Dee Dee Ramone was one of the strangest people I’ve ever met. Whenever we saw him, we were never sure if we were going to get the good Dee Dee or the bad Dee Dee. In the 90s, when I was asked to write a forward to his book, Lobotomy, I described him as, “the last of the dying breed of authentic rock star, an authentic bad guy who got over it, and in so doing, changed the face of rock ‘n’ roll. Dee Dee was the archetypical fuck-up whose life was a living disaster. He was a male prostitute, a would-be mugger, a heroin user and dealer, an accomplice to armed robbery—and a genius poet who was headed for an early grave, but was sidetracked by rock ‘n’ roll.”
Needless to say, I doubt we’ll see any more Dee Dee Ramones coming along in the near future. Rock ‘n’ roll these days is just too clean. And if I had to put a diagnosis on what Dee Dee suffered from, I wouldn’t know what to say. He was that unique.
The following interview was conducted in 1989, a few months after he left the Ramones. He called me and said he wanted to spill the beans. Since we’d been friends since 1976, I was happy to turn on the tape recorder and let him go—which he did for about ten hours.
DEUTSCHLAND UBER ALLES
My parents fought a lot. I don’t wanna get into that, but I remember it vividly—I mean I remember a lotta other crumby things, and some good things too—but I had a bad childhood.
What I did to compensate for it was to live in a total fantasy world. I grew up in Germany and when I went to school, I failed the first grade and never went back. Actually I tried to go back the next semester, all my friends were going to the second grade—and I had to make a left and go down the hallway—and they said, “Where ya goin’?”
I said, “I’m going home!”
That was in Munich, it was an American army school for the military people stationed there. We didn’t live right in the city, we lived on the outskirts, and there was some farmland and a lot of old bombed out houses and stuff. I’d wander around there and do things like swing on the swings—and I’d go into these intense fantasies—and imagine I was a fighter pilot.
I also lived in Pirmasens, which is a small town right on the French border. The German side of the border was called the Siegfried Line and the French side was the Maginot Line. I used to wander round in the old bunkers and look for war relics. I used to pick ‘em up all the time, like old helmets and gas masks and bayonets and machine gun belts. This went on for like a year and I started dealing these war relics—but I used to have fun with them too.
I’d always been fascinated by Nazi symbols—from finding them in the rubble in Germany. They were so glamorous. They were just so pretty. My parents were very upset by that.
One time my father said something fucking ridiculous. I had found a Luftwaffe sword that was beautiful, and I knew I could keep it or sell it for a fortune, like 80 marks. When I brought that home, my father got uptight and said something really sick, he said, “Can you imagine all our guys that died because of that?”
I thought, This guy is a real asshole. As if he really cared. I didn’t figure my father for any passions like that, about anything. And from that day on, he just became a total joke to me—and I stopped fearing him.