“THEIR LOVE ALWAYS PREVAILED”
In a special interview, Dimebag Darrell’s longtime girlfriend Rita Haney talks growing up with the Abbott brothers, the loss of Vinnie and what made the duo the beating heart of Pantera
YOU KNEW BOTH VINNIE AND DIME FROM A YOUNG AGE. CAN YOU REMEMBER FIRST MEETING THEM?
“We were little kids, about eight years old. They just lived around the corner from my cousin.”
OBVIOUSLY YOU AND DIME ENDED UP CLOSE, BUT WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF VINNIE WHEN YOU MET HIM?
“Vinnie was always very well disciplined and he was always focused. It’s funny; he was really into going to this military cadets thing out by the airport, a kind of summer camp thing. So all of us went – me, my cousin, Darrell and Vinnie, and my cousin’s mom dropped us all off. Vinnie was really into it, and he went all the time, but the rest of us lasted about one day! All the marching and stuff just wasn’t our cup of tea but Vinnie… he had that business mindset, even as kids. Darrell was always about Evel Knievel and being the daredevil.”
WHAT WERE THE BROTHERS LIKE TOGETHER BACK THEN?
“They did everything together, ever since I can remember. Even all the way until 2004, the whole time Darrell and I lived together, his first phone call of the day was always Vinnie and he’d get the lowdown of the day and what was going on, whether they were in the studio or whatever. He was like that as a kid, too; Vinnie always took care of their allowances and the money they would make from playing
shows. He was always big brother. They shared everything together.”
DID YOU EVER SEE THEM FALL OUT?
“Of course, that happens with everyone. They butted heads, but the longest I ever knew them in an argument was during that last run of going out for Damageplan. Darrell was really starting to get upset over the way [Vinnie] was being – nobody really understood why he all of a sudden started saying, ‘I’m not playing Pantera songs.’ Darrell was like, ‘Yeah, you are, you knew this is who we were, we’re not going to deny people.’ Darrell tried to have some words with Vinnie about it and he kinda blew him off, and Darrell had a little bit to drink and just got pissed off and was like, ‘I’m not going.’ Vince was calling me, like,
‘He’s not answering any of my calls, has he said anything?’ For three days, he kept calling me and then finally, the night before Darrell’s flight was supposed to leave [for the tour], he called and I was like, ‘Yeah, he’ll talk to you,’ and Darrell was like, ‘Alright, I’ll be there, I ain’t gonna let people down.’ That’s the longest I’ve ever seen them argue and the worst argument I’ve seen them have. Other than that, if they butted heads and disagreed, it wouldn’t last more than a few hours. It’s like kids: you get mad at each other and then you’re back playing the next day. They were brothers, so no matter if they disagreed on whatever, the love always prevailed.”
WHAT WAS SO SPECIAL ABOUT THEM THAT MADE THEM CLICK MUSICALLY? IS IT DIFFICULT TO PUT YOUR FINGER ON?
“It was magical. It is hard to say, but Vinnie needed Darrell as much as Darrell needed him. I think the dynamics of them both being so opposite yet so much the same worked for them; they both needed the difference in each other to create that magic. They were the type that would finish each other’s sentences; they knew what each other was thinking.”
A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO WERE AROUND THEM SAY THE TWO OF THEM WERE VERY KEEN ON TOUR PRANKS…
“It started with Darrell when we were really young kids but Vinnie always got in on it, too, wherever he could. It grew, and Darrell’s pranks rubbed off on you, especially after Darrell was gone. I know it sounds crazy but it all made Vinnie a better person – as far as the things he didn’t pay attention to before,
he definitely did after. He made sure he got up and gave you that hug and told you he loved you, when he really didn’t when we were growing up. Sometimes you could walk in the room and he’d never even say hello to you. [Later], he’d be a whole different person, like, ‘Oh hey, how’re you doing? What’s up, Rita?’ He really picked that up and made sure he kept the spirit of Darrell for everybody. He helped carry and pass that on, but yes, he was a good prankster, too. I think they both had it in them, but I’d say Darrell got you more than Vinnie could.”
WHERE WERE YOU WHEN YOU HEARD ABOUT VINNIE PASSING?
“I’d just flown into Fort Worth – we have this legal thing that we’re all dealing with for Darrell’s estate, the guitar company and so forth. I’d spent all night long reading over everything, I had two hours’ sleep. I came home, and then I started getting these phone calls from Kim [Zide Davis, Pantera’s manager] and I didn’t answer. I thought it was going to be about the case. I texted
Vinnie and said, ‘Yay, team Dime’ and I’d been hearing from our lawyers that I did really good, blah blah blah. I was in a good place, I thought it was a good day. Kim texted me in capitals, ‘PLEASE PIcK UP’, and I answered at the steakhouse and she was like, ‘Go outside,’ and I did and she told me [about Vinnie] and I just started to cry. There were a lot of things we still had left to do, it was so unexpected. Vinnie had a lot of vitality and I’d just seen him in April. We’d just spent a couple of days together in Tampa and we were laughing and telling stories. We actually had a really good time spending a holiday together, and I’m glad I have that.”
WHEN Hammer INTERVIEWED VINNIE HE SEEMED LIKE AN INCREDIBLY GENUINE GUY…
“He was always so bubbly, so full of vitality and energy, and this is not at all what I thought was on the cards so quick. It’s good to talk about it.”
HOW DO YOU THINK VINNIE AND DIME WOULD LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED – AS BROTHERS, AS A PAIR, AS MUSICIANS AND AS ICONS IN THE WORLD OF METAL?
“I’d say always as having a good time and celebrating and putting a smile on your face when you think of them. That’s what it does; it makes you smile, and when you hear their music and think of their antics in their videos, that’s how they were day and night. They didn’t put on a facade for the camera, they were reality TV, that’s what they were about – making everyone around them have a damn good time. I hope that’s how everyone always remembers them.”
Vinnie, Rita and thebrothers’ father at the Hollywood JerryRockWalk in 2007
Dime and Vinnie “needed each otherto make the magic” says Rita