The article below first appeared in The Alchemist, a weekly arts and entertainment newspaper in Corvallis, Oregon.
 It is also a chapter from my forthcoming book, Chief - The Questionable Recollections and Slow Maturity of a Baby-Boomer.

The Ramones
by Joe Fulton

Everyone has a brush or two with fame.  I have seen and met a lot of famous people, including six U.S. Presidents, but few stories seem to impress young people more than the fact that I once partied with The Ramones.

Soul music was my bag and I never needed a brand new one.  My older brothers introduced me to Motown and to Aretha, James Brown, Sly Stone and The Young Rascals. Hooked so completely I would listen to nothing else.  So when I met The Ramones in 1977 I knew virtually nothing about them.  Before that night I had never even heard one of their songs.

My brother Chuck spent the murky 1970s in Seattle, San Francisco and New York City where he mixed in easily with the emerging punk scene.  His best friend went by the unlikely name of Tomata du Plenty.  Tomata was the animated front man for a wildly original and primal punk band from LA called The Screamers.  Google Tomata.  Even in death he is still a scream.

Chuck was also a friend with members of The Cockettes and Ze Whiz Kidz, outrageously satirical performance troupes that tried their best to shock the unfazed. He knew members of several bands including Blondie and The Manhattan Transfer and when he moved to New York City he became friends with a young musician who went by the stage name of Dee Dee Ramone.

Chuck was back home in August of 1977 when The Ramones came to perform in downtown Portland’s historic Paramount Theatre (formerly and now once again the Portland Theatre).  I was living in Corvallis at the time but I agreed to see the band with Chuck and one of his friends out of sheer curiosity.  He assured me that I would be impressed.  Stunned would have been a better verb.  

The Ramones performance was like sprinting a marathon.   Fast and frenzied, they would end a song and began another on the very next beat.  I don’t believe the concert lasted much more than an hour but I doubt that anyone felt cheated.  The audience was exhilarated.  The Ramones were spent.  

As we departed through the grand lobby of the Paramount Chuck asked me to wait outside while he tried to get backstage to see the band.  Based upon the hysteria of the young fans all around us I thought Chuck would be turned away.  Several minutes passed before he rejoined us out on Broadway Street.  He said we were to pick up the Ramones at their hotel.

About a half hour later we pulled up to the Continental Hotel and casually waiting on the sidewalk, wearing leather jackets and ripped up blue jeans and looking exactly like the cover of one of their albums, were Dee Dee, Joey, Johnny and Tommy Ramone.  

Three of us were already in the compact car but all four Ramones managed to squeeze in with us.  Dee Dee took over the front passenger seat and Chuck, a diminutive man, sat on his lap.  Tommy, Johnny & Joey crammed into the backseat with me.  Who knew that The Ramones would soon have limos waiting for them?  Joey Ramone, who was sitting right next to me, was so lanky that he had to hunch over.  His long hair and dark sunglasses helped hide his somewhat homely face.  I got the distinct impression that he was shy.  Dee Dee was lively and all four men were polite.  Certainly not the rough, mean punks depicted through their music.

Chuck’s friend, the driver of the car, knew some local punks who were throwing a post concert party in Northwest Portland so that is where we went.  It was instantly apparent that none of the partygoers were expecting The Ramones to drop by. The young Portland area punks tried to act cool but it was clear that most were ready to wet their pants.  

I hung back and had a beer and watched the scene in total anonymity.  Chuck was the only person I knew at the party and even though Chuck and I had brought The Ramones to the party no one seemed excited about meeting us!  Just one cute groupie would have been fine with me.  Nada.  I do recall plenty of cigarette smoke and being a distance runner I considered running away, but it was just so damn interesting.  The Ramones took a few swigs on some hard liquor and then asked if we would take them back to their hotel.  They were understandably exhausted. I was ready to leave too.  We dropped them off at the Continental and they soon blasted off into rock ‘n roll history.  

I returned to Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and the rest of my soulful crooners and paid little attention as The Ramones rose from relative obscurity to world stardom.  Now that Joey, Dee Dee and Johnny are dead,  I have finally come to recognize the greatness that I had the privilege of meeting on that warm summer night in 1977.  And now when I see young people proudly sporting their Ramones t-shirts I never hesitate to say, “Hey, I rode in a car with those guys.”

Nothing seems to make me more instantly cool.

Copyright 2010 by Joseph Fulton

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