Riki Rachtman Takes His Show On The Road

The former Headbangers Ball host talks about his upcoming spoken word tour

Riki Rachtman (Image: Facebook)

For many years, Riki Rachtman lived in the debauched heart of the flourishing hard rock/metal scene. 

Starting in the mid-’80s, he ran Cathouse and Bordello, two of the most notorious nightclubs in Hollywood. From 1990 to 1995, he hosted MTV’s enormously popular Headbangers Ball show. He was (and remains) friends with some of the world’s biggest rock stars. Now, he’s telling stories from his wild life in a one-man show, One Foot in the Gutter, with tour dates across the U.S. and Australia from late March through June.

“There’s all the behind the scenes stories from Cathouse and Headbangers Ball – but also things that happened in my life, whether it was getting arrested or going bankrupt or drug addiction,” Rachtman says of One Foot in the Gutter. “I take you into my room when I was a kid discovering Alice Cooper when I was 13 years old. It’s about all the really great stuff, and some of the bad stuff at the end. It’s funny, and hopefully thought provoking, and honest, and it’s all real. Anything in my show is stuff that I personally went through and that I witnessed. I was lucky to be a fly on a wall for so many incredible moments.”

He says he realized it was finally the right time to do this show now that he’s reached his sixties. “I’m at a point in my career that I look back at everything I’ve done. I know there’s still some things to do, but I think now is the time to tell all those stories,” he says. “I just wasn’t in the right place to do it back then. I had too much stuff going on. And now, it’s something that I really, really want to do.”

Rachtman already performed his show six times last year, and says audiences were extremely enthusiastic. “People watch this show and think, ‘Oh my God, I wish I would have been around Hollywood at that time,’” he says, adding that that was such a fascinating time because “people were willing to live dangerously. This was a time that will never be repeated. Things were just so very different. I hate to use that cliché of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, but that was the way everybody was living. 

“And there were so many great bands that were coming from our small little area [in L.A.], that any given day, you could go out and see Guns ‘N Roses playing at The Whisky, or Jane’s Addiction playing at The Roxy,” he continues. “And then we had the Cathouse, and I had my other club, Bordello.”

One Foot in the Gutter tour poster (Image: Instagram)

Rachtman says the show is unscripted, so it will be different each time he performs it. “I’m not talented enough to memorize the entire show, so there is little bits of ad-lib in it,” he says with a laugh. “Usually, I’ll open up with something that happened in that city. Obviously, I’ve got a format of how the show’s going to go, but there might be something that happens on the road, and I’ll bring that into it.”

He knows that people are coming to hear about his crazy times with rock stars, but he also reveals the darker times in his life, too. “I talk a lot about drugs because I did a lot of drugs, and drugs was not a good thing for me,” he says. “I talk about what it’s like when, all the sudden, you go from making almost half a million a year to being bankrupt and selling cars and getting recognized as being the guy on Headbangers Ball.”

When he tells those kinds of stories, he’s noticed that “there’s a silent listening, and I’m like, ‘This is kind of the coolest thing that I’ve ever experienced.’ Because there’s a couple of things in the show that are kind of heavy, and when I’m walking across that stage telling these stories and I look out and people are really listening to me, that really feels good.”

Rachtman left his drug-fueled lifestyle behind long ago, and now lives with his wife in Mooresville, North Carolina. “I lived in L.A. my whole life, so it was quite a change moving here, but I really like it,” he says. He made the move after doing a lot of work in motor sports, radio and TV, which frequently brought him to that area. When the rent on his L.A. apartment shot up about a decade ago, he realized he could buy a nice house in North Carolina for the same amount.

Though he admits he sometimes gets homesick for California, “What I miss in L.A. really isn’t there anymore,” he says. “I miss riding motorcycles with my friends. I miss some of the restaurants. But L.A. is just getting worse and worse all the time.”

Growing up, though, L.A. was definitely the right place for Rachtman. “When I was a kid, I wanted to be a rock star, like everybody else, but I just wasn’t good enough,” he says, though his time playing in local bands eventually lead to the connections he needed to begin running nightclubs. 

As Cathouse’s owner, he became one of the most influential figures in music, and his club frequently hosted an impressive roster of bands, including Guns N Roses, Alice Cooper, Megadeth, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Primus, and Motörhead.

He became friends with many of those artists. That, in turn, helped him become a high-profile television personality: he got the Headbangers Ball hosting gig after Guns ‘N Roses frontman Axl Rose personally called MTV to suggest him for the job.

Riki on MTV Headbangers Ball (Image: YouTube)

These days, Rachtman remains prolifically busy. Besides doing his one-man show, he is also a successful entrepreneur, selling his own line of coffee, apparel, and memorabilia (such as autographed tour posters) via his cathousehollywood.com website.

“When I set my mind to something, I honestly am ruthless – I just do not stop, and I focus on it,” Rachtman says. “And I’ve been very, very lucky. There’s a lot of things I’ve done that have turned out to be a great success. And I’ve had some failures, as well, but I never gave up. I just kept on going.”

Though his work ethic is impressive, Rachtman says he already has an exit strategy in mind: “In about four or five years, my goal is to turn off all social media and disappear. I don’t want to worry about any stuff, and let people say any rumors they want. I want to just fade away. I want to go somewhere and eat chocolate and drink coffee and get fat,” he says, amused.

For now, though, fans still have access to Rachtman, especially through his One Foot in the Gutter show, and he’s thoroughly enjoying being in this moment.

“I am so appreciative of every single person that bought a ticket to my show because those people want to hear what I have to say,” he says. “That’s so, so flattering and I’m so grateful. When I say this, it sounds so cheesy, but I say this from the heart.”


AUDIO: Riki Rachtman’s Cathouse Hollywood  Podcast with Stephen Pearcy


Latest posts by Katherine Yeske Taylor (see all)

 You May Also Like

Katherine Yeske Taylor

Katherine Yeske Taylor is a longtime New Yorker, but she began her rock critic career in Atlanta in the 1990s, interviewing Georgia musical royalty such as the Indigo Girls, R.E.M. and the Black Crowes while she was still a teenager. Since then, she has conducted thousands of interviews with a wide range of artists for dozens of national, regional, and local magazines and newspapers, including Billboard, Spin, American Songwriter, FLOOD, etc. She is the author of two forthcoming books: She’s a Badass: Women in Rock Shaping Feminism (out December 2023 via Backbeat Books), and she's helping Eugene Hütz of Gogol Bordello write his memoir, Rock the Hützpah: Undestructible Ukrainian in the Free World (out in 2024 via Matt Holt Books/BenBella). She also contributed to two prestigious music books (Rolling Stone’s Alt-Rock-A-Rama and The Trouser Press Guide to ’90s Rock. She has also written album liner notes and artist bios (PR materials) for several major musical artists.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *