Linda Ramone clearly remembers meeting her future husband. “The first time I got in the van, he told me, ‘Uh, your row’s the last row,’” Linda Ramone remembers of the first words Johnny Ramone said to her. “I said, ‘Not for long.’ We started off on that foot and we stayed that until his last day. That’s what made our relationship so special, because it was always give and take on both sides.”
Linda Ramone, who was with Joey Ramone at the time, would become fast friends with Johnny. The two began surreptitiously dating in the early ’80s, and wouldn’t separate until his 2004 death. Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone (out now) details the pair’s relationship, many years of inter-band drama, Johnny’s friendships with Eddie Vedder and Lisa Marie Presley, and all the many, many people who irritated the Ramones guitarist. It’s imminently readable, a must-have for any Ramones fan, and comes complete with myriad photos (see gallery), a Johnny-penned album-by-album report card of the band’s discography, and a series of top 10 lists (Example: Favorite Republicans). MTVHive called up Linda Ramone to talk about her relationship with Johnny, the impetus for the book, and what it’s like taking care of the punk legend’s legacy.
How awkward was your transition from Joey to Johnny?
When it’s your life, and you’ve living through it, you don’t think about it. At that point, I’m 21-years-old, I’m gonna leave Joey. Johnny falls in love with me out of nowhere. Nobody expected that. Johnny probably didn’t expect it either, but he was always looking for someone that had everything. That’s why he would see his ex-wife and the girlfriend at the same time. It’s hard to find one special person that has everything. I think for some odd reason, he felt that I was that one special person. Johnny always gets what Johnny wants. And that’s what happened.
He’s very honest in the book, like he’s not afraid to say anything.
That’s how Johnny was throughout his whole life. That’s why when he was dying, he was like, “Linda, I’m not going to be around to protect you, so you better be really careful, because anyone who ever wants to get me back is gonna go for you now.” The last couple months Johnny was dying, we woke up every morning and we discussed everything that was going to happen. He warned me about everything that was going to happen.
What kind of things did he predict?
Just the lawsuits from different people who didn’t like him, wanted to get him back. That’s ridiculous. It was Joey and Johnny’s van. They’re in it from beginning to the end. I’m not saying Tommy didn’t have an important part. The replacement drummers, though, the other bass players, that’s a little different… The sound and the look of the band is what makes the Ramones so special, and that came from the four of them — Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, Tommy.
Can you tell me about the photo of you and Johnny sitting in Elvis Presley’s jungle room?
Lisa Marie [Presley] was one of Johnny’s closest friends, and she’s still one of my closest friends. She took us on a vacation to Graceland. When the nighttime came, she had all the cooks that were left from Elvis’ time come in and cook for all of us. If you go visit Graceland, all the gates are up and you can’t go into the jungle room. She had all the gates down, and we’re actually sitting in Elvis’ chair in the jungle room, hanging out with Lisa Marie. Johnny said it was his favorite vacation of all time.
In the epilogue, Lisa Marie describe the day Johnny died as “incredulous, fantastic, and macabre,” detailing how you, her, Eddie Vedder, John Frusciante, Vincent Gallo, Steve Jones, Pete Yorn and Rob Zombie were with him for hours, “… even sitting around him while watching the coverage on the news that he had passed away.” How did that come about?
Oh, that was Johnny. He was super sick and he knew he had to let go. By the time everybody came over, Johnny was sleeping in his green chair. He could hear everything that was going on because he was on oxygen, and everybody was surrounding him, telling stories. Until the moment he died, everybody was sitting around, and then when he died, we just all started telling stories. That was really sad, but exactly how Johnny would have wanted it — me and every one of his friends around him.