The Ramones — the Queens rock band that gave birth to punk music, ripped jeans and black leather jackets — may be a flashback to a 1970s underground music scene but for Linda Ramone, widow of Johnny Ramone, it is a way of life.
In town from Los Angeles, she is here preserving the punk rock band’s legacy and celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Ramones’ 1976 debut album. It is being depicted in a memorabilia exhibition at the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows Corona Park that opens Sunday.
Black Converse sneakers, beat up Marshall guitar amps and handwritten magic marker CBGB fliers announcing their gigs highlight the punk movement where the Ramones’ rebel cry “Gabba Gabba Hey” and “Hey Ho, Let’s Go” beckoned those who dared to be different.
“Who would think that punk rock would be in a museum?” said Ramone, a Rosedale native who dated lead singer Joey Ramone and later married Johnny Ramone, a construction worker-turned-guitar player.
“Who would think that 40 years later, people would be wearing ripped jeans and leather jackets, except the only difference is they wore their jeans until they fell apart. They weren’t stage clothes,” Ramone said. She was dressed in a vintage white rabbit fur cape, a purple satin go-go dress and tiara when interviewed at the Soho House in the Meatpacking District on Saturday.
The exhibition shows the album jacket covers with lyrics and such cartoon images as the sunbathing friendly, but sexy bunny rabbits for “Rockaway Beach,” and the dysfunctional Queens family whose hypnotic gaze makes the suburban home look scary but funny.
“Today, everything is so politically correct that you can’t say anything without offending someone,” said Ramone, who doubts the 1970s band could have succeeded in today’s world. “It was a cult. You didn’t have cellphones. You had to go out and see the bands and try to find the punk magazines.”
Marc H. Miller, co-curator of the exhibition, said, “The Ramones were very good at expressing the darkness of the times. The Lower East Side was burned out like the South Bronx. There was anxiety and life was not particularly good. The Ramones were able to express it — not in a pretentious way like Bob Dylan — but in a simple way with humor that helped get the angry out.”
In a large glass frame are Joey Ramone’s doodles, which is how he wrote his lyrics. He writes the name “Bleecker Bob’s,” the Greenwich Village record shop, and draws a Dole pineapple can that speaks into a talking bubble: “Who’s Bruce Springsteen?” Then writes the names Mick Jagger and Peter Frampton.
Ramone’s favorite part of the exhibition is the 60-minute film of the band’s London concert. Visitors relive the event surrounded by color portraits of the four band members, all of whom are deceased.
The exhibition, which runs through July 31, leaves the legacy her late husband wanted. “This was his wish to leave a legacy and it is my passion. I can’t be clearer than that.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the relationship between Johnny and Joey Ramone. They are not brothers.