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We were the Loaf, y'all. We did stuff like that.
Cariaga and I both slept on the Good Morning America fiasco and its lingering shockwaves. But Cariaga kept his focus on two key points that the rest of Charlotte has conveniently slept on ever since: how Rev. Chambers intimidated the city's leadership, and how he got away with inflating the number of Concerned Charlotteans in his flock.
On March 14, 1996, Chambers sent a fax to an unnamed city council member. Referencing "the questionable homosexual oriented drama" scheduled to open six days later, Chambers demanded a response on whether "you oppose or promote this kind of event." Rev. Chambers promised to publicize the names of people who promoted Angels, opposed Angels, or refused to respond.
That fax soon had Mayor McCrory, PAC president Judith Allen, and District Attorney Peter Gilchrest falling in line behind Chambers and his army of Concerned Charlotteans. Like the meek sheep they were.
And exactly how many upstanding citizens were enlisted in that mighty army? On March 20, Mike Collins tried to get Chambers to divulge how many people he represented on his WBT talk show. Chambers evaded the question, but on that chilly night when picketers gathered at the PAC before Angels triumphantly premiered, Cariaga was there to do a headcount.
"Perhaps Chambers' greatest PR move last week was convincing people that he enjoyed 'incredible community support' in his effort to have Angels banned," Cariaga wrote (assisted by Vahni Georgoulakos). "That 'incredible community support' translated into about 15 protesters on opening night. Conversely, protesters in support of Angels numbered between 150 and 200."
All these years later, that simple statement of fact, that overwhelming 10:1 picket-line ratio is still astonishing. How could one religious crackpot, a fax machine, and a mere 15 followers strike so much fear, wield so much power, and cause so much pain and grief for so long?
To answer that question, you need to understand what Charlotte was like in 1996 -- and for years afterwards. Maybe, with the help of Eric Coble's Southern Rapture, we can begin to laugh at those times. Maybe we've grown up sufficiently since then.
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