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People & Places

Staff Pick

Best Disappearing Act 

Bob Romanik

To say that Bob Romanik has disappeared would be to presume that he ever really existed at all. And sure, Romanik is a real, human person — he’s owned strip clubs, served time in federal prison for bank fraud and, in the ’90s, was busted as a corrupt police chief in a Metro East racketeering scandal. But on the airwaves, Romanik became something else, less a fully realized person than “The Grim Reaper of Radio.” Every morning, behind the ever-present soundtrack of a rolling thunderstorm, the reaper spouted self-pitying racism seemingly piped in from a Klan rally. For years, the show functioned as a safe space for racists on the AM dial, with Romanik dropping n-words in defense of the plight of “proud whites” while his callers echoed the same language, the same word, reveling in their mutual disgust, repeating the ugly stereotypes over and over again on the airwaves. At some point, Romanik declared his show “White Awareness Radio,” which was introduced, of course, as “WAR.” He recorded a rap song titled, really, “N----- Nation.” It was played at the end of every episode. His shamelessness seemed unbreakable, and indeed Romanik’s brazen racism never actually endangered his show. Instead, his apparent attempts to conceal ownership of three radio stations drew an official inquiry from the FCC’s investigative arm, and a judge reviewing the case eventually refused to renew the stations’ licenses after a lawyer no-showed multiple hearings. On April 10, Romanik hosted his last show. He spouted his last epithet. He played his last racist rap song. What came afterward, blessedly, was silence. — Danny Wicentowski

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