think we had almost 3,000. This year, we’re expecting a lot because of Night Of The Living Dead, but also because we’ve got Resident Evil 5 there for people to play in 3D. I’m excited about it.



How excited would Johnny have been to be at this year’s event?

He would love it. He’d be beyond ecstatic. He loved being Johnny Ramone. He would say that I made him go by “Ramone” when he wanted to go by his real name–John Cummings. But Johnny loved hanging out and being in the Ramones. And he loved the fact that the Ramones became legendary. And he’s still around. I know he is. He watches over things because there’s no way he could let it go.



Did he follow modern punk at all?

Not really. We were friends with Green Day, and we’d go see them every once in a while. But when Johnny retired, he retired. Johnny loved punk because it never goes out of style, but he would usually listen to music from the ’50s and ’60s.



How important do you think the Ramones were to punk bands of today?

You can only really go by what people say, and it seems like a lot of people say they influenced them. You can be a really huge band like the Doors, but did they really influence anyone? I don’t know if they did.



There was a lot of animosity within the Ramones over the years that you were sometimes right at the center of. Looking back, are your memories mostly positive?

Well, it was a little strange when I had been dating Joey and then started dating Johnny. I never expected that, but I was 18 at the time and didn’t really know what I was doing. But me and Joey worked it out. I know my story.



Do you ever feel anxiety about the fact that some of your decisions live on in Ramones lore?

Not really. People would always say Johnny and Joey didn’t talk to each other because of it, but that wasn’t true. Honestly, it was their musical differences that came between them. I ain’t saying it helped the situation at all. [Laughs.] But did the Ramones break up because of that? No. It seemed like the only two people who were left at the end were Johnny and Joey. They stayed together to the end. Looking back, it wasn’t the best move on my part. [Laughs.] But stuff happens in a lifetime, and I wouldn’t change any of it. alt



Proceeds of the event benefit prostate cancer research. For more details, click here.