NEW YORK - Helping to free three women from nearly a decade in captivity would seem to be enough. Hero neighbor Charles Ramsey has also become a star, offering moments of levity in an unspeakably horrible story, free publicity for a restaurant chain and unexpected lessons in race relations.
Ramsey lived next door to where Ariel Castro is alleged to have kept the women in his makeshift prison until Monday afternoon, when Ramsey happened to be home and heard Amanda Berry's scream.
Or let him tell it: "I got the day off from work, so naturally you're doing nothing."
This Monday file photo shows neighbor Charles Ramsey speaking to media near the home where missing women Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight were rescued in Cleveland. Ramsey lived next door to where Ariel Castro is alleged to have kept the women in his makeshift prison until Monday afternoon, when Ramsey happened to be home and heard Amanda Berry's scream.
Actually, he was "eating my McDonald's," a fact he trumpeted so frequently that the grateful food giant is trying to get in touch with him. A website that compiled some of Ramsey's television interviews kept count of how many times he mentioned McDonald's in each.
Ramsey, 43, gave a series of interviews to Cleveland television stations as the story broke Monday night that were replayed on national news. CNN's Anderson Cooper tracked him down for a lengthy conversation the next night. The interviews are performance art masterpieces, so filled with colorful language and astute reporting that he trended on Twitter and was the subject of Internet memes and an Auto-tuned song.
Similarly, a tape of a much more profane Ramsey talking to a 911 operator (whom he later called an imbecile) is circulating on the Web.
During his initial interviews, Ramsey said he was shocked to learn of Castro's double life. Ramsey said he "used to barbecue with this dude. We eat ribs and what-not, listen to salsa music."
There was nothing exciting about Castro, he said. "Until today," he added.
"You've got some big testicles to pull this off, bro," he said.
During his Tuesday interview with Cooper, Ramsey, who works at Hodge's Restaurant in Cleveland, noted that he had trouble sleeping with the knowledge of what had been happening in the house next door. "Up until yesterday, the only thing that had me losing sleep was the lack of money," he said.
If he had known what was going on, he said he'd be facing a homicide charge for taking matters into his own hands. "I'm glad it turned out this way," Cooper replied.
Ramsey's realization of what was happening on Monday was itself a revealing observation on race. Seeing a white girl in that situation was "a dead giveaway" that she was either homeless or had other problems, he said.
"When a little pretty white girl ran into a black man's arms, something was wrong,"