I must drunkenly confess, I'd never attended a spoken word performance until now, so I had not one iota of an idea as to what to expect. But my understandable apprehension soon turned into giddy, childlike excitement and enthusiastic, open-mouthed awe in eager anticipation of Marky Ramone's imminent arrival.
Moments before he made his grand entrance, the "opening act" comedian cued the "Ramones Around the World" video to begin playing. About 15 minutes into it, the mutt-like drummer Ramone ambled up to the podium and launched into an up-close and personal narrative of his topsy-turvy wild ride of a life (visually complemented by a wondrously stunning array of never-before-seen slides featuring photographs from Marky's very own private archives!). As a receptive and appreciative audience, we were treated to rare and precious photographic gems of the brownstone walk-up where Marky was raised; an impish image of him as a toddler; various shots of him as a Ramone standing in the trash-strewn shadows of a Coney Island roller coaster; a colorful assortment of portraits and caricatures of the Ramones as drawn by their loyal, loving fans (including Matt Groening, crazed creator of The Simpsons); and numerous photos of Marky with a diverse variety of celebrities, including Tony Bennett, Cindy Crawford, Julia Roberts, one of the Baldwin brothers, Eddie Vedder, Chris Cornell, Lars Frederiksen, Howard Stern, who just happens to be a very dear friend of the Ramones (Marky informed us that the "King of Shock-Talk Radio" is an affable, low-key, and laidback personality when he's off the air!), and Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen (Marky described Sid as being a polite, quiet, withdrawn English kid until Malcolm McLaren, that vile witch Nancy, and a debilitative heroin addiction all sunk their fatal opportunistic claws into him and transformed him into a raging, out-of-control product of his own publicity).
While the slides were steadily flickering across the ample overhead screen, Marky reminisced and regaled the attentive audience with a veritable firsthand account of his whirlwind life as a Ramone and as an everyday Joe Schmoe, inhabitant of planet Earth. He nostalgically talked about his lack of enthusiasm about studying and school; his earliest musical influences (The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Ronettes, The Crystals, etc.); his first band Dust (one of the members later made a healthy heap of cash by producing a couple of albums for Kiss); his spirited audition as drummer for the New York Dolls (He was roundly rejected because he was too technically proficient for their trash-rock tastes...Enter the unskilled swagger of Jerry Nolan, of course!); his illustrious stint as drummer for Wayne/Jayne County (They played their first ever gig in a staid and sedate Mafia-owned lounge. The cigar-chompin', brandy-swillin' mobsters took particular umbrage to such a noisy and unsightly group of musical miscreants..."What the fuck is this shit?!? Get 'em the fuck outta here!!! Now!"); his brief tenure as drummer for Richard Hell & The Voidoids; and, of course, his many years of hyperactive drumming madness with the Ramones. He spoke candidly of his harrowing addiction to alcohol in the early '80s, which ultimately led to his bein' booted from the Ramones for a few years until he could attain long-term sobriety (By his own admission, he was an alcoholically out-of-control wreck. One of his booze-soaked shenanigans included a blind-drunk blackout while driving his car, which he then proceeded to crash through a furniture store in Brooklyn). He was so sottishly trashed during the filming of Rock'n'Roll High School, he didn't remember any of it until he viewed the movie long after its completion. Also during that time, to add insult to injury, the Ramones were sadistically subjected to the wine-fuelled insanity and tyrannical drunken chaos of Phil Spector during the "End of the Century" sessions...Ouch!!! Thankfully, Marky recovered, and he's proudly been sober now for 16 years.
Next, Marky spoke affectionately of Joey and his sudden, untimely death. Visibly upset and choking on his grief-stricken words at times, Marky endearingly described Joey with the utmost of emotion, admiration, and brotherly love. (Apparently, Marky was the only former Ramone to visit Joey in the hospital during his final days, and he's seemingly harboring a bit of resentment that none of the others bothered to pay their last respects to their inimitable, highly revered front man.) During the Q & A session with the audience at the end of his presentation, Marky informed us about the present status of the remaining Ramones: Johnny's permanently retired; DeeDee's still the same ol' DeeDee; CJ's playin' fairly regularly with his new band, and (surprise, surprise, surprise!) he's happily married to Marky's niece ("we're a happy family," indeed!); and Marky is, of course, completin' his spoken word tour, but he's also touring with Jerry and Doyle (The Misfits) and Dez Cadena and Robo (Black Flag). They're billing themselves as The Misfits, and they're raucously blastin' Ramones/Misfits/Black Flag tunes to the delight of fans all across the country!
After answering a handful of well-thought-out questions, Marky then graciously signed autographs for everyone in attendance (includin' my "End of the Century" LP insert sleeve!). I left Dallas that night with a big ol' crocodile grin crawlin' across my face and a heartfelt deeper appreciation of the Ramones and their upbeat audial originality. I was privileged enough to witness a humorous, captivating, heart-wrenching, and inspirational behind-the-scenes perspective from possibly one of the greatest and most personable drummers of all time. Thanks for the memories, Marky...