\m/  Ronnie James Dio Memorial, Forest Lawn Cemetery, 30 May 2010

It was June 2008. I was going to India. I recognized Ronnie James Dio standing lining up for the airplane at LAX. Strange, I thought, that he would be among the unwashed masses.  I walked up and said, "Hey, I really love your music." 

"Oh, thank you!" he replied, genuinely pleased.

Later, I boarded.  He looked up, smiling.  To my surprise, I got closer, and...I was sitting next to him!

Because I was on my way to India, we spoke about that some. He was curious about India, saying that he was interested in touring there someday soon.  He spoke of how much he enjoyed Shalimar Cuisine of India in Woodland Hills.

We spoke of trumpet playing, the Yankees, his Pro Tools 7.4/Digi002 rig, our Gibson SGs, how he brings a Neumann U87 to record, taking care of his father, Akai MG tape machines, his neighbor Tom Petty, and meeting celebrities.

"The first celebrity I ever was Louis Armstrong," Ronnie said.  "There was a room full of people, so my father put me on his shoulders.  He wasn't very tall either, but I could see Louis Armstrong.  He saw me sitting on top and said, 'Bring him over here!' "  Ronnie was still excited about this meeting. "Louis Armstrong was the first to not exactly follow the song.  All of us, singers, etc., we all followed him."

"The pushing and pulling of the rhythm?"

"Yes, and flowing in and out of the music.  Before him, everyone followed the song exactly."


Photo by Wendy Dio.

I asked what inspired his lyrics.  "People I meet," he replied.  He went on to say that although he dressed it up with wizards and dragons, they were often about people het met.  "I've never met a dragon, of course.  I write about the underdog." 

Growing up, he was always told that he was too short.  He feels that people relate to him because they too feel like outsiders.

His dream was to be a baseball player.  He talked about the Yankees, about Mickey Mantle, whom he had met.

He spoke about how much he loved playing with Heaven and Hell.  He said he had just come back from Spain and Scandinavia.  After visiting his father, he'd be busy for the next two years, touring and recording.  "My life's written out for the next two years."

If only that had been the case.

Ronnie James Dio passed away 16 May 2010 of stomach cancer.

What I think about in meeting Ronnie is not so much that I met a celebrity whose music I liked.  That was cool, no doubt.  But what I remember is how I really liked the guy, how down-to-earth and real and intelligent and humorous and generous he was. How he was one of the nicest people I've ever met.  How he was speaking to me as a friend.  And if I had not been someone famous, meeting him would still have been memorable, something to be cherished.  R.I.P., my friend.  \m/


Wendy Dio and others organized a memorial for Ronnie at Hall of Liberty at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Burbank.  Lisa and I went.  It was a hot day, but no matter...almost everyone wore black.  But for Dio, black most often meant wearing concert jerseys.

And if someone didn't have a concert jersey, they could at least buy a black shirt.  Not just any shirt, but an official T-Shirt, program and button available for a donation to the "Stand Up And Shout" Cancer Fund. So we stood in line.  All of the $25 went to the fund.


Lisa underneath the giant screen outside the Hall of Liberty.  Inside the hall would be 1200 people.  Outside, hundreds more.  But we could watch on the large screens in the parking lot...

...or in the grassy area to the side of the Hall as well, where white lawn chairs were set up, where we sat under the hot May sun and gulped bottles of water.

Another photographer saw me shooting photos of the Grim Reaper.  "I'm afraid of that guy!" he chuckled.

A hot May day, watching the memorial for several hours.

The proceedings, hosted by Eddie Trunk of "That Metal Show", took a chronological look at the musical life of Ronnie James Dio, from his time in '50s bands such as Ronnie and the Prophets and The Vegas Kings through Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and Dio.

Those gathered remembered Ronnie as a passionate performer who was gracious on and off stage.

Many recalled Dio's continued support over the years of Children of the Night, the teenage prostitution rehabilitation organization where his wife, Wendy, serves as chairman. Ronnie spoke passionately of Children of the Night during our conversation as well.

A spokesperson for the "Stand Up And Shout" Cancer Fund spoke about the importance of obtaining cancer screenings to catch cancer in its earliest phases, something that Ronnie's son Dan Padavona urged the crowd to consider.

"I beg you not to make the same mistake my dad made," said Padavona. "For dad, the show always had to go on. He ignored the warning signs for years, and all along the cancer was growing and mutating from something that was probably easily defeatable into a monster which even Dio couldn't slay."

Ronnie loved Indian food.  I had told him about South Indian cuisine.  He was intrigued at my description, and we spoke of going to Woodlands in Chatsworth for dinner someday. It seemed only fitting that Lisa and I went there to have masala dosas after his memorial.  Perhaps it's what Ronnie would have wanted.  \m/


I won't even bother mentioning the church affiliation of these protesters outside Forest Lawn, accusing Dio of Devil worshipping and...well, you can read the signs.  People later showed up with signs saying "God Hates Signs" and other things to detract from their, uh, message.

Ronnie James Dio Memorial Service, Forest Lawn, 30 May 2010 YouTube video

Ronnie James Dio Memorial, Forest Lawn Cemetery, 30 May 2010

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