By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
I first met Johnny in 1996, at the Empire Diner. The Ramones were retiring; Johnny was moving to Los AngelesAdios Amigos. "When my friends found out I was being interviewed by the Voice, they made fun of me, 'You're gonna talk to that commie paper?' " Johnny smirked, pointing defiantly at his T-shirt, "Kill a Commie for Mommy." Interviewing Dee Dee or Joey could last all day, but Johnny was punctual, precise, no drama or mood swings. Professional. But Dee Dee and Joey gave you everythingall their blood, tears, pizza, truth, and love. They lived in the moment. In contrast, Johnny served up canned vegetables, scripted replies, like stale catechism. The street on Johnny has always been that he's a heartless prick. Dee Dee and Joey had no boundaries; Johnny had too many.
But something happened that day at the Empire. After we finished the interview, Johnny noticed my "Kill 'Em All" T-shirt. My dad was 82nd Division Army Airborne, I explained. Johnny's face opened up, like a little kid, smiling, animated, talking about how much he loved his father, how much he missed him. He showed me a photo, he talked about growing up as an only child, then signed an autograph for a fana nine-year-old-kid on dialysis.
Sometimes Johnny played his guitar till his fingers bled out, till the white instrument turned red. On Sunday, September 12, 2004, the remaining Ramones and their friends put on a 30th anniversary tribute concert in L.A. Johnny had been sick for a long time. Three days later, he diedhis work was finished. Every Ramones fan has his or her own personal Ramonesort of like a personal savior: Dee Dee's the outcast's outcast, a home for the displaced psyche. Joey's the patron saint of lonely kids even now; some say he's their only friend. Johnny's Army is all the angry fatherless boys, disposable heroes who work hard, fight wars, and never get anything. Johnny's their Captain; he'll never leave a soldier for dead, never betray the trust. He's the father Ramone.
Three Ramones killed-by-death in just over three years' time. First Joey from lymphoma, then Dee Dee from an overdose. Now Johnny from prostate cancer. The Ramones gave their fans hope; now our love will give them immortality.