For 15 years, Gaston Doiron has been known as Monsieur Bingo.
Every Tuesday night, residents of the Acadian Peninsula gather their bingo cards, tune into CKRO-FM in the community of Pokemouche in northeastern New Brunswick, and listen to Doiron call the numbers.
His warm voice and cheerful manner have charmed hundreds of people and kept them company throughout the pandemic, and he says they have done the same for him.
“Fifty-two weeks out of the year, I’m here,” Doiron said. “I have rarely missed a night.”
Starting at 6:30 p.m. sharp, Doiron calls bingo numbers and listeners call when they’ve won. Or when they have a question. Or a complaint.
Lately, Doiron said, the complaints have been piling up.
“I don’t think COVID has helped things,” he said. “People were so frustrated that at some point, [some] even complained about the music” playing between each number he called.
Finally, last Tuesday, Doiron had had enough.
In a dramatic, live, on-air finale that no one, not even Doiron himself, saw coming, Mr. Bingo berated the complainants and left his hosting gig.
“Maybe I had a bad day, I don’t know,” he said.
“I just broke, straight on air.”
Little did Doiron know when he took to CKRO-FM on May 3 to host his Bingo concert that it would be his last night.
But the warning bells soon began to ring.
“It started with Game 2,” he said.
Each bingo night consists of seven games, with play stopping when someone calls the station to say they have bingo. A verifier then checks the numbers against the computer and takes the contact details of the caller, then moves on to the next game.
But a few recent rule changes implemented by the station have caused confusion, Doiron said.
For example, he used to say, “We have a winner, game 2 is now over.
He has since been asked to stop saying that, in part because players programmed their phones to automatically redial the station if they won. But this had resulted in countless delays, misdialings and other complications.
Doiron blames this rule change in particular for last Tuesday’s “bad night.”
In the aforementioned Game 2, for example, a player called in protest that Doiron hadn’t told the players he had moved on to Game 3.
This led to a protracted disagreement, further stalling the game.
“So I said, ‘Look, I don’t have time,’ and I just hung up on him,” Doiron said.
There was more of the same confusion in Game 4.
And then in game 6 the callers turned on the board again when the game was paused to check the numbers of a caller who said he had bingo in game 5.
Meanwhile, Doiron says, “the phone rings. ‘Why is bingo stopped? Bingo is stopped. Why?’ “
At this point, he says, he has reached his breaking point.
“I said, straight on air…and I said it in English, ‘Enough is enough,'” Doiron said.
Then, addressing the caller who he had argued with earlier, he said: “The person who is very smart, smarter than me, you come for work next week because I will not be the.”
“And that was the end,” he said. “I’m not proud to have done that. But I’m just human, that’s all.”
No return plans
CKRO-FM General Manager Donald Noël was unavailable for an interview over the weekend, but in an earlier interview, he told Radio-Canada New Brunswick that although Doiron will be missed, he accepted his decision.
“He’s an exceptional and very generous person. He decided to move on,” Noël said.
In the meantime, a temporary replacement has been found to call Bingo on Tuesday evenings.
For Doiron, it’s only been a week and a half, but when asked if he misses Bingo, he didn’t hesitate.
“Yes,” he said quickly, noting that “the majority” of his listeners have been wonderful.
Hundreds of them have reached out to express their shock at his departure and urge him to return, but at 70, he says, he wants to spend his precious time doing things that give him, and to others, pleasure.
Bingo “is a thing of the past now,” he said. “I have to go to something else.”
He still has a Thursday night radio show on CKRO-FM, where he plays music until midnight – “from Beethoven to rock ‘n’ roll” – and shares personal anecdotes with listeners.
“It’s my therapy of the week,” he laughed.
He is actively involved in fundraising and charitable work in the community, including the Tree of Hope campaign in support of the Dr. Léon-Richard Oncology Center in Moncton and cancer research in New Brunswick. .
And then there are his annual holiday concerts.
On Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., Doiron leaves the family table and heads to the radio station to host an all-night music show.
“My family is okay with that, my wife is okay with that,” he said.
“We always say, life has been good to us. So it’s my way of spending Christmas and New Year’s Eve with people who are home alone. It’s my way of giving back…because life has been good for me.”