Rita with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith in 1986.
Rita with Jon Bon Jovi. She never had sex with him but she admired him. "He always remained true to who he was. I put him on a pedestal."
Rita with Nikki Sixs of Motley Crue in Omaha in 1985.
Rita with Brett Michaels and Bobby Dall of Poison circa 1986.
Rita with Tommy Lee of Motley Crue. She's wearing the "Green Goddess" dress she designed and made.
“... Now these fine ladies, they had a plan
They was out to meet the boys in the band
They said, ‘Come on, dudes, let's get it on!'
And we proceeded to tear that hotel down.”
(“We're an American Band,” Grand Funk Railroad, 1973)
When Grand Funk Railroad referred to those “chiquitas in Omaha” in 1973, it could have been describing Rita Rae Roxx a decade later.
The Omaha native and Central High graduate says her mantra was sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll in the free-wheeling days of metal, glam and alt rock in the 1980s.
But don't call her a groupie.
She says she was a “professional guest, which just evolved from being a true fan of rock 'n' roll.”
However, anyone who reads her tell-all book, “Once Upon a Rock Star: Backstage Passes in the Heavy Metal Eighties — Big Hair, Bad Boys (and One Bad Girl),” will be thinking “groupie” all the way.
Now 47, this Omaha single mother and waitress shows no outward signs of her wild younger years. She looks back on her teens with nostalgia — sometimes with the pleasant view of rose-colored glasses and sometimes with a clear-eyed vision of how lucky she was to survive such a reckless lifestyle.
She has an impressive collection of play bills, ticket stubs, backstage passes, concert souvenirs and several albums of photographs from that time, not to mention fascinating stories. Friends who had seen the pictures and heard the stories urged her to write a book, especially with the popularity of '80s band reunion tours in recent years.
But it wasn't until she inherited some money that it became a reality. She used the bequest to buy a computer and started to write.
Lisa Pelto of Concierge Marketing, an Omaha publishing company, said she had heard there a woman with a great story to tell. When Rita came to a first meeting at Concierge, she brought along her Mac and “60,000 words written all in one paragraph,” Pelto said.
As Rita tells it, the story starts in August 1980, when Billy Squier came to Omaha with Alice Cooper. During his set, Squier made eye contact with the cute girl who had pushed her way to the front of the crowd and later invited her backstage. That, says Rita, led to a visit to his tour bus.
She writes that she lost her virginity that night. She had just turned 15.
From then on, she says, her goal was to attend as many concerts as she could and meet as many rock stars as possible. She feasted on MTV and pored over music and celebrity magazines. She says she memorized names of rockers, producers, assistants — any name she found — from album covers so she could use them easily around guards and promoters to gain entry backstage.
“I had transformed from a disco diva whose only real music experience was seeing the movie ‘Saturday Night Fever' at the Westroads Mall to a real American rock and roller when live music rocked my socks off,” she writes.
Drugs, she says, often got her where she wanted to go. She always had marijuana or cocaine to share.
In a recent interview, she said she didn't set out to have sex with multiple performers. But passages in the book make it clear there were certain people she really wanted to meet up close and personal.
“If the chemistry happened, it happened,” she says now.
It apparently happened a lot. In her book, she talks about being “head over heels in love” with Van Halen's David Lee Roth after their night together. She recalls time with Andy Curran of Coney Hatch, Phil Collen of Def Leppard, Carlos Cavazo of Quiet Riot, Marq Torien of BulletBoys, Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe, Bret Michaels of Poison and Peter Buck of R.E.M., among others.
“I had an attitude and I was good looking,” she says. And she admits she also was naive; she truly thought she would become a rock star's wife.
The book is filled with pictures of Rita and celebrities and insider impressions of bands and musicians. Tour buses, backstage areas and dressing rooms were not pretty. Members of the Police were “very vain,” she writes. Warren DeMartini of Ratt was “shy and had a sweet innocence about him.” AC/DC band members had a great sound “but were gruesome to look at.” Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page was difficult to understand when he talked with his “British alcohol-affected accent.”
She soon acquired the nickname Rockin' Rita, and from that came her professional and stage name Rita Rae Roxx.
In the beginning, her parents weren't aware of her adventures, she says in the book. They knew she went to concerts but not the other stuff, and she tried to stick to her curfew and keep her grades up so she didn't get into trouble.
Her mother died when Rita was 17, and she started on a downward spiral after the loss, she said in the interview. Her grades suffered her senior year, and her father's relationship with another woman created a schism between him and his daughter.
Although you might be tempted to feel sorry for her because of the way some of the rockers behaved — snubbing her after a tryst or treating her kindly only to get free drugs — she doesn't want anyone's pity.
“No one was really mean to me,” she says. “I wouldn't allow it.”
Rita eventually left Omaha for California, where she became a stand-up comic and even worked as a movie extra. Those years will be fodder for a second book, she says.
For “Once Upon a Rock Star,” Concierge editors talked with an intellectual property attorney about using Rita's private photos of celebrities. No problem. They checked with a Douglas County sex crimes prosecutor about the Billy Squier episode and others because she was a minor when they occurred. Since Rita didn't claim to be a victim and the statute of limitations had expired, no problem.
What about libel? It can always be countered with the truth and it was hard to prove in court, they were told. Police sources said the drug use cannot be prosecuted because there is no evidence of a crime and too much time has passed. Rita's friends named in the book signed releases.
The company felt it had covered every possible problem and was comfortable with the book, said editor Sandra Wendel. Readers should be warned that it does contain some rough language, drug use and sexual situations.
Rita returned to Omaha a few years ago to stay with her father when he had cancer surgery, she said in the interview. Her two older brothers live here, and she reconciled with her dad, so she decided to stay. She also got drug counseling when she learned she was pregnant.
“Quitting was a struggle,” she says.
Now she works as a waitress and wants to revive her stand-up comedy career. She is engaged and has reconnected with the church.
“My thing now is to raise my kids. ... But I'm not a soccer mom, I'm a rocker mom.”
Rita doesn't go to many concerts anymore, but she admits that sometimes she misses that life and the girl she used to be. She did attend a recent Def Leppard concert and handed guitarist Vivian Campbell a copy of her book. She hasn't received a reaction from him, or from any of the other people mentioned in the book, but she did hear from friends that Nikki Sixx had mentioned it on a radio program.
She wrote the book because “I wanted my story to be told.” She laughs. “I was a legend in my own mind.”
One friend who still lives in California agrees. She told Rita: “You were Snooki before there was a Snooki.”
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