Having lived all over the world, the sober Ramone now happily calls Hollywood home. "Yuppies and gym types" have taken over his lower Manhattan, all the Latino neighborhoods, the dealers, his way of life.
"New York was always about being funky," he says. "The dope, the Day-Glo orange stuff, ya know. But that, that's not conducive to punk rock music. But I'm like a New York-type person. I like to walk around and look at the stores. I'm like a loner. I love Hollywood Boulevard. It's great!"
His opinion of groups like Blink 182, Green Day and the Offspring -- bands that basically nicked the Ramones shtick and sold zillions of records -- is fairly generous. He likens what these bands have done to what the Rolling Stones did for the old blues cats. The Dee Dee Ramone of old may not have been so kind.
"The Green Days or whatever kept popularizing the Ramones, and somehow it kind of paid off for the Ramones. We got in that Howard Stern movie. Joey went on Howard Stern's radio show for seven years. He would get up at six in the morning, drudge over there, let Howard ridicule him, and then Howard gave us our song in the movie and the soundtrack went platinum, so we made a fortune. 'Sedated' got in about 20 movies. . . ."
The Ramones' worldwide catalogue continues to generate plenty of cash, and Ramone has no financial worries. "So why would I wanna try so hard now for them except for the love of it?
"I don't like it that they put out that Rhino Records anthology without ever telling me anything at all until it came out," he continues. "Then they had the biography where every member of the Ramones made their speech sort of suggesting their own personal inputs and genius in the band and what they did. And it was everything as usual, with the negative leaning toward me. I know they'll never change. But I've changed. And that's the beginning."
Ramone interrupts his own dialogue to mention that he has to make it to a dentist appointment in an hour. He's gotta get going. "I hate that," he says like a recalcitrant child. "I hate the dentist."
Did he visit a dentist all those years he was in the Ramones?
"No. I never had a chance. Nobody in a band can do that. Every experience with them was a nightmare. After the Ramones, I started going [to the dentist] like once a week, like a maniac."
There's a pause. Then, before he hangs up, Ramone says, "I wish we [the Ramones] could play, but that's probably just a fantasy. I really don't have the strength for it. I don't know what's going to happen. I'm not a fortune teller. I know my book is going to do really well. People are really liking it."