Cue the spooky Halloween music because we’re going on a stroll among the grassy knolls of New York area cemeteries. Nothing like a little crypt crawl to go with your “fun size” Snickers and Kit Kats, eh? Thanks to a little help from our dauntless collegiate researcher, Paul Bisbort, we can now realize this goal. As Count Floyd would say, “Ah wooooooooooooooooooo.”
Count Floyd puts you in the mood:
For those who stopped drinking years ago, a rock ‘n’ roll pub crawl may be off the bucket list for the Halloween season. The logical alternative, then, would be a rock ‘n’ roll crypt crawl. The added bonus to such an activity is that you can bring along your own warm beverages in a thermos and you will always be socially distanced in a cemetery. The timing is right, too. As more of our favorite rockers hit the sod with each passing year—Charlie Watts and Don Everly have both died in the past two months—this may be the closest we get to that reunion tour we kept hoping would materialize while they were alive.
On its face, of course, this may not sound like a lot of fun but, as they say, life is what you make it. And so, maybe, is death.
Take Johnny Ramone. After a four-year battle with prostate cancer, he died in September 2004. During his lengthy medical struggle, Johnny visited the legendary Hollywood Forever cemetery, which contained the remains of some of his favorite old movie stars. His first visit was to attend a Halloween party thrown by Jacqui Getty in 2001 and then he returned the following year for the burial there of bandmate Dee Dee Ramone.
When his time came, Johnny wanted a nice plot in the cemetery’s Garden of Legends section, among such stars as Rudolph Valentino, Peter Lorre, Jayne Mansfield, Hattie McDaniel and Nelson Eddy. Shortly after the burial, a four-foot-tall statue of Johnny Ramone playing his guitar was mounted at his gravesite. Now his grave is one of the most visited spots in this legendary cemetery. And those who come to visit Johnny’s crypt can also crawl over to Dee Dee’s less flamboyant headstone nearby (often covered in lipstick kisses by loving visitors). Since Johnny and Dee Dee’s deaths, Vampira (Maila Nurmi) has been buried here, and rumor has it that Morrissey has inquired about reserving a plot for himself. He and Johnny Ramone can be curmudgeons together for eternity!
If Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone both welcomed such tributes, who are we to deny all the rest of our favorite musical artists?
With that thought in mind, we invite you to hop on board the Tombstone Express. We will be pushing off shortly. The first installment of the PKM Crypt Crawl will take place right outside our back door. (More installments are planned for the coming months). Mind the gap as you get off. You don’t wanna join them. Not yet, anyway.
Tommy Ramone (Tamás Erdélyi) (1949-2014): New Montefiore Cemetery, West Babylon, N.Y.
The original drummer, he played on and co-produced the band’s first three classic albums. His last gig as drummer was May 4, 1978, at a Johnny Blitz benefit at CBGB. He was the longest lived of the original band, making it to 65, and generally regarded as a true gentleman. His official resting address is: Section 5, Block 14, Row 31, Grave 14, Roosevelt Park.
Joey Ramone (Jeffrey Hyman) (1951-2001): Mt. Zion Cemetery, Lyndhurst, N.J.
Rock ‘n’ roll lost a true giant (in more ways than one) when Joey Ramone died at 49 in 2001. He’s buried as “Jeff” in the Hyman family plot in New Jersey, with a musical note and a Star of David adorning the stone, along with the words “Loving Son and Brother, A.K.A Joey Ramone, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer”.
Johnny Thunders (1952-1991): Mount St. Mary Cemetery, 172-00 Booth Memorial Ave., Flushing/Queens, NY
The former New York Dolls and Heartbreakers guitarist died in a guest house in New Orleans at age 38, but he was buried in his native soil in Queens. His resting place is beneath the Nicoletti family headstone, located in Section 9, Grave R-78-82. On the stone is inscribed “Johnny Thunders Genzale”.
Jerry Nolan (1946-1992): Mount St. Mary Cemetery, 172-00 Booth Memorial Ave., Flushing/Queens, NY
Thunders’ Dolls/Heartbreakers drummer, Jerry Nolan, died only a few months after his friend. Nolan, a Brooklyn native, is buried near Thunders in the same Queens cemetery, at Grave 24-A-89.
The quietly efficient lead guitarist of the Velvet Underground grew up on Long Island and was childhood friends with Maureen Tucker and her brother, Jim. After the Velvets broke up, he earned a Ph.D. in medieval literature at the University of Texas, then earned accreditation as a master mariner and was captain of a tugboat in Houston for years. He is buried in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Lou Reed (1942-2013): Cremated.
He was born in Brooklyn and grew up on Long Island, so it’s probably fitting that he died at his home in East Hampton, on Long Island, five months after a liver transplant operation. His ashes were kept by his family. Since there is no “marker” to which one can go to pay respect, we suggest staring at the Atlantic Ocean from a Long Island beach while playing “Cremation” (aka “Ashes to Ashes”) from Lou’s Magic & Loss album. “Well, the coal black sea waits for me, me, me / The coal black sea waits forever / The waves hit the shore / Crying more, more, more / But the coal black sea waits forever.”
Here’s Lou performing the song live in a studio in 1992:
John Lennon (1940-1980): Cremated.
His ashes were scattered in Central Park, near where he lived, and tragically died, at the Dakota at W. 72nd Street in Manhattan.
His grave is a magnet for pilgrims who pay tribute by leaving tubes of paint, paintbrushes and flowers behind. The inscription on the headstone is simple: Name, dates, and one word “ARTIST.”
Jim Carroll (1949-2009): Saint Peters Cemetery, Haverstraw, N.Y. The poet and singer-musician was born in Manhattan, played b-ball in Manhattan and died in Manhattan. He’s buried in the Hudson River Valley town of Haverstraw. A fitting musical sendoff, perhaps, would be his “People Who Died.” Here he is performing it live with Lou Reed at the Capitol Theatre in 1984 (Robert Quine on lead guitar).
Miles Davis: Woodlawn Cemetery, E 233rd St & Webster Avenue, Bronx, NY
He is noted as “Sir Miles Davis” on his tombstone, and who’s going to argue with that? He’s got the potential for a helluva band because also buried in Woodlawn are: Max Roach, Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington, Celia Cruz, Irving Berlin, Countee Cullen, Nellie Bly, W.C. Handy, Dorothy Parker, Damon Runyon and Herman Melville (on harpoon, no doubt).
Billie Holiday (1915-1959): St. Raymond New Cemetery, 2600 Lafayette Ave., Bronx, NY. “Lady Day” is buried next to her mother, Sadie. They both had rough lives. Maybe they are resting in peace now.
Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989): St. John Cemetery, 80-01 Metropolitan Ave., Middle Village, NY. The photographer’s ashes were interred in his mother’s coffin here.
Nick Tosches (1949-2019): Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington, N.J. The journalist, novelist, rock critic, poet and biographer was born in Newark and died at his Manhattan home.
Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997): Bnai Israel Cemetery, Newark, N.J.
The Beat poet who saw the best minds of his generation starving hysterical naked was laid to rest in Newark, where he was born, not too far from Paterson, where he grew up. On his gravestone is inscribed, “Here entombed a poet of his generation. A preacher of the oneness of God.”
William Carlos Williams (1883-1963): Hillside Cemetery, Lyndhurst, N.J., Plot #1112. The gentle physician and great poet spent many years in Paterson, and his writings deeply influenced Beat Generation poets including Allen Ginsberg, whom he mentored, as well as, years later, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch.