VERA RAMONE KING INTERVIEW
-Author, "Poisoned Heart: I Married Dee Dee Ramone" (Phoenix Books)
Vera was married to Dee Dee throughout the punk legend's years with the Ramones. Their union ended only a couple of weeks before he left the group.
His imimitable songcraft -- uber-catchy pop hooks-as-urban angst/cartoonishly mannered yet touchingly poetic lyrical narratives -- contributed to the group's sonic/attitudinal definition and helped ensure its enduring legacy.
A few years ago, they were inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame. One today hears Ramones guitars in everything from contemporary punk combos to (as Vera herself points out) TV commercials.
After years of silence*, Vera now tells the story of those golden years. And while it's always interesting (for different reasons), it's sometimes more than a bit depressing. Recounted in sorrowful detail are Dee Dee's addiction-related travails -- which twisted both his personal and professional lives -- and occasionally abusive tendencies.
* In their introduction to Vera's book, former Talking Heads Chris Stein and Tina Weymouth (NYC friends and colleagues of Dee Dee and Vera) note that one legal requirement of Dee Dee and Vera's divorce was that he not speak publicly about her; that explains her total absence from his own book, "Poison Heart."
Recently, Vera spoke to Damnation Dance Party.
DDP: You write that Dee Dee "totally freaked out," when served with your divorce papers, and
that you feared he might stalk/attack you. I just read new statistics showing domestic
abuse up, with women being the primary victims and attempts to leave abusive
situations the leading cause.
Even given that potential danger, would you recommend women so victimized remove
themselves from the situation? (I don't mean to make you responsible for anyone's
circumstance, just interested in your informed insight.)
VERA: Everyone's situation is different and people have to make their own choices. In my case there were no children involved and it was much easier for me to remove myself if I believed I was in any danger. For others it's not so cut and dry to make that decision. I only did what I thought was the best for myself under the conditions I was living in.
DDP: You mention Dee Dee kept journals (at least for a time). Do you know if these (and/or
unused lyrics) still exist?
VERA: Actually, yes I still own a diary that he kept while he was on the road with Ramones that details what he did and what went on that particular tour. I believe it to be the ONLY one if it's kind in existance today.
DDP: Do you still have many friends from your days in the scene? Any you'd like to name?
VERA: I still have many good friends that I've kept in touch with over the couse of the years. Mickey Leigh (Joey Ramone's brother) and his wife Lene, Marky and Marian Ramone are also very close friends and Ritchie Ramone and his wife Annette Stark have also stayed close. Joey's girlfriend of many years has remained one of my best friends for the last twenty five years. Then of course there is Monte Melnick , their longtime road manager. I owe my life to that man!! There are others but too many to mention at this time.
DDP: In their intro to your book, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth note that Dee Dee asked to
rejoin the Ramones, after having quit in '89. I'd never read that, before. Comment?
(Several things might have turned out differently -- not necessarily better, but different.)
VERA: Dee Dee quit the band 2 weeks after we split up. I told him that it was a BIG mistake at the time but he was no longer on his medications and there was no reasoning with him or logic to what he was doing.
He did after a six months or so ask to rejoin the band but CJ Ramone had already taken his place by then and he was a lot less trouble to deal with; they didn't want Dee Dee back without me because he was completely uncontrollable at that time. Too hard to deal with and his erratic behaviour became something no one wanted to deal with anymore.
DDP: In Dee Dee's own book, he claims to have left when End of the Century was going to be
recorded, and to not know who ultimately played bass on that record. Your book
recounts him recording on it. Did he only play on some of it?
VERA: Dee Dee played on EVERY album until his departure in 1989, despite what you may have read or heard. He may have threatened to leave , but NEVER did! Besides, he wrote most of the songs on the albums and he even sang a lot of them towards the end.
DDP: Did he play on all other Ramones studio LPs?
VERA: Absolutely, positively!!! It was ALL Dee Dee playing!
DDP: From your account of the Ramones (and from others, including Dee Dee's), there
certainly seemed to be great storm and stress between the members. Did they
basically like each other? Why did they remain a band for as long as they did?
VERA: As with many bands, when you stay on the road together for So long at a time , it is only natural that it becomes a ground for hostility. There were also ego clashes and some differences of opinions regarding music and other things. However, at the end of the day they would always get up on that stage and play to their many fans. They NEVER wanted to let their fans down! After So many years together it was more than "just a band".
It became their business and their livelihood. It was WHAT they did! Plain and simple.