By Lindsay Toler
By Danny Wicentowski
By Danny Wicentowski
By Jessica Lussenhop
By Lindsay Toler
By Lindsay Toler
By Danielle Marie Mackey
By Lindsay Toler
Upon learning who was involved with Entertainment Media, Rice says he tried to stop the sale. He even paid Romanik a visit.
"He's a child of God, and so I ministered to him for a while," says Rice. "I was grateful to find he wasn't going to use it like it was portrayed in the local media, something bad or devilish. He was just going to have a radio station for some old-time songs."
Rice shared a copy of Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line" with Romanik and stepped aside.
Entertainment Media Trust snatched up three more stations over the next four years and began operating under the name Insane Broadcasting, a company owned by Stephen Romanik II, though the Illinois Secretary of State lists the elder Romanik's home address as its office.
The trust bought the former country station WIL (1430 AM) for $1.2 million and rebranded the oldies station "Krazy Q" KZQZ. Sports-talk station KRFT went for $600,000 and became "Kool Killer Kountry" KQQZ (1190 AM). WFFX, another former sports-talk station, became the home of the Grim Reaper's show when it was purchased for $450,000 in 2010 and changed to "Hot Talk and Timeless Memories" WQQX (1490 AM).
"And the naked dancin' chick ownin' heathen pays a load of cash for a station he can't even own, because he's a convicted felon!" wrote the now-retired media critic Mike Anderson on his blog STLMedia.net after the sale of WQQX. "He collects station licenses in the name of his son and his lawyer and trashes the industry with his presence."
Though Anderson also wrote that Romanik once threatened to sue his site for its criticism, these days Anderson says he's got no bone to pick with the Grim Reaper, whom he considers less of a problem than the corporatization of radio.
"He doesn't beat up little old ladies or hire and fire hundreds of thousands of employees," says Anderson dryly. "The whole industry is a loss. So he's got himself a toy."
Romanik's entry into broadcasting came at a tumultuous time, with the Great Recession leaving owners of large radio portfolios looking to unload small local stations and corporate layoffs providing a cheap and willing workforce of programmers.
The conditions were perfect for someone just like Romanik to make a splash. Recently, Insane Broadcasting got FCC approval to turn KZQZ into a 50,000-watt station, a pricey upgrade that will equal the strength of the dynastic KMOX (1120 AM). And by bucking trends in his musical lineup, Romanik has found loyal fans.
"The soul and oldies is extremely well-programmed. I give it my highest compliment," says Tom "Papa" Ray, owner of Vintage Vinyl, of Romanik's KZQZ. "I think he's good for local radio. I think he's interesting for local radio."
But just how many people are tuning into Romanik's music programming or his Grim Reaper shtick is anyone's guess. Insane Broadcasting doesn't subscribe to Arbitron, the Nielsen rating equivalent for radio. Word of mouth, however, suggests that Romanik is coming through loud and clear.
"I know there are a lot of politicians who listen to his show," says Christopher Cueto, an attorney and younger brother of the late Amiel Cueto, Romanik's lifelong friend and political ally. "Even if they don't listen to the show themselves, they have people who listen and report back to them."
At a Denny's off of Highway 15 in Alorton, Illinois, Romanik slides a stack of black-and-white photos across the table. The grainy eight-by-ten on top is a close-up of a man's body in a T-shirt and boxers. Where his neck ought to be, there's nothing but mottled lumps of flesh. The photos beneath show the man's wife, one eye staring, the other one gone along with the left side of her head. Her killer had given up halfway through the beheading and left her to bleed to death.
"You should see them in color," says Romanik.
The pictures are crime-scene photos from a 1978 double homicide that Romanik says was the most gruesome of his career as an East St. Louis homicide detective. Growing up poor in the notorious Roosevelt housing projects in East St. Louis steered Romanik toward two distinct career paths — cop or robber. He chose the former. By the '70s Romanik had worked his way up to homicide detective in one of the most dangerous cities in the nation.
The double beheading — which eventually led to a death-row conviction — got a multipage feature spread in a 1980 issue of True Detective; Romanik appeared grim-faced with a lustrous Fu Manchu mustache.
"Back at headquarters," the article reads breathlessly, "Detective Robert Romanik decided the jawbone must be somewhere near where the rest of the head was found.... It took more than an hour, crawling around on his hands and knees in the cold, using a flashlight, but the young investigator found what he was looking for: a human jawbone."
"It was a good experience morally, for me to get some crap and shit bums off the street, but mentally it was a bad experience for me," Romanik says of his time with homicide. "Once you see that much death and mayhem you can't come out the same person you were coming in."
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."