The Importance of Being a Ramone

Page 4 of 4

'They are very, very nice boys," says Joey's mother, Charlotte, as she serves me milk and cookies one afternoon in the pleasant East Village apartment she shares with, her second husband, a psychologist.

A slim, attractive woman in her late forties, the former Mrs. Noel Hyman is an accomplished artist and an avid collector, as evidenced by the tasteful arrangements of paintings that cover every wall of her home.

"Forest Hills is a very conservative, conventional place. I think we were the black-sheep household of our street," Charlotte muses. "It was a meeting place for both of my boys' friends because we also had the basement there open to them, and there was always a lot of music going on.

"You know, they taught me how to smoke pot when they were about thirteen. I realized they were doing something down there, and I didn't want them to do it outside where they could be busted."

Did Joey's father ever smoke pot with the boys?

"I don't think so," she says evenly. "I don't think he would like to hear that I allowed them to do it at home, either. But at that time we were divorced."

Was the house basement also a haven for glue sniffing?

"Not that I know of," she says with a laugh, "but I'm sure there were things that they did that I didn't know about. It's very possible. The little devils tried everything."

It appears her tolerance was as unique as her sons' behavior. Was she upset when Joey quit school to play his music?

"Uh huh. Naturally, like any good Jewish mother, I would have wanted my son to finish high school and go to college."

Does she recall any early songs that Joey wrote and showed to her?

"He showed me everything, but there were so many. I know they all had that little anger in them and I thought it was a great release for him to get it all out of his system."

Where does she think that anger came from?

"Naturally, it was anger against his parents. Probably his father more than me," she adds with a nervous chuckle. "When he'd come upstairs from the basement after playing the drums, I used to say to him, 'You just beat the hell out of me, didn't you?' He'd say, 'Yeah."'

Is Charlotte a Ramones fan?

"Don't you know I'm known as Momma Ramone?" she asks, a little hurt. "I really like them. I guess I have to confess that the first album sounded a little strange and unprofessional, but I caught the energy and I found that fascinating."

Does Joey/Jeffrey ever speak to her about his career?

"No, nothing in particular. Occasionally he lets me read some of his fan mail; all these little girls from all over the country writing to him, telling him they're madly in love with him and that they can't wait to see him.

"And then he gets these propositions," she confides breathlessly, "from forty-year-old women who want his fair body. I think he gets a charge out of that."

A long time ago I used to get drunk and hang out a lot around mental institutions, because the girls there are all loose and they are . . . fun, you know?" Joey tells me later that evening, by way of detailing the parameters of his love life. "So I kind of fell in love with this girl, and every week they took her upstairs to the fifth floor to have shock treatments. They would strap her into a wheelchair. Before they took her up she was fine. Then she came down and she was like a zombie and didn't even know who I was."

"Have you seen her since?" I wonder.

"No. She turned into a real alcoholic. I think that's what happens to you when you have a lobotomy. You have to escape all the time."

"A lot of what you've experienced is recounted in the band's songs," I tell him. "Johnny told me earlier that when you guys were growing up, you could never get any dates with girls."

"Well," Joey explains, "there's a lot of people that really get into being in high school; they go to dances and all that shit. I always hated those people. At that time you didn't really get much – nobody really had any girlfriends and there was just like one Brooklyn chick, named Lois, that everyone was going to and she'd give me a blow job down in the basement.

"Everyone would go there on a Friday night and the guys would line up. She was also the kind of chick that was hideous looking. She was about twenty-seven and, well, it was very hard to get her to fuck. So I'd turn her on to LSD and shit like that."

"Sounds very romantic," I offer.

"Oh yeah," he laughs. "I used to like, on Sundays, take her to my house. At that time I was living with my mom. It was very rough trying to get her down the street to my house without anyone seeing."

"Ever have a long-term romantic relationship?"

"I never had any, like, ones with girls that really liked me. Most of them were short term. These days we get a lot of weirdos coming to a show. We get all these kids who are loners."

With their fortunes currently on the upswing, the Ramones are sure to attract a lot more lost souls. Road to Ruin is the group's biggest-selling album, with worldwide sales just above the 250,000 mark. But the real breakthrough for this beleaguered band has been in concert bookings; the Ramones have made significant strides in landing lucrative gigs since signing an agreement with the powerful Premier Talent. The deal, Danny Fields points out, was made on the same day that Elvis died, and it's just now paying off, with the Ramones finally opening for big acts like Black Sabbath.

In addition, the group recently completed the starring role in a Roger Gorman film tentatively titled Rock & Roll High School. An epic that concludes with the student body blowing up the school building, the movie is slated for spring or summer release, along with a soundtrack album that – barring legal complications – will include a song by Paul McCartney (a big hero of Johnny's) and Wings, originally written for Heaven Can Wait, called "Have We Met Somewhere Before?"

But all these exciting developments raise an inevitable question: Will success spoil the Ramones?

"Well, it's all a game," says Johnny, "but you gotta play to win. We're gonna do it our way though, 'cause we don't wanna disappoint our fans."

"Like, it's weird, you know?" says Joey. "We're very influential. Once when we played in Minneapolis, I think, there were all these kids in the club and everybody was tripping on LSD or something. And they all started banging their heads against the floor, just like in the song ["Suzy Is a Headbanger"]. All of them; it was like, really sick. About 300 people were there."

"Maybe some of your fans will send you their heads when they're done banging them?"

"That would be great," says Joey with a wry chuckle. "It would spruce up my bathroom."

This story is from the February 8th, 1979 issue of Rolling Stone.

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