No, I do not think it's cliché to say the Ramones are your favorite band (or at least one of your faves). I think it's honest. Most modern-day rockers can agree, we'd be nowhere today without the Ramones blissfully raucous and sublimely simple songs. The Ramones' infamous 3-chord face-melters paved the way for lots of us, making us believe that we too could start a band.
They made music accessible and honest. They gave the kids some power. So it's no wonder that rockers far and wide make a point of visiting the grave site of Johnny Ramone at Hollywood Forever cemetery while in Los Angeles.
I am no different. After several visits to LA I figured it was high time I paid my respects. I begged my friend Stephanie to take me to the infamous cemetery in search of rock gods. It really wasn't hard to convince her, she knew it was a trip we had to make. Unfortunately, neither of us are smart about time, and LA is tricky in the winter! See, it's warm so it's really confusing when it gets dark at 5:30pm. Regardless we were determined.
We arrived at Hollywood Forever just as the sun was setting. Not exactly the best timing but it certainly upped the creepy factor. The closed exit gate indicated that the cemetery was in fact closed to the public but since the entrance gate was slightly opened, we decided to enter anyways. We knew the guard had seen us attempt to sneak past him and would be after us in a minute but it didn't matter. We were on a mission, a mission from God-- or at least Legs McNeil--one of the two.
With a speed limit of 5MPH and low post-sunset visibility we started out creeping through the cemetery, windows down and eyes peeled, in search of Johnny.
I was told we wouldn't be able to miss his grave but as we raced against the clock it seemed hopeless to find him amongst the headstones. Pssh. I was wrong, it was super easy. There it was, the "Avenue of Stars" section of the cemetery, and there he was, Johnny Ramone greeting all who enter.
His grave is larger than life and in no way modest. I like that, it makes it impossible to forget, just like the words to "I Wanna Be Sedated." And sort of indicitive of his personality in life, cocky but right.
Just as we pulled over to the side of the road to snap a photo of the shrine, the cemetery security guard caught up with us in his golf cart [don't worry I don't think he broke the 5MPH speed limit and therefore didn't run over any ghosts--that we know of]. Stephanie batted her eyelashes at him and asked if we could just snap a photo. He reluctantly agreed. I added "We're sort of on a pilgrimage" to which he replied "Ha! Ok then." And drove away leaving us alone with the rock n roll icon.
Though Johnny has never been my favorite Ramone, ever [that space is reserved for Dee Dee with an honorable mention to Marky Ramone who may be the coolest American punk rocker ever. I mean, he was in the Ramones and the Voidoids! C'mon!] seeing his resting place felt right. And breaking into a cemetery to see it felt even more right. When you're in LA, do yourself a favor a say hello to your inspirations, you owe it to yourself.
As we slowly drove out of the cemetery, we felt fulfilled. We also noticed a large collection of exotic birds that apparently live there. Oh, if only we'd come in daylight! The security guard was waiting for us by the exit, he waved goodbye and locked the gate behind us.
Steph and Johnny!
post script: Dee Dee is buried there as well but given the circumstances we were not able to visit him. There's always next time!
All photos compliments of the author