Metal Edge magazine recently conducted an interview with Rita Haney, the longtime girlfriend of late PANTERA/DAMAGEPLAN guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow:
Metal Edge: How long have you known the Abbotts?
Rita: I've known him [Darrell] since the third grade — since we were eight years old — we were all friends in the neighborhood. I had relatives that lived a few houses away from Darrell, and I was always there after school. I used to fix him up with my friends. I'd say, 'hey, that chick digs ya', if you wanna hook up.' He became my best friend. Then one night he gave me a ride home from one of their shows — we were about 19 then, and he tried to kiss me, and I was like, 'Weird, but I think I like you too.' And we were together from then on. About 20 years. We didn't believe in the marriage thing — why fix something that ain't broke? Why have someone you don't know tell you it's OK to be with someone you do know? We didn't need the middleman! We had a one-on-one with the man upstairs ourselves."
Metal Edge: Tell us something about Dime that is not common knowledge, something that he would not have ever brought into an interview situation.
Rita: "I used to call him 'The Shithouse Poet.' He was the king of documenting everything! Voice recorder, notes, riffs, video camera — I set up a whole little recording room with his guitar in the bathroom, and he'd wake up in the middle of the night and jump out of bed. I'd say, 'Is something wrong?' He'd say, 'Nope, just got a riff in my head,' and he'd go lay it down, then come back, jump in bed! I have 7-8 moving boxes full of tapes, most of 'em marked 'Riffs.' Some are not even marked. Every day I go and pop a tape in, and I see what he's got to tell me for the day."
Metal Edge: I bet that keeps you busy.
Rita: "Yeah, there is so much stuff in there, so I just catalog 'em and document 'em, so I know where to put 'em. It is really cool that all of that stuff is here, it keeps me close to him — I went on the road for a while with 'Z' [Zakk Wylde] — to keep myself busy, and it was amazing to see how many people in the metal community support Darrell. It really helped me to have all that love and support around me, it helps me to not deal with what reality really is… being alone. Since I've been out with TRIVIUM, I realize it's the best therapy anyone coud have!"
Metal Edge: Where were you when you got the news about Darrell?
Rita: "I was backing out of the garage in his Escalade, on my way to see MARILYN MANSON with my brother-in-law and sis, and a couple of my close friends, really happy and looking forward to seeing Bobby Tongs and Guy Sykes, who were working the tour, and MANSON, who I'm a big fan of. A number pops up on my phone that I didn't recognize. Something told me to answer it. I hear my name and I go, 'Who is this?' And I hear, 'It's Vinnie Paul. I just saw my brother get shot five times in the back of the head, and I don't have my cell phone with me. Yours is the only goddamn number I can remember.' And he sobbed… I just froze… All I could say was, 'Is this a joke? Are you sure you saw what you saw?' Vinnie said, 'Yeah, I know I did, and the guy is still in here shootin'!' I said, 'Where are you?' Vinnie said, 'I'm in the kitchen with a butcher knife — he's after me!' I felt helpless; there was nothing I could do to help him… I didn't know what to do. An hour or so goes by, and Vinnie kept calling with updates; he kept asking the officers if they could tell him about his brother, and finally one of the guys said, 'Does your brother have a 'Cowboys From Hell' tattoo?' Vinnie said 'Yes', and the officer said, 'I'm sorry, he didn't make it.' When that tour bus came home, and I had to unpack Darrell's bunk knowing that he would never get off that bus, it was the worst feeling that I've ever had. I know nothing will ever feel that bad. The coroner told me that Darrell didn't feel a thing, he didn't even know that it happened to him. I take comfort in knowing that he didn't see it coming — it was instantaneous — and that he had a smile on his face doing something that he truly loved… I will never not think of him."
Metal Edge's entire interview with Rita Haney appears in the magazine's July 2006 issue, available on the newsstands now.