Oh, The Horror!
Chelsea Horror Hotel Horrors
Following his final and permanent departure from The Ramones, Dee Dee Ramone filled his time in and out of sobriety with a variety of solo projects, complaining, and writing the occasional book. Lobotomy: Surviving The Ramones was co-written with Veronica Korman, and is everything you expect from a rock star tell all, more or less. Ms. Korman does a really good job of helping Dee Dee’s stories stay focused and still sound like Dee Dee.
Chelsea Horror Hotel is Dee Dee’s first person account of moving into the famous Hotel Chelsea, located at 222 West 23rd Street, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, where else, in the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea. He moves in with his wife, Barbara, and his dog Banfield, with whom he can communicate. The paranoia increases as he becomes convinced he’s staying in the room where Sid Vicious supposedly stabbed Nancy Spungen to death. Add to all this Dee Dee’s involvement with a tranny girlfriend of another junkie and the fact he’s now regularly seeing the ghosts of Sid Vicious, Nancy Spungen, Johnny Thunders and Stiv Bators, and you have a mess of a book. The real horror is trying to make heads or tails of the damn thing.
We get a weird glimpse into Dee Dee’s paranoia of AIDS, his never ending quest to get a fix, his lack of patience and fantasy to kill everyone who annoys him the least bit. What we don’t get is any real plot or insight into Dee Dee’s creative process. His hold on reality is tenuous at best, as is his commitment to a dedicated storyline. It all blurs into a jumble that feels ill-conceived, poorly thought out and badly executed. Sort of like his rap album.
In 1989, before taking his own endless vacation from The Ramones, Dee Dee embarked on a brief hip hop career as rapper “Dee Dee King” with the unlistenable album Standing in the Spotlight. After a stint in rehab in 1987, Dee Dee had recorded the laughably bad “Funky Man” as his alter ego hip hop self, Dee Dee King. Music critic Matt Carlson wrote that the album “will go down in the annals of pop culture as one of the worst recordings of all time.” And this alone makes it an amazing document. An impossibly bad record from an artist who was an integral part of so many seminal and amazing recordings fumbles and flails helplessly in the most public of fashion. It’s a hard train wreck to look away from.
Standing in the Spotlight runs 31 minute and 46 seconds, but feels like a lifetime. Unfortunately, Chelsea Horror Hotel, is 252 tedious pages, and the real horror lies not in the frightening stories, but in trying to understand how a publisher allowed this mess to see the light of day. I’d hate to think that this is a cleaned up, re-written version something even worse. Dee Dee was a mess and this is a great and sad reflection of the disaster called his life. It’s also further proof that dope doesn’t necessarily inspire brilliant art. His torment, real and imagined plays out here, trying to push through it all, but getting mired in every last bit of crap imaginable. Dee Dee Ramone deserves a better written legacy than this. Where the book does succeed is in the title, by reminding me of Colonel Kurtz repeating over and over, “The horror! The horror!”