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Irving Plaza, New York, USA 19.05.04 (Marky Ramone, Arturo Vega, Mickey Leigh, Bradford Sussman)

The Ramones made their name by hustling the streets of New York and playing in any old dive that would put up with their tattered, black leather jackets and long, unruly hair. Oh, and they happened to make some of the most simplistic, insane and beautiful music ever, with genius songs such as “Teenage Lobotomy” and “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue”. Now down to just two surviving original members, the group is getting its due. Aside from its recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, bands such as “Red Hot Chili Peppers”, “Metallica” and U2 come together on the long-awaited “We’re a Happy Family: A Tribute to the Ramones”. Nice timing, music industry. We spoke with the band's resident Republican, Johnny Ramone, 51, at his Los Angeles home.

— Are you retired?
— Oh, yeah.

— What do you do all day?
— What do I do all day? When I’m not doing this? I feel like I’m busy all day, and I don’t have anything to do. I do some things around the house, watch a movie, ride around with my wife, meet friends for dinner, have people over at night and watch a movie in my movie room. We do that quite often. I have a big movie collection, a few thousand films.

— Do you have an old film projector?
— Everything is DVD, and we have tapes and laser discs and things like that. I do have a projector, but I haven’t taken it out in a few years.

— How much of your royalties did you blow on eBay?

— Not much. I spend time online checking out ESPN and certain things like that. I’m a movie collector, so I’ll be on eBay looking at movie posters.

— I heard you collect everything.
— I was collecting baseball cards from the time I was a kid to about 1980, and then around that time I started collecting autographed photos. I accumulated like 6,000 autographed photos of different ballplayers. So it was a big collection. But now I focus on my movie poster collection. I still collect some autographed team balls.

— Is your house a dump?
— No. Everything is very, very neat. I have a lot of stuff, but everything is neat. I have an Elvis Presley room that is all Elvis collectibles. I’m good friends with Lisa Marie Presley.

— What was her contribution to the Elvis room?

— Lisa Marie gave me a framed Elvis credit card and this past birthday she gave me an Elvis Presley check and a firearms transaction. So now I add authentic pieces to go around the junk.

— Do you have a “Ramones” room?

— No. For the first few years I was saving the stuff, and I kept it all nice. And then I just started trading it away to fans or giving it away.

— Are you nuts?

— I just thought it would mean more to them than it would to me. It was sitting in a box in my house, but they would put it up on the wall and frame it.

— But that’s your life.
— Your life is what you remember. I mean, some things I wish I still had. But it doesn’t matter. I have a friend who collects “Ramones” stuff, and he always trades me serial-killer stuff for the “Ramones” stuff. So I had my Rock and Roll Hall of Fame speech, and he traded me a Richard Ramirez drawing for the speech.

— That’s a fair trade. Do you hate living in the past?
— No, it’s all part of the job. It’s always what’s best for the “Ramones” with me.

— Did you ever feel like you were the only sane person in the room with the “Ramones”?
— Oh, yeah. Yeah. Until C.J. got in the band. He was sane, so that helped.

— Do you think each of the “Ramones” thought he was the only sane person in the room?
— No. I think they knew they were a little nuts.

— How can you be sane and Republican?
— Right. Sometimes I think I’m the only sane person around, which makes me think I’m really nuts.

— What about your bleeding-heart liberal friend Eddie Vedder?

— Eddie is such a nice, sweet guy. We’ve been close friends for about eight years. We can be on opposite ends on everything and no one gets mad.

— What do you miss about the “Ramones”?
— I don’t miss it. I did it for 22 years. At a certain point I was able to step away and say, “I’m still loving this, but I don’t need to be working”. I shouldn’t be letting kids see me past my prime. For a few months, there was a little withdrawal. But I just stepped away, and that was it. I got rid of all my equipment so I wouldn’t even be tempted. At this point, I have to think about it to even remember it.

— But you haven’t cut your hair.
— No, I haven’t. I don’t know what else to do. I keep discussing it with my wife for the past six years. But we can’t really figure out what change to make.

— Well, good luck with that.
— Did we cover enough about the tribute record?

Aidin Vaziri, www.sfgate.com

 
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