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Forever Stung

By  Michael Hendrick

Illustration by Waylon Bacon

A spate of Christian/spiritual music washed over the AM/FM airwaves in the early-1970s. Jesus Christ Superstar primed the pump, and Norman Greenbaum had made spirituality a Top Ten hit the year before with his rocking Spirit In the Sky. In Eighth Grade,  my eighth year of going to the Holy Mass six days a week, a progressive nun from Philadelphia mimeographed lyrics to these and other pseudo-spiritual tunes, like Bridge Over Troubled Waters and I Am A Rock by Simon and Garfunkel. Passing out the lyrics pages, she explained the spiritual introspection in songs and managed to slip a bit of ‘Popery’ into the messages, as well.

Around that time, my grandfather died.  In those days, three days of wakes preceded the Funeral Mass…probably because it took that long to dig through the snow and frozen turf of snow belt cemeteries. My Uncle Keith, a classic example of the 1960s folk-guitar-priest, attended each day. As a priest, he employed great communications skills; he listened and responded to me as he would to an adult but the main impression he left upon me, The Impressionable Boy in Puberty,  lie in his kindness. At a difficult age when adults yelled at me everywhere I went or some short, older jocks from the high school took turns threatening me, a little kindness made for a long and lasting memory.

By the time George Harrison crackled through the radio with My Sweet Lord, Christ invaded my thoughts and pushed the horoscope and Zolar zodiac books to the side, making way for The Bible. If any kid stood ready for a conversion, it was me.

Buses from public schools carried public school students. A freshman at Holy Catholic High School, in the city, I rode city buses. Bus stops, in the 1950s-1970s USA, provided a convenient place for strange people to queue up. Drunks, head cases, the elderly, the young and the poor – the same groups we now view as ‘disenfranchised’ – waited for buses at every odd corner.

“I used to be Jerry Lewis’s father!” a hulking brute of a man, with a more pockmarks than I ever saw on a face before, told me, assertively. I did not argue.

A crazy-looking biker type with longish red hair, freckles, two missing upper front teeth and a welder’s cap turned backwards on his head, told me we could ‘share a hit of microdot,’ whatever that was, if I gave him a dollar. I saw him before. He infrequently rode the bus all the way out to Egypt, the village where I lived. Knowing nothing about drugs, I gave him a buck, along with an excuse about why I didn’t want my half. He took the cash and hurried away. It was only a dollar.

Another guy looked like a rock star, standing back from the curb, stylish unisex shirt with very short sleeves revealing thin arms with no hint of muscle but wrists hardly visible under bracelets, chains, braided strings and other baubles. Hair fell to his shoulders in a fashionably- long, black shag.  It was the best one I had seen since David Cassidy in The Partridge Family. He wore a large, red button on his chest, which said, in raised white letters, “GET SMART GET SAVED”, and his belt held several pouches, one revealing a row of colored highlighting markers. The crazy guy from Egypt only wanted a dollar; the cool-looking dude with the shag sought my soul. A big, goofy kid who attracted these types simply by dint of being well over six feet tall and having shoulder-length blonde hair, I understood neither.  It turned out that he was a senior at the same high school I attended. Living close, he could go home after classes, lose the suit and tie, then hit the streets in fashion, ‘cool for Christ’. Being friends with a cool, long-haired senior gave me added credibility in my freshman year.

The Forever Family formed in 1971 in Allentown, PA, as a loose band of rag-tag former hippies and disillusioned druggies. They sought comfort and spirituality and brotherhood and fellowship, all the things this thirteen-year-old needed. Relating to the other kids at school had always been problematic. We had moved from New York into a hick town when I was six and I never caught onto the secretive ways of the Pennsylvania Dutch and other clannish peoples who mostly populated the area. I was different and not used to acceptance. When Jack, the guy with the shag, started talking to me, there was a warmth and understanding to him, sort of like with Uncle Keith. In the beginning, The Forever Family was pretty pure. Everybody was kind and open and it gave me a place to go after school and on weekends. The main thing one had to do, obviously, was to get saved, like the button said. The buttons were sort of the beginning of the end, however, as far as the pure essence of the Family. People banded around Chip, a charismatic hippie-looking guy with reddish hair and beard, and a warm and ever-ready smile. He exuded comfort. The Family existed here and there in the public parks and at the house of Chip and his wife, Sam. The house being just a few blocks from the high school, it was a place to go when skipping class or waiting for the bus. It provided refuge.

According to many, trouble began with those buttons, which were the invention of Stewart Traill, now leader of the Church of Bible Understanding (COBU). The COBU is based in Scranton, PA, and makes most of its cash from diverting funds donated for the running of their mission in Haiti, various internet and newspaper sources reveal. Traill devised the “GET SMART GET SAVED” button. They were big, bright and drew attention. Both well-known and oft-hated, these buttons caught the eye and allowed the wearer to go to work. Work, in this version, was the saving of Souls, the conversion to Christ through the auspicious Holy Spirit, who would often make guest appearances at the mall fountain in front of the Orange Julius stand on Friday and Saturday nights. That Holy Spirit would come right into the mall and cleanse those Souls whenever summoned. I went for it. I accepted the Holy Spirit.  I promised to focus all my life on Christ as my only salvation.

At my own behest,  I adopted a uniform of black jeans and black tee shirt, with a hand-made leather pouch on my belt to carry a miniature Bible and some leaflets (known as tracts to the professional faithful) on how to save yourself and become one of us. A lot of people, mostly in my own real family, mocked my new, always-blackened presence, some referring to me as ‘the Father’. The button never appeared in my wardrobe, however. I am not sure if this was because of Stewart or myself. Buttons were awarded to ‘lambs’ who memorized ten Bible verses, picked by Stewart. Being very adept at memorization, ten verses would not have been a problem. Once you had the button, you were raised a level and given responsibility – mostly for bringing in new members.

Maybe my lifelong pattern of shirking responsibility saved me in this instance. On the other hand, all the other members were about six or seven years older than me.  Jack was closest in age. A thirteen-year-old does not hold as much sway as an older acolyte. Either way, it was lucky that I was just a bit too young.  Most followers were in late-teens or early-twenties and Stewart was in his late-thirties. Traill was a strong presence, who took the role of leader of the family from Chip, simply by constant badgering and intimidation of family members. He likened himself to Moses and Elijah and came on as a sort of John Lennon-like figure, with frame-less wire-rimmed glasses. Like Lennon he had a habit of growing long hair and beard, then shaving both to leave them grow again. It is significantly coincidental to note that the place where Traill met Chip, the Robin Hood Dell section of Allentown’s Lehigh Parkway park system, was often frequented by the real John Lennon, who lived nearby in NYC and brought his son, Sean, there in the last years of his life.

Traill picked out clothes for his wife, Shirley, to wear which were very sexually revealing; micro-mini skirts and low cut blouses, heels. She was his Yoko imitation, although I doubt that Yoko would have been told what to wear. The clothes seemed out of place but they did make me horny, the desired effect, no doubt. He weighed her on a scale in front of family members regularly and spanked her if she weighed too much. He forced her to ask permission to go to the bathroom. This part of Traill’s personal life did not seem to jibe with the message of the Good News…neither did the attack on his son, who was beaten senseless by several church members for publicly disagreeing with his father. Much of this was unknown to me at the time. My mind found distraction in what other followers wore, how they spoke and acted – after all, I needed role models and some of the Family members were very cool. I cannot say that I ever had a conversation with Stewart. Perhaps due to my age, he felt I was useless – since I was not old enough to work and hand over my wages and was too naive to be truly influential to adults. Chip and Sam always showed me warmth and grace and made me feel welcome. I tended to stick close to them as much as possible.

What did I care? I had a place to go after school and on weekends where I was accepted. Acceptance and separation are the two cudgels of cult power. Anti-parent sentiment ran hot. We were often reminded that Jesus said, “I did not come to bring peace; but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father and a daughter against her mother.” I had enough friction going on between my dad and myself, that this line alone kept me hanging around. The Lambs of God brought in the sheep of Stewart but I was an innocuous kid, just along for the ride, really. I had been hearing about the Holy Trinity at school and church six days a week and listening to them on the radio. The hippie-looking girls and the way they dressed were the main draw for me. I didn’t enjoy ‘witnessing the word’ with one of the red-buttoned ‘lambs’ as much as I did my own personal conversions of the souls of paisley chicks with tight jeans.

Besides saving souls at the Orange Julius, we witnessed in public parks, did community activities, like help the Red Cross assist victims of a recent hurricane by working in their clothes/food/distribution center (my first volunteer job in a history of 42 years of volunteering – so something stuck), studied Bible verse and discussed it and wandered, fairly aimlessly, looking for more souls. Sometimes we would set up elaborate scenes in public restaurants to attract the attention of other diners and then drop our message on them.

On Bible study – another bad thing about having the “GET SMART GET SAVED” button were the accompanying charges of being a ‘lamb’, such as the memorization of Stewart’s convenient Bible color-code system, wherein followers divine the truths in the Holy Word by marking certain passages with certain colors of highlighter markers. The color system presents a very primitive system of mind control. Certain colors hold different significance, while others make us feel different ways. If a color can evoke a feeling, then drenching a particular verse in a certain color imbues it with that feeling. Red causes aggression in humans just as it does in bulls. Having once been attacked by a bull while donning a red shirt, I can say this is no urban legend. Just as he usurped the leadership of the family through pushiness and intimidation, Traill had seen Jack color-coding his Bible, as we had been taught to do with our notes in high school, and thereby stole the ‘idea’ and ‘invented’ the Color Code.

The coding took the fun out of the words and isolated them into specific messages. Color psychology has undergone many changes since the 1970s but it is still no less effective than it was to the ancient Greeks, who slept in white to purify their dreams. Controlling the mind through color is subtle and effective. It must be. By the end of the decade, Traill presided over an estimated 65 ‘fellowship houses’ and real estate holdings including mansions in Florida and Philadelphia and four private jets. The money built up as he went through a well-thought-out process of collecting old vacuum cleaners from the trash, fixing them and reselling them, then expanding the vacuum sales into a vacuum cleaning business with followers in major US cities working for a dollar a day and donating the rest of their wages to the church, so it could buy more land and vacuums. The business still thrives, along with a series of second-hand shops which resell items plucked from trash or handed over to the church when followers give up the world and all that is worldly. It became so well known that a popular episode of the Seinfeld TV series focused an eopisode around them, calling them the “Carpet Cleaning Cult,” after their real business name of Christian Brothers Carpet Cleaning.

Some valuable lessons stuck to me from those days of cornering strangers and talking them into submitting to the Holy Spirit. How to use a person’s own words to trap them, how to manipulate the meaning of certain words and simple verbal bullying techniques – these methods stuck to me and helped me through life in becoming successful at sales jobs and getting Jehovah’s Witnesses off my doorstep. Developing a knowledge of scripture still comes in handy, as a choice line from the Holy Book will easily stymie an argument and allow me to ‘one up’ a verbal opponent…particularly if they are the moralistic type.

Near the end of my association with the Forever Family, news of a big meeting with a communal Baptism made the rounds. Taking place on a Sunday, it would be hard for me to sneak away from dinner at home and find a way to the church and back. No buses ran on Sunday and I had not learned how to properly hitch a ride yet. A resounding ‘NO’ met my request to attend the meeting, so my natural instinct to run away from home appeared and off I went. The meeting took place at an established church with an Evangelical ministry. A mix of regular church members and scruffy-cool Forever Family members filled the pews. Baptism took place in a large swimming pool, dug and built in the shape of the cross. The minister presided over his regular service and, towards the end, welcomed us, who had been reborn via Baptism of Spirit, and invited us to be baptized in the symbolic water. We shuffled into a room behind the altar, where we were given white robes to wear into the pool.

My dad carried a .50 caliber machine gun in the Third Marine Division, where he served three tours of duty in the Pacific Theater of World War Two, gunning down Japanese soldiers. I imagine he wore the same expression on his face when he pulled the trigger as the one he wore as he burst through the door behind the altar with my mother, who seemed bewildered but peeved. “…all that money..,” she repeated a few times. Not yet in my robe, my old man grabbed me and out we went. A bunch of astonished lambs looked on with mouths agape. Numerous lectures intertwined in the voices from the front seat of the car, as we rode home and I stared out the back windows, singing to myself in my head. Years later, my mother would recall the “trashcans full to the top with money” that she had seen as they hunted around behind the scenes, trying to find me in the temple. “…all that money…” A depression-age baby, it sort of haunted her.

In days to come, I still found my way out of class and sneaking down to the Forever  Family house. Things were changing. Expanding the business and setting up new houses, along with objections to the ruthless ways of Stewart, drove a lot of family members out of the cult and back into the rote of their pre-‘saved’ days. Some kids at school trusted me now, having seen me hanging with the group of long-haired freaks, and offered me drugs and other forms of companionship. Something about going out collecting vacuum cleaners did not appeal to me, not for free, anyway.

No taste of the Christ ever killed my natural instinct to make money to buy myself things my parents didn’t know about.  My mom took a real tip from the experience, and, seeing how well I could corner strangers verbally, one day she dragged me into the General Nutrition Store (GNC) at the mall and lied about my age, telling them that her sixteen- year-old needed a job.  Soon, on nights and weekends, I found myself accosting strangers with a spoonful of sunflower seeds, petitioning them to ‘try our Zesty Sunflower Seeds!’, as the light of the Orange Julius glared at me from the other end of the mall.

Gabba Gabba Beat…Richie Ramone Talks to Beatdom!

Richie Ramone is Back: An Interview
with Michael Hendrick

(from Beatdom #11 – available on Amazon, Kindle, and at the Beatdom Bookstore)

In rock and roll there is a rarefied pantheon populated by a select number of bands who make us feel, who speak to Everyman, who splay the grizzled guts of the emotional, romantic, workaday routines of our lives into powerful melodies which touch and motivate us. Many bands exist in the industry of pop music but only a dozen or so speak to us directly, powerfully. These storytellers find themselves on a pedestal because they connect to our realities at the most basic, primordial level. The Coasters, the Crickets, the Beatles, the Who, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and, of course, the Ramones come to mind first. There have been individuals, like Chuck Berry, Dion, Bob Dylan, and Tom Waits who have done this, too. Bands like the aforementioned not only speak to us all but are known in the most seemingly remote parts of the world. Speaking for us all leads to deification and hero status. They influence younger musicians and, in so doing, influence our future, and light new recollections on the ends of the dying embers of old memories.

The Ramones may be the last of these supergroups to have emerged. Certainly, since the punk invasion that started in the 1970s Lower East Side of New York, many new groups have popped up, but few speak as well to our inner child. There have been more cerebral, more political, more ‘artsy’ bands, like REM, Nirvana, and the Patti Smith Group, to cite just a few. There are plenty of new faces in the melee of the indie music explosion, but not many of these are as recognizable or whose name alone can start a panic in countries where English is rarely spoken.

The Ramones had (and still have) this power. It is hard to imagine a world without the Ramones; just as difficult to imagine is the hard truth that their principal founders and faces – Joey and Dee Dee and Johnny – are dead and gone. Oddly, the drummers still survive. The pumping lifeblood of the trademark Ramones sound, part hard rock, part fifties tribute, part head-banging fun, drums drove the action. Other powerful groups of the era, like the Clash, the Dictators, the Damned – while all spurred to action by The Ramones – could not keep up the pace.

In a time when might was right and fast was class, the Ramones were hardest and fastest of them all. In the documentary film on the Ramones, “End of the Century,” the late Joe Strummer, of the all-powerful Clash, speaks of not being able to keep up with the boys from New York. Of all the Ramones drummers, Richard Reinhardt, aka Richie Ramone, was the fastest. This makes Richie Ramone the fastest drummer of all the original punk bands, which is no mean feat.

The Ramones were punks, not Beats. Their lyrics and lifestyles, however, were rife with Beat sensibilities and situations; the never-ending road, the need to express emotion through art and the Word, the ability to influence others to get up and move!
Recently, Beatdom caught up with Richie. As he came out of rock retirement and launched his new version of the Ramones 2012 Invasion, he has been very busy and we are happy to have him on the pages you hold.

Joey was your closest mate in the Ramones. He seemed to like other punk musicians who were on the intellectual side. A lot of them hung out with the Beat writers who lived on the Lower East Side, back then. Did you ever associate or see much of the Beat writers?

No, I never got to meet them or nothing. I don’t know that much about it. I’m not the biggest reader on the planet. I just never get around to it.

Why were you closest to Joey?
He was very supportive. Nobody else really wrote any songs before me, besides them…no other drummers really did anything like what Tommy co-wrote with the band. I was writing my own material but John didn’t like me to have more than one song because it picked his pocket. He would make less, the more songs I had, so that got frustrating…but Joey was always an encouragement to sing more. I was singing a lot of stuff live with him. It was really powerful, like in 1985-87. He was fully supportive of me. He didn’t feel like, “Oh, no, don’t take attention from me,” and that sort of thing. He even encouraged me to sing. That’s why I sing one of the songs on one of the records. He told me to sing it. I said, “What are you gonna do?” He said, “Don’t worry about it. Just sing it.” The song was mine…“Can’t Say Anything Nice.” I sang that song for the Ramones album.

“Can’t Say Anything Nice” is one of six songs written by Richie and released by the Ramones. The others are “Humankind,” “I Know Better Now,” “I’m Not Jesus,” “Smash You” and the ever-popular, oft-covered “Somebody Put Something In My Drink” – which got stuck in the interviewers head, incidentally, for five days after playing it on a car stereo.

When we were home, as far as Joey, he couldn’t really leave the house much without being mobbed but we would go places like bowling and do ‘normal’ stuff that he could never do on his own. We would do all that.

“End of the Century” shows you trekking all over the place at odd hours. On the road with the Ramones did not look like fun.

Traveling, when we went to Europe and stuff, we’d go for a month but other than that we’d do a lot of like… leave New York, go to Massachusetts, play, and then drive home. We would drive as far as Vermont, drive there whatever it takes, six or seven hours, do the show and then drive home and be back at six or seven in the morning. We did a lot of that with the group, as opposed to just sleeping there at night. You’d kind of sleep on the way home. You drive seven hours. Leave at noon. Get up there. Play…then just jump right back in. It’s about fourteen or fifteen hours on the road in one day. We would do that in winter with ice on the road and it was scary for the band. We always worried that we were gonna crash.

In “End of the Century,” it seemed a lot scarier in South America, where there is not much ice. We see that you are going back there this year.

In Brazil, the fans are crazy…a really good place to play.

You have been working the Gobshites, a Boston band, who mix rock and roll with traditional Celtic music. How has that worked out?

I never played live with them but we went to Ireland, to Dublin, and recorded the record there. The week we spent there was great. They are mixing and doing it up and that should be out in a few months or something like that. I played all the tracks. I’ll be doing some shows with them. I’m not a permanent band member but I will be doing some shows.

You also did some work with the Ramonas (an all-female Ramones tribute band from the UK).

I did one show with them. I went all the way to Ireland and London is only an hour’s flight away. I just said, “Ah, I’m gonna go do a show in London and I hooked up with them and did a show with them there so I could see fans in London. I hadn’t been in London for twenty years, so I did the recording, then went to London to do a show and flew home from there. I may do something else with them. They were a lot of fun and I may do a festival or two with them…you know, summer festivals in New York.

That sounds like fun! Tell us about the record you did with the Gobshites.

It’s great. It’s a mixed bag but there won’t be any electric guitar…there’s a lot of acoustic guitar, there is accordion, bass, fiddles, banjo…we actually cover “Somebody Put Something in My Drink”…a really cool version of that with lots of chanting vocals. I can’t wait to hear the final take on that. It is similar to the original, the same type of beat. They never really officially released that so I said, “Let’s cut this again,” and it came out really good. The rough tracks were really cool.

Another of the many projects you have going is an appearance on the second posthumous Joey Ramone solo album, “Ya Know?” (It is slated for release in May 2012.)
They found tracks of Joey’s…new stuff, so they just took the vocals and snipped the vocals out of it, really. Everything else was redone. It was done on four-track cassette machine and they processed the vocals and we put all our bits around it. I think there are fifteen or sixteen songs. I played on five of them. Bun E. Carlos from Cheap Trick played drums on two or three and some other people played on others.

In the Ramones, playing that kind of beat, with the third-sixteenth hi-hats [polyrhythmic hi-hat ostinato], it’s not half-time beat.

Yeah, no one had a right hand like I did on the hi-hat. People would just stop and stare at the hi-hats, how I could make that hand go so fast…haha…

So what do you think about being the fastest drummer of the original punk bands? Many say that the churn of drummers from the seventies into the eighties slowed the group down and you brought back the hard edge.

At that time [before joining the Ramones] I was in a band named 384. The scene was changing to groups like the Cro-Mags and speed-metal came out. All the new punks used speed metal and that’s why we started speeding things up more and more. That’s how our stuff got really fast. We just took our songs and played them faster.

The fans sure dug it but we understand the promoters didn’t?

The promoters would start to get upset because we would be short of an hour. That is how fast we were, we did 33 songs in less than an hour…haha…

What do you enjoy most, these days?

There are a lot of things going on with the Gobshites. We are doing an EP with a video and I am starting work on my own record. I rerecorded some of my songs and also some of my new material, my music.

What is it like?

I don’t stray too far away from what I do. Some of my stuff is a little but harder, a little more metal, a little more guitar soloing than the normal thing. My stuff is mainly a little darker than the Ramones. Not that fifties sound, as you can tell from the songs I wrote. There are a lot of things I will be doing this year. I will be on tour. I’ll be going to Australia…eventually. There is nothing set in stone but I was not around the scene for a while so that is what the whole ‘2012 Invasion’ is about. (Since taping this interview, gigs in South America have been booked, as well as appearances at a Johnny Thunders tribute concert and a benefit show to raise money for children with cancer.)

Before you decided to ‘invade’ and were out of the rock scene, what had you been doing?

I was doing orchestra stuff…I did “Suite for Drums and Orchestra” based on the theme from “West Side Story” with the Pasadena Pops. I orchestrated for the symphony…ten or eleven songs and made them an eighteen minute medley. It is all-around drumming and it is drum filled. It really glorified the ‘Drum God Era.’ It is a whole other side of drumming that people got to see and that they didn’t know I could do.

How was it received by the orchestra crowd?

Standing ovations! They jumped up…it was really crazy. You’re playing not so much to the punk crowd but playing to an older audience…and they loved it! It brought back the Buddy Rich/ Gene Krupa era. In the fifties, there were drum gods; in the eighties there were guitar gods. Now, all of that is gone. When they wheeled the kit on the riser wheels at the end of the show, people gasped. The funny thing about orchestra is that it is taboo to clap or anything until the piece is over. I remember the first time I did it…I wondered what was going on. They said they had never seen a response like that for the eight years that they were doing it. The people just jumped up and it was crazy.

I played a lot of outdoor events. I didn’t do many shows, only a handful of shows and the economy hit and you know orchestras are generally funded by donations so it slowed down. I am going to do it again. I am doing the rock and roll for now – but it would be a wonderful thing to do until I croak. You know what I’m saying? I really like it. It is really exciting! It’s you and your drums and they hand out the music and do one rehearsal and you go. You don’t have to deal with anything and you have ninety instruments behind you that you are driving and it is amazing. I really enjoyed that but I owe a lot to my fans right now and they are killing me to get back out on the road with my stuff. While I have the time I’m gonna do that first.

The main reason you gave for leaving the Ramones was that Johnny was being cheap and not giving a fair share of the tee shirt concession.

I have my own tee shirt line now. It has my name, not the Ramones. It says Richie Ramone.

We understand you are active in your community as an animal rights activist.

My dog passed away ten days ago. It was hard. I had to put him down. He had cancer but I still have two other min-pins, miniature pinschers. Every one was a rescue. One got stepped on so he has a limp. The other got hit by a car. The neck is a little tweaked. All rescues. That’s all I do. I spoke at City Hall (in Los Angeles) about what they do here, though…I like to get the dogs as puppies, when they are five weeks old, especially when you are dealing with mixes of pit bulls. Everything in LA has a mix of a pit bull in it. I don’t want them to be in someone else’s home for a year and they kick it around and the dog’s all fucked up, you know? Everybody…they take their kids and they go, “Let’s get a puppy!” They don’t understand the work involved…how to train the puppy. It starts shitting and pissing all over the house and they kick it and yell at it and then bring it back. The dog is psychotic by then. It’s a shame.

What did you speak about at City Hall?

Out here, what they have is…I used to go a place and you see the picture of the dog, ‘available this day.’ So I would go there. I remember once or twice, I would go there at six in the morning and they open at eight and I’m the first in line but it’s not ‘first come, first served.’ What happens is, if somebody else wants the same puppy, it goes to an auction and that’s the thing I was fighting. It’s really horrible.

So you have three or four families, people with children, and they start auctioning at $50, $60, $80…I have seen these mutts go for $300. The average family can’t pay that and the children go out crying, “Mommy, why can’t we get that dog?” It’s heartbreaking. I’m trying to get them to change this auction thing. Whoever has the most money in their pocket gets the dog. It’s bullshit. If you see a dog that’s available and you want it, pitch a tent, sit there all night and be the first one in line. Online it always said they keep the puppies for a week and it is available that day. Not many cities do this. It is usually like, “I’m the first one here. That’s the puppy I want.” You get it. It costs maybe fifty or sixty bucks for the shots. Auctioning them is heartbreaking. You see the families and they can only go to $100-150 and that’s it. It’s stupid. They go to auction in LA because they make more money. Half of these people that want the puppy won’t keep it because they have no idea of the work involved.

When I train my puppies, I am up every two hours through the night. It takes about a month with the box next to the bed. Then when you hear them walking, you get up and take them outside. It’s a lot of work for a few weeks. People don’t do that. They don’t know how to train a dog. They think it’s a toy. I don’t have children. That’s why I love dogs…because it IS a responsibility. You have to be there to take care of them. You have to feed them and all that stuff. Walk them and things like that. Without things like that in my life, I’d be totally lost…haha…The heartbreak is that they don’t last forever.

We hear you can have a cat cloned for $5000. Maybe they do it with dogs, too.

I think they can…I wouldn’t want that. Every time a dog goes, I always get another one but it always has something of the dog that passed in it…like the dog that passed before this never really ate. It wasn’t a good eater. Then I got this dog, who became the most fabulous eater and is still the same kind of dog…there’s always something in there. No, I would never clone. There are too many dogs in the shelter to begin with.

Elsewhere in this issue, Hank Williams III talks about how pit bulls have been demonized.

If you don’t own a house, you can’t even have a pit bull in LA. They won’t let you put it in an apartment. They won’t allow that breed in apartments. It really got a bad rap.

What shall we expect from you next, musically, that is?

There will be a lot on the future, the whole ‘Invasion’ is that you are gonna see a lot more of me on different records, and putting my album out…I just did something in the studio and am going to do a video with it. I’m just re-introducing myself to the world again. Then I’m gonna follow it up with a whole bunch of records because I am in this little bubble of being a Ramone and I don’t stray far from my rock and roll roots.

I write all kinds of different songs but I only perform the ones I like that are hard and stuff. I am looking to collaborate with other people and submit my other songs, which are really not for me. As an artist, I don’t only write one type of song. It could be a ballad. It could be a keyboard song…it could be for Alicia Keyes or whatever, so there is going to be more of that.

Are you working with anyone beside the Gobshites and Ramonas?
There’s a band out of Canada called the Rock and Roll Rats. I just did five songs on their EP. That should be out soon. It’s so cool. I never met them. They send me the files, then I record on them in my studio and I send them back. It gets them more attention. They can have Richie Ramone on their album and I can do it in my pajamas and sneakers…haha…It’s a wonderful, tool, Facebook…I’ve hooked up with a lot of people and gotten a lot of work from it. I make new friends every day. People can find me, you know?

You can find out more about Richie Ramone, the 2012 Invasion, and even buy one of his tee shirts at See him when he gets to your town, it is always fun to see a legend at work!

Happy Birthday to Mikhail Bulgakov, from Patti Smith and Beatdom!

On May 15, 1891, Mikhail Bulgakov was born.

Today, also May 15, Patti Smith was kind enough to talk to Beatdom about writing, her favorite Apostles, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, William S. Burroughs, and Herbert Huncke, among other things. You will have to wait until Beatdom Issue 12 comes out to read the full interview, but since today is Bulgakov’s birthday, and Patti likes to keep track of such things, we thought we would share the birthday salute, along with these words from one of the greatest singer-songwriters living today. On June 5, she will release her first collection of new material since Trampin’ in 2004, and Bulgakov, and a favorite canine character of his, figure prominently in the work.

Here is what Patti had to tell us about Mikhail Bulgakov and the connection to her new CD/album/LP/digital download, or whatever you prefer to call it…it is her new music.

“Bulgakov is one of the great Russian novelists and playwrights who was suppressed by Stalin and, very simply, he wrote one of the masterpieces of the Twentieth Century,  The Master and Margarita. I am not really ready to give a lecture on political culture today but I do like to wish him a Happy Birthday. I think the best way to know Bulgakov is to read him.

“The album title (Banga) came from the dog in The Master and Margarita. It was Pontius Pilate’s dog and his dog’s name was ‘Banga.’ The reason I wrote a song for Banga, for those who have not read the book, Pontius Pilate waited on the edge of Heaven for 2000 years to talk to Jesus Christ and his dog, Banga, stayed faithfully by his side and I thought that any dog that would wait 2000 years for his master deserves a song. Its really a song for my band and for the people. It’s a high-spirited song, dedicated to love and loyalty.”

High-spirited, dedicated to love and loyalty…sounds like familiar territory for Patti. As usual, we hear Lenny Kaye’s great guitar playing, Tony Shanahan working the grace out of the keyboards and bass, and the rock-steady beat of Jay Dee Daugherty. There is love and loyalty for you – Kaye has been with Patti since 1974, Daugherty since 1975, and Shanahan since 1988. New to the mix are Patti’s son Jackson Smith on guitar, and Jack Petruzzelli, a new face in the Patti Smith Group since 2007, on guitar and bass. Old friend Tom Verlaine makes an appearance, as does Patti’s daughter Jesse Paris.

There is a sense of continuity to this LP, more than with many past offerings. The sound is fantastic but is undoubtedly better live and loud. The subject matter starts with Amerigo Vespucci and Christopher Columbus makes an appearance near the end. Mixed in are songs dedicated to Johnny Depp, the survivors of last year’s Japanese nuclear disaster, Amy Winehouse, Nikolai Gogol and, of course, Bulgakov. Plus there is a lot more, but we have only had three days to listen, and, as usual, it is lyrically dense.

It is noteworthy to mention that Mick Jagger,  one of her early role models and heroes, wrote the Rolling Stones song, Sympathy For The Devil, after reading the same book. It seems like the best way to enjoy Banga is to order the deluxe edition (featuring the excellent bonus track, Just Kids, which is a classic that seems perfect for a loud performance), along with her most-recently released book, Woolgathering, and order yourself a copy of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. You can pre-order today, while it is still Mikhail’s birthday!

We hope you enjoy all three but especially some long-awaited new music from Patti, one of the most talented living performers. For more information on how to pre-order Banga, please visit

What to Expect from Beatdom #11

As many of you know, the next issue of Beatdom marks a very special anniversary. It is the fifth anniversary of Beatdom’s inception. Five years is a tremendous landmark in this industry, and we’re celebrating by bringing you our best issue yet, including four massive interviews with some of the hippest, most Beat names around.

Here’s a list of contents…

“Grizzly Bear” Katy Gurin – short story

“Billy Burroughs: Gentleman Farmer” David S. Wills – essay

“Like Some Blissful Ferdinand” Kat Hollister – poem

“Somewhere Far Beyond” Kat Hollister – poem

“Tender Love Song” Chuck Taylor – poem

“Dick in Dixie” Michael Hendrick – interview

“Hunter S. Thompson: Gonzo Frontiersman” Rory Feehan – essay

“Interview with Al Hinkle” David S. Wills – interview

“Autumn’s Mardi Gras” Robin Como – poem

“You Movement” Robin Como – poem

“After the Deluge” Larry Beckett – essay

“Liberation Under the Snow Moon” Zeena Schreck – story

“Interview with Ann Charters” Michael Hendrick – interview

“The Rain Forest Massacre” Michael Shorb – poem

“William Blake and the Beat Generation” David S. Wills short essay

“Richie Ramone is Back” Michael Hendrick – interview

“Untitled Art” Waylon Bacon – art

Review: One and Only: The Untold Story of On the Road

by Michael Hendrick

One and Only: The Untold Story of On The Road, may have played more to the heart had it been sub-titled The Untold Story of the Desolation Angels.  Published in November 2011, the volume is mainly comprised of Gerald Nicosia’s interviews with Lu Anne Henderson, former girlfriend of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady and first ex-wife of Cassady. Henderson, in On The Road, is referred to as ‘Marylou’.

Although not a character in the latter, her words paint, in the end, a portrait of the desolation of Jack and Neal, both driven to desperate distraction and depression by the roles and expectations foisted upon them in the former novel.  Also, through her words, we see how integral Lu Anne became in the formation of the Beat Generation; that she was not just another pert piece of jailbait Neal was known to chase.

We learn that Jack and Neal did not like each other.  Not many liked Neal, which can be blamed on fear, jealousy, or the thought of a natural born con dropped into the middle of a group of Columbia students.  Neal bared his heart and soul to Lu Anne; so did Jack. The two men came to know each other, not through interacting, but through what Lu Anne told one about the other, in the times they were alone together.  She loved them both and her love shone bright enough for them to see what was good, what brilliance burst from the other man. They became fast friends when Lu Anne introduced soul to soul; before that, they had trouble even having a simple conversation with each other.

On The Road presented Jack with a variety of psychic challenges from the constant worry and waiting for the publisher to accept it, to guilt-ridden doubt about how his friends would perceive the characters he forged from their earthly essences, to living up to being the character of ‘Sal Paradise’ – who with Neal as ‘Dean Moriarty’, gave a new sort of maverick hero to a strange new generation. This generation embraced, emulated, imitated and intoxicated itself into an active cerebral state where freedom of choice in our own fate and existence became true options by following the example of the rebel heroes. Mass emulation forced Jack and Neal into roles they had long outgrown. Not only that, Jack exaggerated and changed facts, so they had to live up to caricatures of themselves. In the meantime, their real blood spilled on the tracks.

Cassady, found himself stuck in Moriarty’s shoes ad infinutum, always ‘on,’ always the superhuman clown who was expected to perform constantly. A cross-over character used by Tom Wolfe, Cassady is seen as the man with the plan in The Electric Koolaid Acid Test, introduced in white tee and doing his famous hammer toss. Lu Anne never saw the hammer toss, although she had heard much of it, secondhand. When Neal finally talked about it, it was in shame, as he had painted himself into a predictable corner. In the beginning he felt obliged to live up to the image Kerouac had created and it had slowly turned into a sideshow, the hammer being the most obvious prop. Now he felt like a performing monkey. “I put on my act at six o’clock and eight o’clock,” he says, in Lu Anne’s best memory.


She is like a hip, sexy Dorothy, pulling back the curtains and revealing the Wizard(s)…Her lesson being pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. She knew the real men behind the curtain before the curtain cloaked them in myth and fable. Much of what she tells seems revelatory – but only in the context of how Kerouac tweaked real life into typed adventures. Jack and Neal – Men, not Gods – acted like most men do. If Neal had five dollars in his pocket, it was his five dollars. The Beats were not as communal a society as we would like to recall them as being. They were real people. They were selfish sometimes.

During the early 1950s Jack was in a state of high anxiety concerning his future, and the high expectations that went along with the hopeful success of his book, which he had started writing in 1948. Although, in legend, he is said to have written it all in one three-week stint,  he actually typed up the book on the infamous reel of teletype paper in 1951, culled from the notebooks that Jack always carried in his shirt pocket.  It was during the creative process of compiling these notes that Neal abandoned him and Lu Anne in San Francisco in 1949. Added to the frustration of butting heads with his publisher and trying to create a new style of prose, the rejection by Neal (who drove Jack and Lu Anne across the country, only to leave them stranded in the middle of the city with no cash while he returned to live with then-wife, Carolyn) seemed to set Jack off into a spiral of depression from which he would never fully recover. While most of the literary world and readers did not see this, Lu Anne did.

Lu Anne’s lot was not an easy one, either; bouts with irritable bowel syndrome eventually led to dependence on medications and ultimately to morphine and heroin addiction. While she outlived the pair of men, her lot was not easy. In the 1980s, she eventually returned to Denver, where she initially met Neal when she was fifteen years old, and cleaned up. Conducted in 1978, before her death from cancer in 2006, the transcription of the interview runs to some 34,000 words. We are also presented with 55 archival photographs of Lu Anne, Jack, Neal, Allen Ginsberg, Al Hinkle, and other Beat figures, some of which have never been seen before this printing by Viva Editions.

In many ways, it is more sobering than most volumes on Beat history. One telling incident is hopelessness concealed in the question Neal asked Lu Anne, when he finally went quiet and quit acting, “Where do we go from here, Babe?”

What Is There To See Inside Beatdom 10 ~ The Religion Issue?

Greetings, Dear Readers!

We know you have been waiting for the new issue of Beatdom to come out. Well,  it is here and it is available and a lot of you have ordered your copy already at the crazy low cost of only $9.99 . Here are a few photos of the innards of this portable literary salon!

You will first notice the excellent cover art (above), which is a likeness of Krishna painted by Ed Terrell of the A.C.O.R. Gallery in Reading, PA. It is part of his series of portraits on Indian deities.

Hinduism: A Different Beat by Ravi and Geetanjali Joshi Mishra

Here we have a very interesting essay to go with that wonderful cover. Ravi and Geetanjali Joshi Mishra tell us about Hinduism and how the roots of the Beat movement actually spring from Hindu texts…which trickled down and eventually became the basis for Buddhism. The Mishras explain and show us why particular trappings of traditional Hinduism, such as same-sex relationships and the smoking of ganja to honour the Divine Entities, would appeal to our Beloved Beats.

A Short History Of Buddhism In Berlin by Zeena Schreck

Then, while you still have your Buddha on, check out what dharma has to do with the death of a fly in a new story by one of our newest contributors, Zeena Schreck. Zeena also gives us a tale of Sethian Awakening in another short story, called Lost and Found. These are great stories and we are sure you will enjoy them! Zeena is spiritual leader of the Sethian Liberation Movement and you can learn more about that at

William S. Burroughs: My Confessional Letter to the Western Lands by Nikolas Schreck

Also onboard as a new contributor is Nikolas Schreck,  Zeena’s husband. The pair collaborated on the narration of the film Charles Manson Superstar. Here, Nikolas writes a letter to William S. Burrroughs, in which we learn, among other things, that David Bowie used Burroughs’ ‘cut-ups’ method of writing in his rocking LP Diamond Dogs, which was news to us! You can always learn something new in Beatdom!

Kitty Bruce on Lenny Bruce, Religion and Recovery, with Michael Hendrick

It seems like hardly an issue of Beatdom goes by that we do not mention Lenny Bruce, so this issue we are delighted to welcome his daughter, Kitty Bruce, to the pages of Beatdom. In this interview, she gives us the skinny on why Lenny had it in for religion, what it was like to grow up in a legendary showbiz household and what she is doing to preserve and celebrate the memory of her father.  Comedy would not be as near the cutting edge as it is today, if not for Lenny.

Forever Stung by Michael Hendrick

Something that runs through every issue of Beatdom is wonderful artwork. The sketch of Lenny Bruce, as well as the illustration for this story, were penned by the magnificently ghoulish Waylon Bacon. This story tells how one of our beloved editors was not always a worldwise, bigtime publisher…he was a kid who fell for one of the oldest tricks between the two covers of the Bible, the lure of the Christian cult. Fans of TV’s Seinfeld will note that he was a member of what became the ‘Christian Brothers Carpet Cleaners’.

Eating The Beat Menu by Nick Meador

Since we are mentioning Art, we find still another new contributor of artwork in Kaliptus, who joined us to illustrate this story on Jack Kerouac by returning contributor, Nick Meador. Nick looks at the Jungian implications of Buddhism and Catholicism and the effect they had on Kerouac as a writer, a person and a speck of the universe.

Tristessa: Heavengoing by Paul Arendt

In a similar vein, we present you with another scholarly study on Kerouac, and the schism in his life created by his divergent beliefs in both Buddhism and Catholicism.  In this essay,  Arendt uses a lesser-known work of Jack Kerouac, Tristessa, to make his point and to pull examples from. If you have not read Tristessa, this will make you want to. It will also enlighten you as to Kerouac’s state of mind when he wrote it.

One and Only By Gerald Nicosia reviewed by Michael Hendrick

In some issues, certain Beats seem to get all the attention and in this issue Kerouac is King, it would seem. The absence of  material on Ginsberg does not mean we forgot him.  Nicosia’s book is subtitled, ‘The True Story of ‘On The Road,’ and in interviews with Luanne Henderson, who memorably rode in the car with Jack and Neal Cassady as they criss-crossed America, we find out how Kerouac’s famous novel became his undoing and how Neal became trapped in the image of ‘heroic entertainer’.

The Weird Cult: How Scientology Shaped the Writing of William S. Burroughs by David S. Wills

Back to Burroughs, here, Beatdom’s Editor-In-Chief reports on how William S. Burroughs got pulled into the web of Scientology, how it affected his writing, how he eventually because disenchanted with the sect and how he went after the group’s founder and leader, L. Ron Hubbard in a very public way. Mr. Wills continues research on this topic and will release a book on his findings, probably next year by Beatdom Books. What follows is another photo from Mr. Wills’ essay…

Then just to show that not all is serious and based on fact, we have another short story by Velourdebeast, about what can happen to a person when they have no faith in anything at all and throw themselves at the mercy of the world. Velourdebeast is a mysterious contributor from points West, who was literally born on the pages of Beatdom!

Maggie Mae and the Band by Velourdebeast

There is much more to this issue than the photos above, but we can only put so much in one post. There is lots of poetry and art that we just do not have the time or space to explain here but, on that, we shall leave you, as Beatdom does, with this last-page illustration by Waylon Bacon! Just remember that this is a print journal. While many of you enjoy it on Kindle and other platforms, there is nothing like seeing it in print. We took these photos to show that, and while some of them may not be in the best lighting, etc, we trust you all get the idea.

Beatdom 10 is available now for $9.99 on and at the A.C.O.R Gallery in Reading, Pa, 610-898-7684

Why Bob Dylan Was Wrong About Lenny Bruce

“You are talking about a writer singing something that might rhyme,” says Kitty, “Bob Dylan has written wonderful songs but I sincerely don’t believe that my father didn’t want to live anymore.”

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What Do The Rolling Stones Have In Common With Mr. Burroughs?

Aside from the love of guns, hard drugs, being cultural phenomenons and part-time movie stars, what did William S. Burroughs share with the Rolling Stones?

Recently released on DVD,  Stones In Exile is a documentary premiered by the BBC in May.  Amid the great footage of the boys (?) jamming and living at Keith Richards’ house in France, we get a gliimpse of the song-writing process that put Jagger/Richards on the pop map.

One pleasant surprise, among many, is the creation of the song, Casino Boogie.

Casino Boogie was written in the famous ‘cut up’ style created by Williams Burroughs and Brion Gysin. Words and phrases and cut from sentences and thrown into a hat. Then the cut up pieces of language are magically arranged by the forces that be and are divined by the artist, who randomly picks out the cut up pieces and puts them together into some semblance of order.  Burroughs based novels on the concept, as is explained in David S. Wills’ essay on Burroughs and Scientology in the soon-to-be-released Beatdom Number 10, The Religion Issue.

Here is what Mick and Keith did with their cut ups…just click on the link below.

Casino Boogie

Kitty Bruce Talks To Beatdom About Lenny Bruce and Religion

In November, Kitty Bruce, daughter and only survivor of  comedy icon/legend Lenny Bruce, was gracious enough to talk to Beatdom about her father’s distain for organized religion, as evidenced in a number of his comedy routines, life at home and Lenny’s House, the twelve step rehab for women in NorthEast Pennsylvania which she started in memory of her father.

Kitty tells us about her father’s, and her own, childhood in the new Beatdom Issue 10, The Religion Issue, on sale soon. 

Was Lenny a Beat?

 He was called that by police and press. Allen Ginsberg organized the “Emergency Committee Against the Harrassment of Lenny Bruce” during the 1964 Cafe Au Go Go trial in New York City.  Queried on the connection between Lenny and the Beats, Kitty said, “I’m very familiar with Allen, I knew Allen…if the question is,  did my father sit around coffee houses and snap his fingers?…probably not…haha..”

Many reached out to help Lenny when the law was out to kill him (Vincent Cuccia, one of the New York D.A.’s who prosecuted Bruce’s last obscenity case, said, “We drove him into poverty and bankruptcy and then murdered him. We all knew what we were doing. We used the law to kill him.”) and Kitty reaches back out to help women by providing a safe, sober and nurturing environment , providing support, education and other tools necessary to stay clean and sober. You can honor the memory of Lenny Bruce by donating to The Lenny Bruce Memorial Foundation, PO Box 1089, Pittston, PA 18640.

Many of Lenny’s prized possessions and memorabilia are up for sale, for those who would like to help Lenny’s House and also own a priceless item such as the typewriter Lenny used or his famously-photographed trenchcoat! Send inquiries to the address above.

Beatdom Issue 10, The Religion Issue, is coming your way in a few days. Read what Kitty Bruce has to say, along with many other fascinating writers and great work by our excellent artists!!!

Beatdom is available at and and

Another New Childrens’ Book With Words By Bob Dylan

For the third time in four years,  a new children’s book hit the market last month, with words and music by Bob Dylan.

Blowin’ In The Wind,  released last month by Sterling  Childrens Books, with illustrations by Jon J. Muth, follows the 2010 Sterling release of the book based on the gem from Dylan’s 1979 LP, Slow Train Coming,  Man Gave Names To All The Animals which featured art inked by Jim Arnosky. In 2008,  Atheneum Books published the selection Forever Young, illustrated by Paul Rogers.

Dylan has worked on various project aimed at children and for childrens’ charities, one of the most memorable being his apparance on the 1999 release For Our Children, on which he played a version of the standard kids’ classic, This Old Man. Listening to Dylan when you take being serious out of the equation, as in childrens, songs, is a treat. Here is a video of  This Old Man.  Just click on the link to hear it!

Bob Dylan sings ‘This Old Man’