I met Marky Ramone on Saturday, and I managed not to ask him about falafel.
I am notoriously bad at meeting people I admire. I attribute this mainly to the fact that I’m rather academic when it comes to subjects I like and am quite interested in. I tend to read a lot of books and watch a lot of documentaries and interviews about my favorite topics. I often tell the docents who volunteer at my museum that the key to giving a really engaging museum tour is to become an expert at their favorite aspect of our collection’s focus, and I apply this advice to my own interests tenfold. However, a side effect is that it makes meeting the people at the center of my favorite subjects – such as, say, the Ramones – a bit awkward. It’s as if I know too much about a person I am ostensibly just meeting. Often, my first impulse is to blurt out some completely random thought that has just popped into my head. On the rare occasion when I happen to see a person I admire – famous or otherwise. I’m usually loathe to go up and say “hi” – I don’t want to bother them when they’re “off duty,” or I worry that I’m mistaken and that woman over there who I think is Debbie Harry is actually a harried accountant who just wants to get her freaking five dollar footlong and get back to the office before that stupid marketing girl takes her parking space again. Both factors were at play during the Joey Ramone/Howard Stern/falafel incident, after which I vowed to not be such a weenie anymore. This is how I wound up telling John Waters in excruciating detail, about my college film professor (who was something of a Waters protege) and his creepy snakeskin cowboy boots in a movie theatre lobby once, and then John Waters’ mom patted my wrist and said, “It’s so nice to know that people still think of Johnny.” And then John Waters said it was really nice to meet me, and thanked me for thanking him for being one of my favorite film directors, and I wanted to disappear into a vat of movie theatre popcorn butter.
After that, I mainly hoped that I looked interesting enough that people I admired would want to talk to me, and I wouldn’t have to approach them. This method has worked exactly once. At a horror movie convention. On Gary Busey. Which wasn’t really what I was going for.
I would be meeting Marky Ramone in a formal meet and greet before the Blitzkrieg performance at the Gramercy Theatre in New York on Saturday night, which relieved one of my anxieties. The show was part of a launch party for his new memoir, Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life as a Ramone, and I would be getting a personally autographed copy as part of the meet and greet. While I was waiting in line for my two minute audience, I couldn’t help overhearing a lot of the conversations Marky had with other fans. Mostly a lot of “What’s your name?” and “I’m a huge fan,” etc. Cool. I could do that. I could manage that without going off the rails.
And then it was my turn. I walked over completely prepared to have a normal conversation. Marky cracked open my new book and asked my name so he could autograph it. I told him, and then blurted, “So, was that your Dodge Challenger on Instagram? Or was it just a promotional thing?”
He looked up at me. “It’s mine.”
I said, “Do you love it? I’m in the process of getting one.”
And we were off. We talked about how awesome the movie Vanishing Point is, and he told me he was on the list for a Hellcat. He asked me what kind I was getting. I told him just a plain V6, which would still be the most powerful car I’d ever owned. His manager started making the “wind it up” motion at him, since there was still a line of people out the door, so I obediently started heading out the door. “Get the Redline 3.6!” he yelled after me. “You’re gonna love it!”
So. For once in my life, blurting out the first thing that came to mind paid off.
Another perk of going to the meet and greet? Getting onto the floor before everybody else. I got probably the best spot I have ever had at any concert I have ever been to: on the barrier, right beside the super special VIP seating area.
I was basically Riff Randell.
I was a little apprehensive going into the show. It was the same way I’d initially felt when we went to see Queen with Adam Lambert last summer – after all, Joey, Dee Dee, and Johnny were not going to be there. Was the show going to feel like I was watching a well loved movie on an old TV – basically the same, but a little fuzzy, a little out of focus and ghostly?
Andrew WK was on vocals. We’d caught his set at Riot Fest in September, and had a blast – his show was so high energy and joyous. He seemed like he’d be a good fit, and he was. Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg was electrifying. Andrew WK didn’t try to be Joey Ramone – in some ways, in fact, he was a polar opposite, dressed in his traditional white T-shirt and jeans and eschewing a mic stand completely (also, before the show I saw a ton of pizzas being carried back stage, so one can only assume that the “No pizza for you, Joey!” rule was not in effect). But he got it. He got the humor, and the energy, and the pure joy of being at a Ramones show.
The bassist had the Dee Dee thing down, and the guy on guitar was intense, and completely shredding, but he was obviously having a blast. He did not have that signature Johnny Ramone look on his face that said, “I would seriously like to murder each and every one of you motherfuckers with my bare hands, but I’ve got to play this guitar, so I’m not gonna.” You all know that look.
Being that close, and being able to see Marky Ramone at work, was an amazing experience. It was like taking the back off of a fine Swiss timepiece and seeing all the inner workings ticking away seamlessly. He was so tight and so precise that I wondered how a human being could be that fast and that powerful. The work on the chorus of Chinese Rocks alone was revelatory.
The sold out crowd was a joyous, throbbing, mob scene. And after three encores, I collapsed, sweaty, exhausted, and probably partially deaf. And it was totally worth it. I never got to see the Ramones perform live. Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg is as close as I’m going to get, and it blew completely past my expectations like Kowalski past the Highway Patrol. Thanks to Marky, the Ramones live.
(PS: I did a lot of other really cool stuff in New York. Keep checking back here for more!)