RUDY SARZO Says He Saw FRANKIE BANALI A Couple Of Hours Before His Death: 'He Was Really Fighting It'
September 28, 2020
Rudy Sarzo has reflected on the passing of his former QUIET RIOT bandmate, drummer Frankie Banali. Banali, who joined QUIET RIOT in 1982 and played on its breakthrough album, 1983's "Metal Health", the first heavy metal LP to top Billboard's album chart, died in August after a 16-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
Speaking to the "Music Mania" podcast, Sarzo said (see video below): "Frankie and I, we've been friends since 1972. That's 48 years. And I knew [about his cancer diagnosis] back in April last year. He asked me to come over his house. We live, like, 15 minutes away from each other. I went over, and he told me — he told that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer stage IV. And he was gonna fight it.
"I'd been through this with Ronnie James Dio," the bassist continued, referring to the legendary heavy metal singer who died in May 2010 after a battle with stomach cancer. "It was a different form of cancer, but nevertheless, it was very aggressive, just like Frankie's, and at a late stage too.
"My experience has been that you're always optimistic, you always keep it positive, and then you have these moments of, like, 'Wow! I think he's gonna beat it.' He's going into remission or final stages of the medication, and then things just start going back — they're not so positive anymore. And in the case of Ronnie, it happened really quickly — he passed away six months after he was diagnosed — to the day. And with Frankie, he fought an incredible fight. Not that Ronnie did not, but Frankie had extended it, which meant that he lived longer with pain."
According to Rudy, he got to spend some time with Frankie on a couple of different occasions shortly before he died.
"I got to see him the day before he passed away and the day he passed away," he said. "[Prior to that] I hadn't seen him [for a while] because of COVID — you could not go and get together with people, especially somebody who's got cancer.
"For a few weeks, he had had some mini-strokes, and he was having difficulty speaking," Sarzo revealed. "So, Wednesday, [the day] before he passed away, his wife asked me to get on FaceTime [with him], but he wasn't quite responding and able to get the words out. So she said, 'Why don't you just come over?' And I came over, wore a mask. And it was just Regina and Ashley, Frankie's daughter, and a nurse in the room. And I was communicating [with] him, holding his hand. He was on morphine by that time. So I left, and then that evening, there was a text that I did not read because I went to sleep early. And Regina, his wife, had sent me a text saying that Frankie had been rushed to the hospital that evening. So when I got up in the morning, I saw the text and responded to Regina, and she says, 'Listen, he might not make it through the night,' which was Thursday, the following day. And she says, 'I'm gonna try to arrange for you to come over to the hospital' — because it's very difficult, with this pandemic, to be able to enter a hospital, unless you are being treated, or a relative, like a wife or a daughter, like Ashley and Regina. So she was able to make that happen. So I was there. I got there around noon. And about an hour later, they gave him the final drip — they got him off the life support and turned off the machines. And I left around 4, 4:30. And I was holding his hand. And he was warm — he was really fighting it. Because around 12:30, when they administered the last drip, the doctors told Regina, 'It's just gonna be a matter of a couple of hours.' But no, he kept hanging on, he kept hanging on. And I thought he was gonna make it through the night. And then I left there around five o'clock. And then later on that evening, I got a message from Regina — a text — that Frankie had passed."
Rudy added: "It was tough for everybody. But what a warrior. What a fighter. But then again, Frankie's always been like that through everything — whether it's in a band, his music. He was never lax about life. He had a huge passion for life."
QUIET RIOT recently announced that it will carry on touring following Frankie's death. The band, which now features drummer Johnny Kelly (DANZIG, TYPE O NEGATIVE),will play a couple of shows in October as well as and a string of dates in 2021.
QUIET RIOT initially featured the late guitar legend Randy Rhoads and went through some early lineup shifts before securing the musicians that recorded "Metal Health".
In 2006, Rudy released the book "Off The Rails: Aboard The Crazy Train In The Blizzard Of Ozz", a first-hand account of his friendship on and off the road with Randy Rhoads and Ozzy Osbourne.
A collector's edition of "Off The Rails", was made available in August 2008 via TooSmart! Publishing.