By Sarah Fenske
By Danny Wicentowski
By Lindsay Toler
By Danny Wicentowski
By Danny Wicentowski
By Jessica Lussenhop
By Lindsay Toler
By Lindsay Toler
In a faded strip mall in northwest Belleville, Illinois, Bob Romanik, a.k.a. the Grim Reaper of Radio, is resplendently dressed in a cream-colored leisure suit. His other outfit — a skull mask frozen in mid-scream and a black robe — hangs behind the front desk of Insane Broadcasting. The silver-haired host sits behind the microphone, eyes closed, diamond-ringed fingers laced contemplatively, as a recorded voice introduces him to the invisible audience listening in Belleville, East St. Louis and across the river in Missouri.
After a few bars of "Bad to the Bone," the 63-year-old Romanik flicks his fingers to his producer and a clap of thunder silences George Thorogood.
"This is Bob Romanik," he bellows into the mic. "The Grim Reaper of Radio. And you're listening to the all-new WQQX, 1490. Hot talk and timeless memories. America's voice...of freedom."
The airwaves fill with the sound of a desolate wind and a steady downpour. Romanik goes to "the dark side."
Hey, I want to start out today, and I'm going to be all over Senator Foghorn — I say, I say, I say — BOY Clayborne's ass. His black, stinky ass. I had people ask me, "Hey, Romanik, why the hell are you calling that black man a boy?" 'Cause he is a boy. He's not a proud black man. He's a plantation Negro. He's a plantation Negro.
And all the proud blacks I talk to day in and day out — they know what the hell I'm talking about. These plantation Negros, they sell out. They take the authority the proud black community gives them, they step and fetch up to Belleville and sell out to the white plantation political owners. And you guys know who I'm talking about. And it just pisses me off.
'Cause, see, I don't give a damn. I've been screwed by these bastards. You guys have been screwed by these bastards.
For the next hour, Romanik rages on about the "bastards" who are, interchangeably, criminals, civil servants, rich people and — his favorite — the local Democratic politicos.
This morning, not even the families of the politicians are safe — such as St. Clair County Chairman Mark Kern's wife:
They're going to rouse me for tiptoeing through the tulips, allegedly, on Mrs. hairy-ass Mark Kern's wife's property. I don't even know the bitch's first name. I'll call her bitch Kern. She come runnin' down at me like some fool and have me charged with disorderly conduct. Honey, you look in the mirror. You look in the mirror, and when you come out in public, everybody ought to charge you with disorderly conduct. Because that face — that face is disorderly.
He growls, he lampoons, he shouts. By the time it's over, Romanik has insinuated that the mayors of both Belleville and East St. Louis are gay, and he's challenged State Senator James Clayborne of Belleville to "take your drawers down, look between your legs. If there's something hanging there, that means you're a man."
When the clock hits 11 a.m., another crash of thunder signals the end of the day's diatribe.
For a first-time listener, the meaning of the Romanik's rant can be difficult, if not impossible, to grasp. It's not hard to imagine — with his strings of FCC-approved cuss words, slight drawl and references to "greasy Mexicans" that Romanik, who calls himself "poor white trash," is a racist nutbag. He leaps at the chance to tell people he's "crazy." But the man behind the mask is also an ex-police chief, onetime strip club baron and a convicted felon with ties to one of the largest racketeering scandals to hit the east side.
"I'm really kind of surprised that a man with the professional accomplishments he's had in the past would stoop to that kind of expression," laments East St. Louis mayor Alvin Parks.
Parks was once a guest on the show but has now become a favorite target of Romanik's vitriol, rechristened "Alvin Sugar-Britches Parks."
"I think Bob is basically a guy who hates everybody," the mayor sighs.
Riverfront Times also found out firsthand how easy it is to fall from Romanik's favor and just how cold it can get on the dark side.
"If you do something to piss me off, I'll do something to piss the Riverfront Times off," he growls in his final conversation with RFT after the paper spent several days with him for this story. "I'll get more out of bounds than you ever thought. I'm not threatening you. I'm promising you."
An ex-con buying up radio stations would cause chatter anywhere in the radio biz — the Federal Communications Commission's "character" rules make it difficult for felons to own stations. That Romanik's first acquisition was a Christian-format station controlled by one of St. Louis' most recognizable pastors made the intrigue even juicier.
"I didn't know we were selling to Bob Romanik," recalls the Reverend Larry Rice of the New Life Evangelistic Center, who in 2006 sold WDID (re-identified as WQQW 1510 AM) to a group called Entertainment Media Trust.
The trust lists Belleville attorney Dennis Watkins as trustee and Romanik's son, Stephen, as the outfit's sole beneficiary. But it's Bob Romanik who — as a "consultant" — calls most of the shots within the group.
Instead of calling the reporter a bitch, it's now that she can't get the story straight. You'd think he'd be happy for the publicity that's all of his own doing. I'd bet that Tina Sanders doesn't let him use that type of abusive language on her. Man up Romanik, give this reporter a PUBLIC apology and don't mess up public either!
I caught the show this Friday with Chief of Police Foote from East St. Louis. It was a decent show. It brought up a few important points, like that East St. Louis has had a crime problem going way back. He tracks it back to the 70s, but I remember that it was bad in the 50s and probably before that. There is a population that is mostly white, who now live in Belleville, and who think that overgrown grass equates crime. They made East St. Louis what it is now and then abandoned it. They are doing to Belleville what they did to East St. Louis. They are easy to dupe. If someone does some gentrification, they think it brings up the city. What brings up the city is care of what you already have, and that isn't happening in Belleville. Getting rid of neighbors that you don't like isn't taking care of what you have.
The only thing I found real problematic is that Chief Foote says that East St. has enough police officers. It's obviously doesn't. It needs about 4 times the number that it has now.
You have to give BOB his credit, because he do keeps it 100. What’s funny (TO ME) is when Females gets mad when he calls a female a Bitch and most of you all boyfriends or husbands call you all a Bitches all day long and you don't do anything about it or a song you like says bitch a 100 times and it’s your JAM. I was born and raised in E St Louis, I work in the city now (not for the city) and I know a few politician. I talk to struggling people everyday who can't get a job and qualified and I talk to people who have a city or state job and or not qualified but they knew someone. If you are not related to, best friend, ass kissing, or fucking one of the prominent names like (Parks, Ellis, Jackson, Mosley, Greenwood, Clayborne, Powell, Smith and more) you don't have anything coming but a tax increase. You know it true but you so dam brain wash on…. I don't no. These CATS and theirs families are getting paid, I’m talking big money and pensions y you don't have nothing but hopes. So yea, I listen to Bob Romanick faithfully because he says to the people the things I been saying for the longest it’s just that I don’t have a radio station. Like the Arab stores. Now what the hell do the Arabs do for our community other than, take our money, sell us drugs, hire our young black women who like to show their body’s off , fuck our young black women, talk to our kids any kind of way, provide a dangerous atmosphere, and sell us cell phones and chicken. On ever dam corner in the black community. That’s what they do and we and clayborne support everything they do. I no it’s a covenant and we don’t have anything else but that’s y we as black people needs to start speaking our voices and stop supporting certain people and I’m not saying support the republicans because I’ve never seen anything they have done for the black communities either.
I feel sorry for the RFT reporter who was degraded as a woman and individual by the bully Romanik. If his friends were his true friends, they wouldn't have talked to the RFT in the first place, just as HE had the choice not to. While it's her name on the byline, editors also shape the final product. If this were a flowing gush piece, he wouldn't have used the vile language that he did to degrade her. For someone who is asking people to stand tall, maybe he should in offering her a PUBLIC apology. And for the record, Romanik conveniently forgets that he made some disparaging comments back in June after the city's gay pride festival, claiming people saw both the named mayors there. It's not always what you say but how you say it that people remember you for.
Again, if Romanik has something hanging between his legs, he should be man enough to not shoot the messenger and give this woman the PUBLIC apology that she deserves.
It's quite entertaining to listen to a bitter man man looking for a pity party for himself every single day that he shows up to broadcast. It's hate radio at its finest as even Michael Weiner doesn't act like this. He claims to be standing up for the common man, but yet he attacked a person with pre-pubescent language on the air over something he read in the newspaper, someone who was against using public money to let a millionaire lawyer establish a green space, one of his friends, and for why he went off. So just as he trashes politicians, no one else is safe from his AM vulgarity. I'm happy the local paper allows comments without names as this man would trash any of them as he did in the example above when they printed the complainant's name.
You have to know that these proud black people that he plays to are laughing at him when he speaks like he's black, and a recent photo of his public broadcasting proves that he's as white as Wonder Bread. Most of them are proud to be victims as they know how to get every free thing they can that others pay for, yet they do not show they know how to be victors over their standard of living or their life.
For sure, he's been targeted for harassment but unlike most, he has the money to fight back though his gutter language towards these people won't win him friends. You would think that a holder of a master's degree had more common sense, but people listen to his daily diatribes for various clues as even Pepto-Bismol couldn't keep him quiet.
You do worry about him as he constantly repeats things and he could get more things in if he had more focus. I'm not surprised that he made threats to the RFT if he thought he was going to be smeared by them. He has running hatred for the Belleville News Democrat but yet he and Carl Officer use it to have something to talk about. Isn't that hypocrisy?
It's a shame that the RFT didn't write that a political candidate who wanted equal time because he spoke favorably of an opponent was denied that. It's true that certain people can't or won't go on there in person, but you have to question party loyalty when some go on despite the trashing of their own party. A puff piece this is not as balanced journalism should be and he could have just said NO! Of course, he's trying to build his station and should he find people who can build and hold an audience, he will fill a void since it is true that the talk stations in St. Louis ignore the east side and its issues. I did find it funny that one commercial spot was playing during his show, given his lack of respect for women. He only stopped calling Clayborne "boy" as he claims his lawyer asked him to. The problem is that the Belle-vull Hoosiers egg on his conduct. One can only imagine what you would hear if he streamed only. Maybe we should be thankful that the FCC rules reign him in somewhat.
You can blame or thank Larry Rice for the "colorful" diversion to Charlie Brennan everyday, and Romanik doesn't hesitate to trash Larry Rice whenever he's in the news either. Obviously, Larry didn't know then what this sale has turned into.
I'm not at all surprised that his home is a fortress of sorts, but that's what happens when you make people scared. I do think it's laughable that the same hypocrite who wants people to speak on the record would hide "friends" who don't want to be ID'd by a reporter. Could it be that he's playing both sides of the coin perhaps??????
While the RFT is owned by the Village Voice, this "profile" is on par with what I have read here for years. I would expect that his enemies and his supporters would be contacted, I would expect the RFT to note if people refused to talk, that's what balanced journalism does. If he demands openness of others, he should have known what he was getting into with the reporter.
Only those closest to him will know why he left and returned to the air. It leaves people guessing if this was an elaborate stunt. If he needed a vacation, he's had on some people that could have done an entertaining hour and maybe even two. But of course you have to be broad based in your experience base and able to discuss more than one thing, along with interacting with people who call. Romanik can and should be able to engage callers with civility so perhaps he needs to spend more time listening to Michael Weiner to see how it's done and done right.
I have to admit that I laugh when the Marley comes on at commercial break, but it does cut his diatribes by a few seconds as does the long intro music.
Thank you RFT for standing tall as a publication to tell both sides of the story. Romanik is a big boy so surely he can take what he dishes out....or can he?
@suetoo When there's "guests" he tends to lay off his normal act. Try Monday when something in the Belle-vul News Democrat pisses him off, you'll hear the normal. Currently, three people want to be the next mayor of Belleville so let's see how that plays out. I don't believe the Chief said he had enough officers and to his credit, Romanik did point out long ago that had they voted to get rid of the ESL election board, they could have paid for more officers.
@chizum3 I've never called anyone I care about a "bitch". But, then again, I can write intelligible English, unlike you.
@chizum3 Did he have a right to call this reporter a bitch and other things? Had Carl Officer been a loyal friend, he wouldn't have been quoted in the story. But see, Carl is all about Carl and he doesn't miss a chance to get his name out there. And the same, if Romanik didn't want to be interviewed, he could have said no. He's offended that she said the plaza was run down...IT IS as are MOST places in Belleville! Granted he may have spent thousands on the stations he owns but she tried to paint an accurate word picture. If he doesn't want to dress like a pimp, buy better clothes!
The problem with employment by who you know is not just in ESL, it's ALL OVER the county government bodies and it does happen in private industry as well. He can bring it up, but the political machine won't change. He drools all over the US Atty, and the States Atty. both appointed by the same machine that he rebels against. Do you think they will do the investigations that would lead to indictments? The St. Louis American had it right back in 2008 when they noted that Charlie Powell wouldn't talk to the feds. Doing so would send a bolt of lightning through downtown Belleville and the paper would love to print as a headline "X" indicted by the feds.
We can only hope the black vote doesn't send Clayborne back to Springfield and my Ameren bill always reminds me of why I won't vote for him myself. You say that Republicans don't do a thing but how many people in ESL get to see Mark Kern outside of Election Day and when he has that party to give kids toys before Christmas? This is the first time since I lived here that they were running in so many races. They can't try to reach out to ESL for as long as the machine there takes their marching orders from the corner of E.Washington and S. High in downtown Belleville. When my chance for change is stolen for $10, how should I feel about the thieves in ESL who stole my vote?
Considering how he's treated the reporter, why did the RFT waste their time profiling him? @inglesconlaguera
@Giggles2012 No, yeah, he said that. That's right when he started talking about the civilian volunteer program he has going on. The same thing goes on in the County. They don't respond to calls, saying they're too busy, and if you ask if they need more money, or more officers, Justus says, "No."