Wendy Dio Talks Bowl 4 Ronnie

Wendy Dio chats with Pollstar about the second annual celebrity “Bowl 4 Ronnie” bowling tournament and how the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund is honoring her husband’s memory.

Hosted by VH1’s Eddie Trunk, Bowl 4 Ronnie takes place Nov. 4 at Pinz Bowling in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Studio City.

Celebrity bowlers include John 5 (Rob Zombie), Bjorn Englen (Dio Disciples/Tony MacAlpine/ Yngwie Malmsteen), Chris Broderick (Megadeth/Act of Defiance), Eddie Money, Chris Hager (Rough Cutt), Marty O’Brien (Lita Ford), Mick Sweda (Bullet Boys), Tim “Ripper” Owens (Dio Disciples/Judas Priest), David “Rock” Feinstein (Elf/The Rods), Jeff Scott Soto (Kryst The Conqueror/Yngwie Malmsteen), Chas West (Lynch Mob/Foreigner/ Bonham).

The evening also includes a raffle and a live auction of music memorabilia.

All of the net proceeds from Bowl 4 Ronnie will go to the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund, which was founded following Dio’s 2010 death due to gastric cancer. The charity organization has already raised more than $1 million for cancer prevention, research and education.

Can you talk about the success of the first event and also how the event came to be? How did you decide to go with a celebrity bowling party?

We have our second annual Bowl for Ronnie on Nov. 4 at Pinz in Studio City. We have a board of 14 people that were all very close friends of Ronnie’s, actually most of them we’ve known for 30 years. We were thinking of different events to raise money for the charity to hopefully find a cure for cancer and for research and education. We decided that bowling was a good one and the Ride for Ronnie was a good one so now we do those annually. And the celebrities have been unbelievable. All of the heavy metal organizations and bands have given their time and their talent to us, which we have been very fortunate to have.

Both of these events have done so much good in the fight to find a cure for cancer. It’s so wonderful you put this on. So you said all of the celebrities that are involved give their time?

Their time and their talent. Absolutely. … And if a kid gives us a dollar, every penny goes to research and education. We have no administration fees, whatsoever. We’re very excited about it. We’ve given actually over $400,000 to T.J. Martell, which is for AIDS and leukemia and cancer. And we’ve given over $200,000 to M.D. Anderson [Cancer Center], where Ronnie was treated. And now we’re giving locally to UCLA to Dr. Wong’s research, where he is trying to develop a saliva test, which will be fantastic. Women are really good about getting checked so our cancer fund is about men’s cancers: colon cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer and all the gastric cancers, which is what Ronnie died of – stomach cancer. There isn’t enough research money going into these particular cancers and this is what we’re trying to bring forward.

You bring up a good point. There’s a lot of attention now for breast cancer awareness and research. Some could rightly say that “women’s” cancers were ignored for decades – the new emphasis is just catching up?

Well, breast cancer’s come a long, long way for all the research they’ve done. They’re doing a fantastic job. And we felt that there were other cancers that needed attention that are not getting attention but are killing a lot of people.

Cancer doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, if you’re a celebrity or just a human being. So many people are dying of cancer. And one day we’ll hopefully find a cure.

Photo: photo credit: Alex Kluft
Steven Adler, Eddie Trunk, Nuno Bettencourt, Chris Broderick, Jeff Scott Soto, Jack Black, Tom Morello and Josh Todd prepare to bowl at Pinz.

I was wondering if Ronnie was a big bowler? Was it a hobby of his?

He wasn’t a big bowler (laughs) but he did win (laughs). I think it was in 1985 or 1986 [when] T.J. Martell had a bowling tournament and he did win that. We do have a big award for that. So I think that kind of ticked off what we should do and why we should start the bowling, because of the time he won that in the ‘80s.

And bowling is just a fun event. I’ve been to a few bowling birthday parties, even as an adult.  

It is! It’s fun. It’s a fun time for families to get together, for corporate people to buy a lane and come and have a good time, for individual bowlers. Or even spectators to just mingle with the celebrities. It’s a fun evening. We give awards out for the best bowlers. And we have a really fun time and raise money for a really good cause.

Are there more awards given out than just for the top score?

Yes. We have first, second and third place for celebrities and then we have the Horse’s Ass for the lowest score. (laughs)

That sounds like the award I would win.

(laughs) I think the Food Channel won it last year.

And then we also have a [new] bowling trophy, which we’ve named after a very good colleague of ours that died last year – Dean Schachtel. We have the Dean Schachtel Award for the high score overall over the whole event.  

Photo: Photo credit: PG Brunelli
Wendy Dio shares a photo op with 2nd Place winner Gonzo Sandoval.

You mentioned that some people don’t even come to bowl? They just hang out with the celebrities?

Yeah! And watch the bowling. It’s a fun event. It’s a real fun event to see celebrities, especially ones that can’t really bowl. (laughs)

Eddie Trunk has his celebrity team. He’s got a few surprises. I think so far he’s got Johnny 5. And who else we got? Tom Morello, Tim “Ripper” Owens, I think Jeff Scott Sotto. There’s a bunch of people on his team and he’s got a few surprises that he’ll bring in at the end that nobody will know about until the day of.

There’s so many celebrities. Last year we were sold out. This year we have a few more tickets and a few more lanes left. But hopefully we’ll sell out by next week.

Do you bowl along with everybody else?

No, I’m a spectator. (laughs) My bowling skills are not there, I’m afraid.

Do you reach out to musicians and celebrities to be involved in the event? Or do some stars contact you to say they’d like to participate?

Actually both. We contact the celebrities that we know, especially the ones that have always been supportive of us. Lita Ford has done all of our events. She’s amazing. Jack Black bowled for us last year. And Tom Morello’s been a great fan for us. There’s so many people that always give their time and their talent. Musicians are such great people. They really are. They get a bad rap, especially the heavy metal guys. But whenever you need them, they’re there for you.

It seems like the heavy metal guys are the nicest musicians.

Yeah, absolutely! And they’re all friends of Ronnie’s. Ronnie was a very special person. He wasn’t just a great talent but he was also a great human being. He did lots of charity events for animals and veterans and autism and so on. And so, you know, I think the musicians give back, especially to Ronnie.

It must just be such a special event to be involved with, to honor his memory and give back by helping with cancer research.

Absolutely. My goal in life is to keep Ronnie’s memory and his music alive and also raise as much money [as possible] to find a cure for cancer.

Bowl For Ronnie features a live auction. What are some of the cool items that are going to be available?

We have Chris Broderick’s guitar. He will be there. It is not signed but if somebody wants it signed he will be there to sign it.  Chris Broderick, obviously from Megadeth. And there are photos of him playing it with Megadeath. 

We have a specially made, custom bowling ball and bowling pin that was actually donated to us from Pinz, which is fantastic. We have a lot of raffle items. We have a Jack Daniels package. We have a food and wine package, which is a bunch of gift certificates to different restaurants and hotels and wine. We have a lot of stuff. And we have a Johnny 5 beautifully framed photo, which I’m sure he will sign.

How much is the event expected to raise?   

It depends on how many people we have. We’re hoping to raise at least $25,000 because we will be giving $25,000 that night to Dr. Wong’s research for UCLA. We will be presenting a check to them. We gave them one at our Ride For Ronnie, which we have in May every year, which is the anniversary of Ronnie’s passing. Next year our Ride For Ronnie will be on May 7. And that’s another big fundraiser. I think we raised over $50,000 last year on that one. I think at the bowling last year we raised around $20,000 so we’re hoping to raise at least $25,000.

That’s so exciting that you are contributing to funding Dr. Wong’s research.

Yeah. Absolutely. And we’re very excited. We’re hoping that within three years his test will be available when you go to get a general checkup you can have the saliva test at that time.

That would be amazing.

Especially the way men have to have their tests, that’s why they don’t go. They don’t like the way the test is performed, if you know what I mean. (laughs)

I can understand that. The saliva test would be groundbreaking.

Yes. A much easier test. And that’s what we try to educate people. It’s so. Early detection saves lives. If you go and get tested it’s no big deal but you could save your life. If they don’t want to do it for themselves, do it for their loved ones, their children, their wife, their brother, their sister, their mother, you know.

I just wish Ronnie had had a test early because we didn’t know. And if I knew what I knew now I would have insisted on it. But at that time we didn’t know anything. And it was Stage 4 by the time Ronnie got it, which was too late.

I can’t even imagine what that was like to go through.

It’s a terrible thing to go through. Not only for the person who actually has the cancer but the whole family. It’s a horrible, horrible experience. If we can just save one life it will be great.

Well, it sounds like you’re going to save a lot more than just one life.

We’re hoping! (laughs)

It’s wonderful work you’re doing and the perfect way to honor Ronnie’s memory. A great cause and a good time!

It is a lot of fun and we try to make it fun, as well as bringing our message across. And the way you bring a message across [is to] make it fun. And we also do skin cancer testing, which a lot of young people don’t realize. We give away free sunscreen because sunscreen’s very important. Young people go to festivals and get burned and they don’t realize they might be developing skin cancer.

We have a doctor on our board, we have two attorneys, we have an accountant, we have people in the music business: other managers, people who own trucking companies, people who own sound companies, so we are very self-sufficient when we put on a show.

Photo: photo credit: Gene Kirkland
Eddie Trunk, Tom Morello, Jack Black, Wendy Dio & Kyle Gass pose at the debut Bowl 4 Ronnie. 

Looking back on the debut Bowl For Ronnie event, was there anything you learned to improve on the second year?

Well, every time you do an event you find something to improve on. Definitely. This is when the bowling award came up for the top bowler of everywhere because there was a person who thought they had won and they hadn’t because they weren’t a celebrity bowler. And we thought, “Well, that’s really kind of unfair.” … We learned that we should have an award for the person with the highest score, no matter if they’re a celebrity or not.

We learned that the silent auction didn’t do too well so we won’t do a silent auction. We’ll do a live auction. What we learned to do for next year … is to be able to put it online so if people out of state or out of the country want to bid on items they’re able to do so. A lot of people have requested that but unfortunately we didn’t have enough time this year to do that.

Well, there’s always next year.

(laughs) Yeah, there’s always a next year! And every time you do an event you find things you need to improve on. Actually, we need to put notices on the doors which entrance people should come in and out of, whether you’re an artist or general admission. (laughs) There was a big confusion about that last year.

Visit DioCancerFund.org for more information.