Behind every great man, it is said, there’s a great woman, and for Dimebag Darrell Abbott, that woman was Rita Haney, his girlfriend, confidante and his greatest champion. From their days growing up together, through Pantera’s ascent into the history books and right up to the present day, nobody has served and protected Dimebag’s legacy like Rita.
Do you remember the day that you first met Dimebag?
“Yeah! We were eight years old. I don’t remember what we were fighting about – we were just being kids – but he said some smart-ass comment to me, and I pushed him off of his bicycle. Ha ha ha! After that we were friends.”
You’ve saved the letters he wrote you and loads of memorabilia. Do you have a favourite remembrance?
“For my birthday, he sent me this tiny little box. There’s nothing in it, but it’s giftwrapped with a little ribbon and there’s a card that says, ‘This is a very special gift
_That you can never see _
_The reason it’s so special _
_Is that it’s just to you from me. _
_Whenever you’re lonely _
_Or feeling blue _
_You only have to hold this gift _
_And know I think of you. _
_You never can unwrap it _
_Please leave the ribbon tied _
_Just hold the box close to your heart _
It’s filled with love inside.’
And it says, ‘For you, Rita, you know who, Dimez.’ That’s one of the most favourite gifts that he got for me. He just found it somewhere on the road.”
Is there anything he used to do that drove you nuts?
“It’d drive me nuts when I’d have to go to work in the morning and Darrell and the boys would still be going strong in the kitchen. He’d come into the bedroom in the middle of the night and wake me up from a dead sleep – just hours before I’d have to be up – and try to cram a shot on me. I’d say, ‘I can’t! If I do it, will you just let me go back to bed?’ So I’d slam the shot and go back to bed and he’d go back into the kitchen to play with his playmates. That used to drive me crazy!”
What would he have made of the love and idolisation that he is still given today?
“I don’t think that he could totally see how much he touched people, but one thing he told me, just before he left on that last run, was, ‘I can make or break somebody’s day with just a look or a word. When you’ve got that much power, man, it’s dangerous. I’d hate it if I’d have walked up to one of my idols and just got blown off because they were having a bad day. Just knowing that you have that power, you can take it two ways – you can be a dick or you handle people the way you’d want them to handle you.’”
What’s your relationship like now with Phil and Rex?
“Well, you know, when somebody looks you straight in the eye and tells you that they have no excuse for what happened and that they’re sorry, and they admit to their transgressions and the things that plagued them at that time, what else do you expect from them? They’re your family, no matter what. And Darrell was the most forgiving person that I know. There’s still resentments over things that we wished didn’t happen or that we won’t see eye-to-eye on, but it’s a start right now, and I think it’s a great road to recovery.”
In your opinion, What do you think Dime would be doing if he were still here today?
“He would most probably be playing at the Forum tonight with Slayer. Well, Slayer would probably be playing with him! But he would definitely be up onstage next to Phil and Rex and his brother. I know he would, because Darrell always had Pantera in his heart and that’s who he always wanted to be. The way Phil is now, that’s the real Philip Anselmo, the one that we all knew and loved, and there’s just no way that Darrell wouldn’t be standing by his side.”