Thanks to that kind of frank talk, the Ramsey phenomenon shows no sign of abating. His original TV interview about the rescue has drawn nearly 7 million views on YouTube, which was then topped by 9 million viewings of a video that turned Ramsey’s infectious storytelling style into a catchy tune called “Dead Giveaway.”
“I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran to a black man’s arms,” Ramsey’s autotuned voice croons in the remix. “We eat ribs with this dude, but we didn’t have a clue.”
Ramsey has been nothing but open about the racial angle of the story — a black man living in a Hispanic neighborhood helps save a white woman from her Puerto Rican captor and then sees his heroism tainted by news accounts of his conviction in a decade-old domestic violence case in which he hit his wife.
That reporting — for which a Cleveland TV station apologized, saying it regretted having dug into Ramsey’s past when the city was celebrating his selfless act — led some commentators to argue that the hero’s instant celebrity was not entirely a reward for a good deed but rather a resort to old stereotypes about a smack-talking, unsophisticated black man.
Ramsey doesn’t see it that way. “Look,” he said. “Those kids are at home now, so their mothers are going to have a Mother’s Day. So anybody who portrays me in any wrong way can” perform an act best left undescribed in a family publication. “I didn’t have any image before this, so I sure don’t care what one I have now.”
Newman agrees. “The idea that he’s being portrayed as a clown hurts me,” he said. “It is such a superficial observation. Charles is a real smart guy with comedic timing and a palpable sense of right and wrong. He has no filters. He’s one of the most unpretentious people I’ve ever met.”
Again and again during his visit, Ramsey wondered at the notion that a black dishwasher would end up thrust into a world he had seen only on TV.
Touring the yacht, he said, “This is mind blowing — better than what the [expletive] I do.”
Ramsey would have gone on talking all night, but after a time, the leader of his entourage, a large, muscular man who declined to divulge his name, stared down a reporter and drew his finger across his throat in a gesture that apparently indicated the completion of the interview.
“I wish I could get rid of the entourage,” said Ramsey, whose words are quoted here with the exception of one, two or three maternal allusions per sentence that are very much not in the spirit of Mother’s Day. “But this is the guy I go to when I can’t pay my bills and my check’s already gone.”
Ten hours later, at the Anacostia storefront studio of WPWC (1480 AM), Newman introduced Ramsey on the air with the Sly and the Family Stone number “Everyday People,” and the hero told about how he learned important lessons from his father, who had “no room for stupidity, zero tolerance for failure,” from getting kicked out of class and from eight months in prison for hitting his wife.
The incident that got him arrested began when Ramsey accused his wife of two-timing him. “You know how a man and woman are,” he said. “Words are going to get said. It’s an adrenaline rush, and I went to jail for it. I learned from that.”
During a commercial break, Cora Masters Barry, the ex-wife of D.C. Councilman Marion Barry, who was visiting the studio, urged Ramsey to “Get that reward money, hear? Brother, get that reward.”
Ramsey demurred, telling the story of how Amanda Berry refused to let police usher her away from her secret prison on Seymour Avenue until they had gone in to save the other two captives. “Amanda Berry — that’s the damn celebrity, not me,” Ramsey said. “I just played my damn position.”
In the small hours of Saturday morning, Ramsey, exhausted but still happily posing with anyone who asked, paused to consider the dawn of his sixth day in the spotlight: “What I’ve learned from the human race this week is we still ain’t got it right.”
A few minutes earlier, on the way out of the restaurant, his entourage rose from the table and walked away. No one looked back to see Ramsey still seated, busily gathering the plates and silverware, stacking them for the waiters. Then Ramsey ducked under the table. A couple of forks had fallen, and someone had to retrieve them.