Please Kill Me: Legs McNeil Shares a Memory of Arturo Vega, the Man Behind the Ramones Logo
“Really Arturo, ABBA?” I shake my head in disbelief as I enter his loft, where the Swedish rock band is blaring from the record player. The record player is on a table, and next to it sits the Ramones’ entire silk-screen operation—one long counter weighted down with a wooden silk screen, cans of white acrylic paint, and stacks of black T-shirts. Arturo is busy making another pass with the squeegee over the latest model of the new Ramones logo, the one with the names of Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, and Tommy encircling an American eagle clutching a baseball bat in one talon and an apple-tree branch in the other. It will become their most famous design ever.
“Aren’t they wonderful?” Arturo beams at me, looking up from the T-shirt. I can’t tell if he’s talking about the music or the T-shirts, since he’s never been self-conscious about his musical guilty pleasures. Let’s face it: even though ABBA is spectacularly popular, no one would ever accuse them of being hip or guess they’d be on the stereo here at the epicenter of punk, the Ramones’ loft at 6 East Second Street. Arturo Vega lives here.
That was the beauty of Arturo. He would combine elements that didn’t fit, and sometimes the end result actually worked. Though, back in the late 70s, I wasn’t so sure about the whole ABBA nonsense.
“ABBA is like some satanic bubblegum that you can’t stop chewing, ya know?” he explains, noticing my displeasure. “Es like what you think happiness should sound like, right?”
“I don’t know about that,” I say, considering his theory. The Swedish pop music was way too loud.
“You are the dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen / Dancing queen, feel the beat from the tambourine / You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life / See that girl, watch that scene, diggin’ the dancing queen!”
“That’s happiness?” I scowl, “Give me the fucking alternative…”
“Happy, happy, happy!” Arturo chuckles, mimicking a line from the Ramones’ “Gimmie Gimmie Shock Treatment” as he pulls a freshly printed T-shirt out from under the screen and replaces it with another. The song’s lyrics are “Peace and love is here to stay / And now I can wake up and face the day / Happy, happy, happy all the time / Shock treatment I’m doing fine.” It’s become a sort of mantra around the loft whenever things aren’t looking too good for the band, which is quite often. Arturo would smile that inviting smile of his and, overflowing with irony, say “Happy, happy, happy!” Then everyone would kinda snicker, suck in their gut, and keep on going. Sometimes a line from a song is all you have to go on.
Arturo holds the freshly screened shirt up for me to inspect. “Isn’t it beautiful! Es so… so… so majestic! Like, rigid militarism combined with that ‘Beat on the Brat’ honesty, right?”
He isn’t just pleased with his new design, he’s thrilled. It really is an iconic symbol. “Wow, really cool,” I say admiringly. “Can I have one?”
David Bowie Stole My Suicide Record, So I Ripped the Hubcaps Off His Limo – Please Kill Me
Above: Legs and Joey Ramone around the time this story takes place. Photo by Tom Hearn
[Editor’s Note: Hi, millennials! We’d like to interrupt whatever Vine you’re working on and introduce you to our friend Legs. Maybe you’ve heard of him—he’s responsible for a little book called Please Kill Me, which is the best book on punk rock ever written. Noisey was filming with him a few weeks ago, and we convinced him to do a little writing for us. Enjoy!]
In my ongoing attempt to rebuild my vinyl collection, I was recently perusing a Brooklyn hipster record store and came across the new David Bowie album, The Next Day. I’ve been enjoying quite a few lesser-known Bowie cuts lately, so I decided to throw caution to the wind and really get wild. I bought the record.
This is a real feat for me, as I’ve never bought a record on faith alone. I’d been hearing good things about the record, and I was curious to hear what an artist like Bowie had to say at the end of his career or—if the rumors are true about his having cancer—at the end of his life.
While I was paying for the record, I was reminded of Mick Jagger’s famous quote about Bowie: “Never wear a new pair of shoes in front of him.” Jagger’s implication was either that Bowie was a notorious thief (of ideas, trends, or the latest fashions), or that he’d run right out and get it in order to claim ultra-hipper-than-thou-trendsetting status.” Yeah, be the first one on the block with a new, red-rooster, unisex cut and ten-inch, sparkling, platform shoes!
Syria’s Refugees Are Trapped Between Hells
I first met war photographer Giles Duley a month ago, to talk about his work both before and after he became a triple amputee in Afghanistan. Giles’s most recent trip since we spoke was to Jordan, where he documented the arrival of Syrian refugees after a long journey across the border. Here’s his account of new arrivals to the Zaatari Camp. – Jamie Collins
The nights become so bitterly cold that I’ve taken shelter in a portakabin staffed by UNHCR doctors. We sit, sipping tea, fighting our tiredness, waiting. It’s nearly 1 AM and there’s still no sign of any refugees arriving. Restless, I go outside to join my colleagues, who are sharing a cigarette in the starless night. Suddenly we are silent. In the distance we can hear buses and then out of that cold dark night they start to arrive. The first to appear is a young girl, maybe five years old, dressed in a cream coat walking with a purpose beyond her years, followed by two young mothers clasping their children, wrapped tightly in blankets to protect them from the cold. They make their way into the large military-style reception tent where they will be processed, fed, given medical attention, and finally allocated their own plot within Zaatari Camp.
I watch as more and more arrive—tens, hundreds and, by dawn, nearly 2,000. There’s man wearing a suit, holding his kid’s hand; an elderly couple struggling to carry their meagre possessions; a pregnant woman in tears; a young man carried across the rough ground in his wheelchair. Each face seems haunted and etched with exhaustion, uncertainty, and fear. The scenes are reminiscent of so many earlier wars, faded black and white images of civilians uprooted and forced to flee with only what they carry. But this is not some terrible past, this is happening now and the war grows more violent and brutal each day.
The numbers are almost beyond comprehension. More than 70,000 people killed, over four million displaced, and more than one million refugees registered by the UNHCR. In Jordan alone, there are 340,000 refugees, many in the tented Zaatari. This number is expected to rise to over one million by the end of the year.
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A Beginner’s Guide to Jason Nocito
Jason Nocito is an insanely talented and prolific photographer who, if you know anything about photography, you should already know about. He takes about a million cool photographs a day, and he needed some place to put them all, so he started a photoblog, LOADS Daily, on his website. Since he updates it all the time (some might say “daily”), there are a lot of weird and beautiful photos of neon puddles, dirty mops, and inadvertent faces to sift through. Since we know you’re so busy, Jason told us he would put together his favorites from this past month in a more easily digestible form. Consider it a beginner’s guide to the world of Jason Nocito. You’re welcome.
Remember Haiti? Giles Clarke Does
On January 12, 2010, a massive earthquake hit Haiti, killing over 230,000 people, injuring many more, and leaving 1.5 million homeless. Although the media has since moved on for the most part, many Haitians are still struggling in scores of tent cities around Port-au-Prince and all along the coast. In Léogâne, a seaside town near the epicenter of the quake, 90 percent of the town’s buildings were destroyed and a quarter of its residents died. Many aid organizations such as Medicin sans Frontieres had two-year contracts from the Haitian government to provide services to the tent cities, but these contracts have quietly been allowed to expire, leaving thousands of families in dire straits. Many don’t like to talk about the earthquake and find solace in the spiritual—either in Christian churches or at voodoo ceremonies. There are now over 12,000 registered NGO organizations in Haiti, which is still the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
Léogâne, 20 miles to the west of Port-au-Prince, was one of the hardest-hit towns. Survivors were treated on hospital ships that moored just off the coast in those first frantic few days following the quake.
The UN and many international aid agencies are actively helping the people rebuild their homes and lives. Many of the town’s surviving residents will never sleep in stone buildings again and now camp in tents and makeshift houses behind the dilapidated ruins of the few remaining buildings.
A bird’s eye view of Cité Soleil, a shanty town near Port-au-Prince that grew to an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 residents, the majority of whom live in extreme poverty. The area is generally regarded as one of the poorest and most dangerous areas of the western hemisphere and it is one of the world’s largest slums. Cité Soleil has has a poorly maintained open canal system that serves as its sewage system, few formal businesses, sporadic but largely free electricity, a few hospitals, and a single government school, Lycee Nationale de Cite Soleil.
Children on the seawall in Cité Soleil. The boats in the background are laden with charcoal that is shipped in from an island just off the coast to the north.