Neither the G105 “Showgram” nor its host, Bob Dumas, are strangers to controversy. The popular local morning radio show is known for a range of stunts over the years that follow a familiar pattern: the hosts enrage some of the local citizenry, Showgram fans rally to their defense, the station gets free publicity and then apologizes.
This week, the Showgram is under fire for its float in last Saturday’s Raleigh WRAL Christmas Parade. The entry featured a black man dressed in a skirt with fairy wings, strapped to a harness that was suspended from the back of a tow truck. Dumas, riding on the float, described the scene to parade goers as “Tyrone the Black Christmas Fairy” who was going to turn “crackers” into Beyonce.
Many people watching the parade or reading accounts of it later called the image inappropriate and took to Facebook and Twitter.
“I cannot believe that this happened,” Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane wrote on Facebook to a concerned citizen. “Raleigh will not tolerate racism or anything that comes remotely close. This parade is a Raleigh tradition that includes everyone and should be treated as such.”
Michael “Breeze” Rackoff, who up until late last week was the director of the Showgram, said he questioned the concept of the Christmas fairy when Dumas first proposed it in a staff meeting. The man suspended from the truck, Tyrone Dunston, is not a Showgram employee but is a longtime fan of the show.
Rackoff thought the show’s parade entry should have had a different motif.
“It was originally going to be a military theme, up until the very last week,” Rackoff said Wednesday. “There was also that idea of Tyrone hanging from a tow truck as a Christmas fairy, and I specifically remember looking at several people and saying, ‘Ah, isn’t that kind of racially insensitive to drag a black man behind a tow truck, be it in good spirits or not?’
“Obviously, no one thought it was an issue,” he said.
But Tuesday, Dick Harlow, market manager for G105 owner Clear Channel Media, apologized to the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association, which puts on the parade.
“Some very poor judgment was used,” Harlow told The News & Observer. “It was meant to be a harmless stunt, and it was never our intention to offend anyone.”
Jennifer Martin, executive director of the merchants association, said both the group and parade sponsor WRAL-TV received complaints about the G105 entry.
“They apologized for what they’ve done and they regret that what they did was insensitive, and they will not be doing that display again,” Martin said.
The Showgram has a history of trouble. Dumas and others have faced heat over comments about Lumbee Indians, about “American Idol” winner Fantasia Barrino and how motorists can bother bicyclists who are trying to share roadways.
Dumas, who lives with his family in Apex, has been with the station for 20 years and has worked with a variety of co-hosts.
In 2007, Dumas was diagnosed with a brain tumor and underwent successful surgery to have it removed. He now raises money for The Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation through his charity, Bob’s Buddies. The charity held its annual all-day fundraising drive on G105 Wednesday.
Rackoff, who came to the Showgram from the Ace and T.J. radio show in Charlotte, had only held the job at G105 for about three months. He said he thought he was hired to bring some stability to the “Showgram,” but that he was told during his tenure that he “didn’t go along with the flow.”
Rackoff said he asked last Wednesday to be reassigned to another job within the company or to be let go. On Friday, he said he asked to be excused from attending the parade. On Monday, he was terminated.
Though Rackoff said the environment at the Showgram is that a “happy Bob” makes a “happy job,” he does like Dumas and thinks he’s a great guy.
“It was not the ending I wanted,” Rackoff said of his departure. “But I’m thankful I’m out of there. I wish him the best, and I wish the best for the show.”