Played by: Barbara Knox
Appeared: (27 January 1964; 1972 - )
Barbara Knox (or Mullaney as she was then known) made her first appearance in Coronation Street in November 1964 as an exotic dancer. A friend of Dennis Tanner, it was a one-off appearance.
She later appeared in 1972 as Rita Bates, married to Harry Bates, with a 12-year-old son Terry. Terry was a pupil at Bessie Street school, where Ken Barlow was teaching. Rita made it obvious she was attracted to Ken, and it came to the attention of the headmaster, who told Ken to cool the relationship. Rita, by this time had started a relationship with Len Fairclough. But when he discovered that Rita wasn't married and that Terry wasn't her son, he soon cooled the relationship.
It was several month later, after Rita had left the Street, that Len, out for a night with Elsie and Alan Howard, saw Rita singing in a nightclub. This was the start of an on-off relationship which was to accumulate into a stormy eleven year relationship. In 1973, Len bought the Kabin, and installed Rita as manageress with the offer of the flat above it.
On 20 April, 1977 Rita and Len finally married after a five year on-off relationship. They'd already had one engagment, but broke it off. But this time Rita was going out of Len's life for six months on a singing contract to Tenerife. Len asked Rita to be his wife, but Rita refused... and a going away party was arranged for Rita. Len took her to the airport, but she never boared the plane, and several weeks later they were married by special licence.
In 1981 after much deliberation, Rita and Len decided to foster a child after being refused permission to adopt for being too old. In 1983, while The street were celebrating the fortieth wedding anniversary of Hilda and Stan, Len was killed in a car-crash. It later emerged he'd been having an affair.
In 1986, Rita took up fostering again, when Jenny Bradley, one of her paper girls lost her mother Pat in a road accident. Rita tried to reconcile her with her missing father of eight years.
Alan and Rita started a relationship, but Rita was unaware that Alan Bradley was also seeing Gloria Todd, a Rovers barmaid. She eventually found out about their affair and gave Alan an ultimatum. Alan choose Gloria, but Gloria changed her mind and ended their affair.
Alan and Rita eventually settled down to a peaceful relationship. Rita asked him to move into No7 with her, after refusing his offer of marriage. In February 1989 Alan stole the deeds of Rita's house , remorgaged it for £15,000, and set up a security firm. There he started Dawn Prescott as a receptionist, but things began to go downhill when he tried to rape her. Dawn told Rita about the attack and about the letters that arrived in the name of Len Fairclough to the workplace. Rita confronted him on the night of Jenny's 18th birthday party.
Alan was furious when Rita told him she'd informed the building society about him and he tried to suffocate her with a cushion. She was saved by the return of Jenny and Martin, who were concerned when she wasn't answering the phone. Alan went on the run, but was captured some weeks later. The first ever episode of Corontion Street shown on a Friday was the trial of Alan Bradley, at the end of which he walked free.
He started working on a building site opposite No7 and began to stalk Rita, until eventually she had a breakdown and disappeared. Police suspected Alan had murdered Rita, and the site was dug up. Meanwhile The Gilroy's found Rita singing in a nightspot in Blackpool, but when Alan got wind of it, he followed Rita there, resulting in him being ran over by a tram in one of the most gripping storylines ever.
In 1990 Rita moved from No7, letting it to students, to a flat above he new Kabin. She was persued the next year by Reg Holdsworth, but it wasn't until June 1992 that Rita married Ted Sullivan, who had already been diagnosed as having a brain tumour. Their marriage lasted three months when Rita found Ted dead on a park bench, watching Percy Sugden playing a bowls match.
In September 1993, Rita was pleased to see Jenny Bradley arrived out of the blue. Things weren`t as they seemed though as Jenny only came back to try and con some money out of Rita. But Rita saw right through Jenny, and gave her £1,000, telling her she didn't want to see her again.
In March 1994, Rita felt lonely, so she started taking Sally Webster under her wing when Sally found out she was pregnant with her and Kevin's second child. Rita and Sally became very close. So close in fact that Sally invited Rita to spend a holiday in Blackpool with them. Sally wanted to make Rita see that her bad experience in Blackpool in 1989 with Alan Bradley was over with. To Sally's relief, Rita had a wonderful time there playing with Rosie. When Sally gave birth to their second daughter Sophie, Rita was hurt to find out she was the last to know about it, due to an oversight.
In April, 1997, tragically, her best friend Mavis Wilton's beloved husband Derek died on Mavis' Birthday of a heart attack due to an incident of road rage. Rita poured all her energy into Mavis' life in helping her cope alone with her grief. To help her cope, Rita persuaded Mavis to start a new life in the Lake District managing a Bed & Breakfast. Mavis agreed, and made plans to sell their houses and the Kabin. At the last minute, Rita backed out and Mavis, anxious to get away from Weatherfield and her bad memories, went to Cartmel on her own.
After Mavis left, Rita realised she needed another assistant for the Kabin as she couldn't cope on her own. She took on Leanne Battersby, a cheeky teenager who Rita sees as a lot like herself at that age. Leanne soon becomes an asset to Rita, even though they didn`t share the friendship and closeness that Rita and Mavis once shared. In July, 1998 Rita collapsed in her flat from carbon monoxide poisoning due to a faulty gas fire that Steve McDonald had installed a few days before. Luckily she was saved in the nick of time by her friend and former manager Alec Gilroy who was worried about her not turning up at the Rovers when she was supposed to. Things took an unexpected turn when Alec realising how he almost lost his best friend, proposed to Rita. After a few days, Rita accepted his proposal after initially turning him down. After a while they both decided to live together and Alec had a connecting door installed between their two flats for easier access - much to the amusement of the other Street residents. In December 1998 Rita and Alec mutually ended their relationship when both realised they couldn`t trust each other. Alec left Weatherfield for good when he went to open up a wine bar in Brighton with his granddaughter Vicky.
Nothing would keep Rita down for long as she had a wonderful surprise in the form of her former foster daughter Sharon Gaskell. Sharon had come by to visit Rita to invite her to her wedding in Nottingham. Rita persuaded her to have the wedding in Weatherfield. However, in March the wedding didn't take place as Rita had discovered her fiance Ian was two-timing her with the new landlady of the Rovers Natalie Barnes . Happy that Sharon decided to stay around after the wedding fiasco, Rita offered Sharon a job at the Kabin and Alec's old flat. Sharon happily accepted. Much to the horror of Leanne, and a few others of Rita's friends, Rita offered Sharon the Kabin as a birthday gift to her. Leanne didn`t want to work with two bosses, so she left after she was accused of stealing money from the till, and went to work as barmaid at the Rovers. Rita admitted to Sharon that she was lonely, that was why she offered Sharon the Kabin. Her gesture was a living legacy from a woman who always looked upon Sharon as the daughter she never had. Rita was happy to pass on her experience knowing that the Kabin would be well looked after in years to come .....