Today (Dec. 10), a very special art gallery opens in New York City -- 'Dee Dee Ramone: The Exhibition NYC.' The exhibit showcases some of Dee Dee's original artwork, while highlighting several photographs of him and the Ramones -- and it's all housed in the legendary Chelsea Hotel.

There were several friends, fans and artists in the crowd at the gallery's launch party last night, including Blondie guitarist Chris Stein, Jerry Only of the Misfits and Sean Yseult of White Zombie.

Also in the crowd was the one and only, Bob Gruen. Over the years, Gruen has come to be one of the most profound and iconic photographers in the history of rock and roll, and it was a distinct honor to chat with him at the party.

"Dee Dee was just starting to have exhibits of his paintings and there are a lot of people who don't really know that about Dee Dee, his art, his writing -- not just his songs and music," Gruen tells us. "Since he's not here, to be able to bring some of his presence here with some good pictures is a privilege and an honor. I'm happy to do it and to be a part of an exhibit like this."

Gruen, who first shot the Ramones in 1975, has many fond memories of Dee Dee. "I knew him pretty well. In fact, I introduced him to his first wife and took pictures at their wedding," he explains. "For 12 years [with his first wife], he was very happy and sober. I have a lot of memories of him."

Recalling the first time he saw the Ramones live, Gruen says, "It was a showcase, I think that was the first time. They were in this little loft and they did about 12 songs in 16 minutes. Everyone went, 'What the hell was that?' You had no idea what happened, but you wanted to see it again."

Going on, the photographer talks about that first time photographing the band. "I went out to Forest Hills to meet them," Gruen recalls. "That's where they lived, where they hung out. We walked down their streets, got on the subway -- I got some good pictures of them on the train and brought them into the city and took a picture of them in front of CBGB where they were playing that night. Those are some very good memories, just hanging out with them and taking the train with them."

Talking about those early days, Gruen laughs and tells us, "They didn't even have guitar cases. Johnny had his guitar in a shopping bag, and I think Dee Dee couldn't even afford a shopping bag!"

The Ramones - 1975 - Bob Gruen
The Ramones, 1975 - Bob Gruen

While many of us are not fortunate enough to have been able to call Dee Dee a friend and share the memories that Gruen has amassed over the years, 'Dee Dee Ramone: The Exhibition NYC' strives to authentically and genuinely capture the bassist's life. In addition to Dee Dee's original artwork, there are dozens of photos from the likes of Gruen, Mick Rock, Ed Perlstein, Keith Green and more. Get more details on the new gallery -- which is open through Jan. 1, 2015 -- here.

Scroll through the photo gallery above to see some shots from the launch party -- and to check out even more photos from Gruen's prolific career, head over to his official website.