Several of Johnny Ramone’s friends — including Eddie Vedder, Rob Zombie, Pete Yorn, John Frusciante, Anthony Kiedis and Nicolas Cage — gathered at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Friday, January 14th, to unveil a four-feet tall bronze statue of the guitarist, who according to Cage’s speech, “willed the Ramones to happen.”
About a thousand fans gathered for the mid-afternoon ceremony, to hear speeches by many of those closest to Johnny Ramone (whose real name was John Cummings), and to see the $100,000 statue, which Ramone bought himself. “He saw it as something for the fans to come see,” former Ramones’ drummer Tommy Ramone said in the makeshift backstage area of the cemetery just behind a cathedral.
Though it’s been about four months since Johnny Ramone passed away after a long battle with prostate cancer, the day stirred a lot of emotion in his friends, starting with former bandmate C.J. Ramone, who broke down several times as he recalled the influence Johnny had on his life.
Frusicante was also visibly shaken as he recalled his friendship with the guitarist. “Johnny Ramone had an immense heart and was as sweet and kind as can be,” the Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist said from the podium. “No one has ever been consistently kinder to me. The music he made, as well as his thoughts about music will always have a powerful effect on any music I will make.”
Vedder gave one of the most moving speeches, as he opened up to explain the profound influence Johnny Ramone had on him: “He wasn’t just a friend, he was a teacher. I don’t think there’s anyone else I’ve learned as much from in my life, having grown up without a father. I really can’t imagine who I would be today, what my personal makeup would be if it weren’t for the personal relationship I had with John.”
With his wife and baby daughter Olivia sitting in the front row, the Pearl Jam singer became choked up at the end of his toast as he thought about Ramone’s death at the young age of fifty. Referring to the fact Ramone should’ve lived until he was eighty, Vedder said multiple times, “I want those thirty years.”
Rob Zombie, wearing a Ramones T-shirt, explained how the statue came to be. “Every Christmas trying to find Johnny a gift was impossible,” he said. “So I thought what I would do is have my friend Wayne [Toth] sculpt an award that just said ‘legend,’ and I would present it to him at Christmastime.” Zombie then recalled how, as a joke, he suggested to Ramone that he make a giant version of the award. “Now this joke is sitting over there. It weighs 50,000 pounds, and it’s made of bronze.”
Following a speech by actor/musician Vincent Gallo, Ramone’s widow, Linda, led everyone to the statue for its unveiling.
Lisa Marie Presley, who did not speak during the ceremony, told Rolling Stone that Ramone would’ve loved all the attention. “This statue was really important to him,” she said. “When we drove up and I saw the cars, the people, the cameras and the fans, I went, ‘Johnny would be happier than a pig in slop right now. He’s just grinning like there’s no tomorrow.'”