By Hillel Aron
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By Jill Stewart
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Ramones tunes blasted over the sound system as people took their seats and purple-permed punk photographer Jenny Lens passed out fliers to promote her Web site. The festivities began 45 minutes later than scheduled, and disc jockey/Sex Pistol Steve Jones was visibly annoyed, pointing to his wrist as if it held a watch.
A group of Johnny’s friends finally appeared from behind a mausoleum. Nicolas Cage waltzed down the steps with his former sushi waitress and current wife, Alice Kim. Lisa Marie Presley (one of Cage’s ex-wives) was with some dude dressed like Kid Rock.
"More than any other band, the Ramones were responsible for the punk and new wave explosion of the mid-1970s," said president of Sire Records Seymore Stein, the first of Ramone’s friends to speak at the podium. Stein, who signed the band in 1975, added that one of Johnny’s last wishes was for Cat Stevens to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Tommy Ramone, the only founding member of the group who is still alive, described growing up with Johnny, playing stickball. "He was murderous," Tommy recalled. "He loved to terrorize the batters, and when he became a guitarist, he transformed his pitching style into his playing technique, amazing Ramones fans with his speed and ferocity."
C.J. Ramone, who joined the band on bass in 1989, was so choked up, he could barely get through his tribute. His eulogy caused a few people in the audience to break into tears.
Cage removed his hot-pink sunglasses and delivered an Oscar-worthy monologue. "[Johnny] willed the Ramones to happen, and he changed the face of rock & roll music forever. Now, it wasn’t just music he influenced; I’m here to tell you that I’ve been ripping Johnny Ramone off in movies for years."
Pete Yorn, John Frusciante and Eddie Vedder (with his baby girl, Olivia, in tow) also spoke, but Vincent Gallo gave a truly Galloesque eulogy, spending more time discussing himself than Johnny and letting everyone know that he only befriended Johnny because he liked Linda. "I knew to be Linda’s friend I had to be friends with Johnny, and he seemed so crotchety and mean and nasty. I’m more avant-garde than Johnny. Of course, I liked the Ramones, but I was more into more arty bands. It wasn’t like I needed to meet Johnny Ramone. I would have preferred the guitar player for Magazine or Ultravox or something."
Then he went on to subtly explain that he was more intelligent than any of Johnny’s friends or family members. "[Johnny] told me that, other than him, I was the smartest person he knew."
Eventually, Gallo stopped, and everyone followed Linda to the statue, from which she removed the velvet draping to reveal the replica of her late husband playing guitar. Prominently displayed in front of a beautiful lake, his likeness was perched on top of a huge stone cube that was engraved with tender and banal words from his wife and friends ("He was a great American and the greatest friend, I love you John —Eddie Vedder").
Rob Zombie explained how the statue came to be. "One of Johnny’s favorite things to do was to keep reminding Linda what a lucky woman she was to be living with a legend. [Impersonating Johnny] ‘Linda, I’m a fuckin’ legend. You’re living in the lap of luxury because of me. Without me, you’re nothing.’ So I thought I’d have my friend Wayne [Toth] sculpt an award that just said, ‘Legend.’ One day we were talking — and at this point Johnny was very sick — we sort of talked about what was inevitably going to happen and about having some sort of headstone or memorial, and I said, ‘Johnny, why don’t you make a giant-sized one of this fucking thing as a joke?’ And now that joke is sitting over there, weighs 50,000 pounds, and it’s made out of bronze."