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Life Through Dime's Eyes: An Exclusive Interview With "DIMEBAG" DARRELL ABBOTT's Life Partner RITA HANEY

By Brian Davis, The Velcro Merkin
Wednesday, February 14, 2018 @ 1:00 PM

"He really couldn’t stand when you’d get in his face and you had “zackleys” [when your breath smells zackley like your ass]"

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Essentially every human being on this planet has dreams and desires, hopes and wishes, aspirations and expectations. We dedicate the thoughts and actions of our lives to the pursuit and sustainment of at least one soul-satisfying achievement: Fame, Success, Riches, Happiness, Good Health, True Love. There is no guarantee that we will accomplish any one of these things, let alone many. Yet there are those who have the drive, commitment, ability & good fortune to realize their dreams, and there are relatively few who can rival the tragically short but exceptionally fortunate life of “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott.

We all know him for his awe-inspiring mastery of the electric guitar and the unheralded impact he had in bringing Metal music to the global masses, for which he rightfully found considerable fame & success through is abilities. However, there are few who know that arguably the greatest accomplishment in his life was the discovery of his soulmate and the unbreakable bond he shared with her for nearly his entire life. He met Rita Haney in the third grade and together they built a life of unconditional love to rival the ages, forging a loving bond that could not be broken even by tragedy. In the wake of Dimebag’s tragic murder Rita won her battle with the demons of grief and she has since dedicated her life to the memory of the man she loved so completely. Working year-round coordinating charity fundraisers such as the Ride For Dime motorcycle rallies and collaborating with Dime’s friends & family to release the excellent Dimevision tribute video series, her days are dedicated to keeping his memory alive. It is because of her undying dedication to the man and his memory that we can continue to revel in the inspiring life that he led. The flame of love clearly burns forever bright within her, so as you read her words take comfort in knowing that as long as there’s still a beat in her heart she will never stop inviting us into their world to share the endless magic & inspiration of the legendary “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott.

KNAC.COM: Thank you so much for this opportunity, it’s truly an honor to talk to you.

HANEY: Oh no, shit man the pleasure’s all mine. I appreciate you guys getting behind Dime, it's important and I can’t thank you enough.

KNAC.COM: Well it’s encouraging to see how much lasting power his influence has and how much his spirit is still alive in the community.

HANEY: Yeah it makes me smile, it really does. Truly.

KNAC.COM: So I just wanted to ask a little bit about you real quick, I’m friends with you on Facebook & Instagram and you post a lot of pictures of your pets. You have a hairless cat – Cat Dracula

HANEY: Yeah, Cat Dracula.

KNAC.COM: Did you guys always have pets? Was that something that you guys shared, your own kids kinda?

HANEY: Yeah we had pets and stuff but it was kind of weird, later on Darrell developed a severe allergy to dogs and cats and other animals – it was the hair. And it’s weird, I never thought I had any allergies but then I developed them, I started having all these little hives breakout and I’m like, “What is going on?? Am I copying you, am I thinking with your Daoism or whatever you call it?” It’s kinda like how you stick a bunch of chicks in a room and they all sync together? (laughs) I love animals though, I really, really do, I’m a big animal lover.

KNAC.COM: Do you have a regular 9 to 5 day job? Or are you full time Dime?

HANEY: Dime is my full time gig, it’s the one thing I know I can do best in life: Love Him. But I do other things, like I’m about to hit the road with another band and things like that but mostly I do Dime projects, that keeps me busy for months and it’s still going. Today I planned our Ride For Dime in Dallas and then when that’s done I’ll start planning our ride for next year in L.A. and hopefully we can add a few more chapters through the year next year for Ride For Dime.

KNAC.COM: That’s one of the things that brings a smile to my face any time I see the fact that his name is able to draw in much needed support like that. I was gonna ask you – do you know ball park how much you’ve raised over the years?

HANEY: Oh gosh, that’s a good question because we started with the Six String Masterpieces [Art Tribute] back in 2007 I think that was, and the show at the House of Blues in L.A. and the Rock Block…Ah, that’s a good question. I need to total that up, I really couldn’t tell you. (laughs) I mean I know that event raised I think $250,000.00 just that single event alone for Little Kids Rock, but honestly off the top of my head I do not know.

KNAC.COM: That’s good though, I’m glad it’s significant and there’s really an impact that helps get that lasting impression on the kids.

HANEY: It’s so awesome to see how many musicians and friends of his come out and give their time so unselfishly. At no time do they ever ask for anything and I can’t even thank them enough because some of the collaborations we’ve had have been so mind blowing! And it just amazes me that they have that much love and respect for him; plus I think they just know we throw a good party, you know I had a good teacher when it came to that. But yeah, I just can’t thank everybody enough – friends and family and fans – that come in support. It’s always such a cool event.

KNAC.COM: It always make me happy to see you prospering like that.

HANEY: Cool. Thank you for your support, by the way.

KNAC.COM: I’ve been a fan for more than 25 years. I was fortunate enough to follow him for the majority of his career. I grew up in rural Colorado so I only got to see PANTERA once when I moved to Washington but it was a good one – it was the Reinventing The Steel tour with MORBID ANGEL and SLAYER at the Tacoma Dome which I believe was the last show PANTERA ever played in the United States – I’m not positive on that, but either way it was epic, guys from all three bands were onstage playing “Walk”.

HANEY: Yeah that’s always fun. That was one of my favorite things to see, Darrell always invited people onto the stage and he just loved going to clubs or a local beer joint and just watching the bands, that was his favorite thing to do – just go with it with live music and to jam and just join in. I love that he brought that to the stage as well with his friends.

KNAC.COM: And that’s what bled through his personality – it wasn’t that he was just a musician it was that he was like the embodiment of music.

HANEY: He was such a fan!

KNAC.COM: If he wasn’t playing or listening to it he was supporting it, he was music incarnate.

HANEY: Yeah it’s like the tracks we have on the CD for Dimevision 2, it’s just from him playing music all the time. He would record at the back of the bar or in hotel rooms and at home, he just always kept a 4 track with him. He loved music, music was his fascination.

KNAC.COM: And think that’s what draws so many of us to his particular kind of music. There’s something about it where it really harnesses that essence of what we’re all looking for.

HANEY: Yeah. See I’m the same way, I’m a fan too. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: (laughs) And that’s why you’re so perfect for this. Plus you’ve got the inside dirt on him. I was wondering – did he have any little annoying tendencies like leaving his dirty socks on the floor? Was there anything that just kind of pet peeved you?

HANEY: Mmmm…no, you know the thing with Darrell is he was the kind of guy that would take 3 showers a day when he was home. He knew his nails and his toenails were clean. It didn’t really bother me but he would just step out of his drawers and leave them there by the bed but he was a pretty good housekeeper at home too. Like he liked doing the dishes, which I loved because I hate doing them (laughs) and he loved to go grocery shopping. We’d plan and go at like 3:00am, it was when they first started doing where you can scan your own groceries. I’d do the scanning and he’d do the bagging, then we’d get home, I’d put up the frozen stuff, he’d put up the pantry. He was real good about facing all the cans and making it look nice and neat. So he didn’t really have anything dirty…I guess the one monster in the house was that he would scare me. You’d be walking down the hallway in your mind thinking about stuff and we’d pop out and scare each other; he’d do that to me in the shower too it was like, “Damn it!” (laughs) But he wasn’t a really messy person or anything, he was particular about his hygiene – he had the prettiest teeth. He really couldn’t stand when you’d get in his face and you had “zackleys” [when your breath smells zackley like your ass], you know? He was a firm believer in flossing so I have to give him props for all that. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: Well let’s get into it with Dimevision Volume 2: Roll With It Or Get Rolled Over. The first thing that immediately grabbed me is at the beginning you have this fantastic close up shot of Dime and what he said gave me goosebumps; he said: “Let’s have a look at it, this could be fun. That’s the way I gotta view everything man – this moment’s the last one, let’s get a pull!” It took Dime himself to perfectly and succinctly summarize what he was all about.

HANEY: You know when Bobby [Tongs] came across that footage and when I saw it…it was like you said, it gives you goosebumps. I know when I see stuff like that - him talking, and there’s a lot of footage that way – it’s like, “Man did you know something we didn’t know?” Yeah, it blows me away, some of these magical moments that we find that neither one of us had never seen. But yeah the opener is just awesome and it just lays it out, then the rest of [Dimevision Vol. 2] is pretty uplifting. It’s not like Volume 1 which was more of a melancholy tribute; it gets going like the old recipe for the PANTERA home videos.

KNAC.COM: Yes that’s exactly it.

HANEY: I hope everybody enjoys it.

KNAC.COM: I think they will – I’m sure they will. Like you said the first one is fantastic but it’s emotional, it brings tears through most of it even now when I watch it. This one is more uplifting, it has that steadier pace of his constant mischief.

HANEY: Fireworks and pranks and…yeah, it’s Dime! (laughs)

KNAC.COM: Yeah there are some really great moments, like the nut shot – he’s making the mailbox (laughs) – thank you for blurring that, by the way.

HANEY: (laughing)

KNAC.COM: But it’s such a great insight, a little peek into your home life and to see that he’s still just as much of a kook at home.

HANEY: Like you said, it wasn’t just a stage persona or façade, he was that person 24/7 like you saw even at home. Did you see the segment where he’s getting the CPAP machine?

KNAC.COM: Yes I was going to ask you about that as well.

HANEY: The guy shows up like an hour early so I’m not even out of bed yet; then there I am with my hair in a Gene Simmons top knot and pajamas, he’s still lit and told him to go to bed early so he wouldn’t be lit when the guy got there. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: (laughs) And you’re like, “Forget it, I’ll just explain it to him later.”

HANEY: (still laughing) Right! Because you know the thing about it was when you’re getting fitted for a CPAP machine you have to keep your mouth closed so that they can adjust the air that flows through your nose and stuff and he just would not comply. (laughs) But you know, it's funny when I was watching it back it was like, “Good Lord, I forgot about that!” You know, it’s just stuff like that that you forget was being filmed because you were so used to being around a camera all the time. I mean he started filming stuff as early as the early ‘80s so it was just a staple in our lives.

KNAC.COM: And so much to our benefit now.

HANEY: I am so blessed and so thankful to have all of this stuff, you know from video to audio tapes, drawings and notes and writings. I know when someone loses somebody that means so much to them they don’t usually have all those things to be able to remember how they smell or how they sound, and I have all that stuff. He made sure he gave all that in his life and he still does.

KNAC.COM: I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer around the same time that we lost Dime, and to lose someone that was every essence of your being – it’s something you can’t truly relate to unless you’ve experienced it. Can you maybe say something about what you learned about grief and the healing process?

HANEY: You know the thing that I learned was not to shut yourself in a room by yourself. The most amazing thing that has come out of this for me is just how much his fans, friends and the music industry embraced me - you cannot pay for that kind of therapy. I mean to be able to surround yourself with the people that love him like you do, to be to talk to them about stories and laugh is just the most amazing thing. I get choked up right now trying to express my thoughts about it, but there just are no words to describe it and I can’t thank people enough for that and for embracing me as well. But I’d say the thing I learned the most out of it that I try to really work on still is he would always say stuff like “don’t sweat the small stuff” and he was right. There are so many things that I thought were important or that mattered that just don’t, they’re petty and they’re just not important anymore, you know? And I can let a lot of things roll off my shoulders now, I just don’t need that drama. I try to be a better person, to not lash out and to try to think things through and not let them bother you.

KNAC.COM: There’s that awesome acronym you have that I’m going be using all the time now: WWDD - What Would Dime Do? And I think that’s really all you have to ask yourself. Thanks to all this footage that you’re sharing with us we get that inside perspective of: This is how you live your life when you don’t give a shit about the shit that doesn’t matter, when you’re focused on your friends and family, your passions and what you love in this world. You can’t go wrong living that way.

HANEY: Exactly, and the whole thing of what the word 'Dimevision' stands for is a true reality of what he showed himself. He didn’t need anybody writing any moments of life – he made those, you know? I mean all that shit that goes on around you all the time you just gotta see it, and he saw it. And that’s exactly what 'Dimevision' is. And another thing I learned from him was to not be thin skinned. He would see all these people in this world where he would say, “Stop being so thin skinned, stop being so politically correct. The world is a lot lighter, it’s not so heavy.” There are too many issues out there that don’t matter, things going on that are too petty in the world today.

KNAC.COM: And music has kind of always served the role of supporting that alternative perspective to see beyond all that stricture. You’ve got Dimevision and his music, and then you have guys like Dave Grohl and Maynard James Keenan who are just using the platform and the way they live to just put that out there for the world. You have to respect that approach and the affect that it has on people.

HANEY: It is man. Like I said, there are a too many petty things in this world that just don’t matter and we should be more focused on more serious things, you know? Like what happened in Vegas and serious stuff like that. And that was something that Dave Grohl said to me when all the stuff with Dime happened, I know he said it to Vinnie too, and that was: “I know you don’t think it right now but music will be your salvation because I know it was for me.” And he was coming from experience in what happened with him and his band, his brothers. He was completely right, music is so magical; and I hope that people will see the tracks that we picked [for the EP] and understand that this isn’t lost PANTERA or DAMAGEPLAN or anything like that, it’s just Darrell having fun, and to not be so critical about it and just take it for what it is which is him having a good time.

KNAC.COM: And the music fits that vibe of the video, it definitely fits what’s going on in the background but even the music as it stands alone is fun.

HANEY: Yeah and the words are really cool, even on that 1986 jam “True”, I know the keyboards are annoying and pretty cheesy but…

KNAC.COM: It’s kinda catchy at the same time, that’s part of why I liked it.

HANEY: And the worst part is you can’t get that hook out of your head! (laughs)

KNAC.COM: (laughs) Just knowing that’s him banging on a keyboard, I picture him in the old PANTERA spandex.

HANEY: It was completely during that time! It’s pretty funny, plus the spot in the DVD that we use that for is perfect. That one really makes me laugh.

KNAC.COM: There’s really some fantastic editing [on the DVD].

HANEY: Beyond it, man – I gotta give props to Bobby Tongs, we had so much fun putting this together!

KNAC.COM: Oh man I bet. So I know you gotta go here pretty quick, but the biggest thing…if there was one overall message or theme in Dimevision 2 (other than the way Dime lived his life) it would be the importance of Friendship. It’s always been a highlight in all the videos – the PANTERA home videos and everything else – but with this one you see some intimate moments he had with various friends, getting the manicure and stuff like that. (laughs) There’s a lesson to be learned there too. It was so hard to be in a bad mood around him, unless he was fucking with you while you were passed out in the middle of the night. (laughs) And I have to ask about the naked guy with the swimming pool pole at the end, can you explain what happened?

HANEY: (laughs) Yeah that’s 23, we met him through a mutual friend and he would come do the lawn, he was kind of our handyman. He would help out with various things and Darrell pretty much kept him on 5 days a week. It was my nephew James’ birthday – he had turned 21 actually; the party had started where he lived down the street but it moved down to our house. They were down in the studio jamming and it kind of turned into a big party and 23 was still there; 23 is also bipolar, he takes medication and he’s not supposed to have alcohol but some way or another before he managed to get out of there and go home I remember looking across the studio and seeing him turning up a bottle and I’m like, “Oh no”, so the wife gets called to come grab her boy and the next thing you know…I don’t know how he got stripped down naked in the pool because it was November and freezing and you can see that it’s cold when you see him naked…

KNAC.COM: (laughs hard)

HANEY: (laughs hard) But yeah he was just out there in some other world. It’s funny because there’s footage like the next week where he comes over and asks if he still has a job and Darrell goes, “Yeah son you still got one” and right then of course Darrell got him to sign the consent form to use the video, even way back then. It was in our filing cabinet forever. Yeah 23’s quite a character.

KNAC.COM: That’s hilarious – never a dull moment, huh?

HANEY: (laughs) No, never a dull moment.

KNAC.COM: Alright I know you gotta go but I wanted to thank you again, this has been an absolute highlight for me, thank you so much!

HANEY: Well thank You so much for supporting everything Dime and helping us get the word out there. It’s really gonna matter if people get out and support Dimevision through this format so we’re able to put out another one. Hopefully it does well, I have faith and when it comes to Dime things are always magical.

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