UPDATED 4/26 8:30 a.m.
I’ve been covering the Tampa Bay music scene for the better part of a decade now, and one of its greatest mysteries is the identity of Doug Bonar.
The user (@BonarDoug) joined the social network Twitter in 2012 and has since fired off an astonishing number of messages (304,000 and counting as of April 25). Bonar and I interact with similar accounts like Bay area promotions company No Clubs, community radio station WMNF 88.5-FM and Tampa record shop Mojo. The Bonar name even has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.
Bonar’s profiles, however, are a mixture of bot-esque replies and retweets of figures in pop culture. The timeline occasionally favors the Tampa Bay Rays and other Bay area media personalities, but Bonar also regularly replies to @CL_music posts and those from other local newspaper people like Tampa Bay Times critic Jay Cridlin and features writer Christopher Spata (the latter of whom is also chasing the Bonar).
Bonar’s Twitter-ing is almost always hyper-positive, and it reaches far and wide. The account has been acknowledged by multitudes of bands including Robert DeLong, Thursday, Car Seat Headrest, record labels like Polyvinyl and even music streaming giant Spotify. In a 2015 blog post, Merge Records publicist Mike Caulo offered evidence that Bonar is a real person, and other publicists are also aware of the phenom.
In an email, Shira Knishkowy, a longtime publicist for storied indie-rock label Matador, told CL that she’s been obsessed with the Bonar account for years.
"I have never been personally Bonar'd (a girl can dream though!), but I started noticing him responding to artists I work with on Twitter around 2013/2014,” Knishkowy said. She isn’t sure how many artists have noticed Bonar’s unabashed positivity, but her co-workers at past jobs and Matador are all aware and intrigued.
“I've done a bit of research trying to figure out if he's a bot or not, and I think after doing some serious Facebook stalking, I think he is a real person,” Knishkowy added. “But what is a real person anyways, really?"
Former CL contributor and 97X music director Joel Weiss gets the retweet treatment from the Bonar account, but he wasn't smart enough to get a picture with the mythical man when they crossed paths at 97X events.
“He said ‘Joel! It’s Doug Bonar’ when we met. I didn’t ask him about it because I felt awkward about banning him from the 97X FB page,” Weiss told CL in a message, adding that Bonar was back on the page, perhaps on a new profile, in no time.
Mark Stutzman, who used to work promotions for Cox Media, which owns 97X, said he's even met who he believes is the real Doug Bonar at 97X events.
"It's the only place I've ever met him," Stutzman, 30, told CL. "He goes to a lot of them."
There is a Tampa Bay Douglas Bonar who operates A Center For Wellness in Pinellas Park, but he’s not the person we’re looking for. So the hunt is on, and this is a message to Bonar, letting him know that his enthusiasm is appreciated and that the world is ready to meet him.
Still, even if we never get to meet the real Bonar, his Tweets will always be a bright spot in the increasingly caustic Twittersphere.
Just ask Pitchfork reviews editor Jeremy Larson, who told CL that the Bonar is one of the true souls we have left on the social network.
“Doug Bonar is a relic of a simpler time, a holdover of when there was some mystery left in social media, when the actions of a weird account couldn't be simply tied to some random guy with depression from a message board or some inscrutable MFA art project,” Larson said in an email, adding that he used to think the Bonar was real. He even tried to look him up on Facebook once.
“When Doug slid into your mentions it replying to something you wrote with ‘article’ or ‘photo’ or ‘taylor swift’ or whatever, it was as if someone noticed the work you were doing,” Larson said. “That felt good, even if (I'm pretty sure) Doug Bonar is a bot.”
If you’ve got a lead on Bonar, then please email me.