Howard Stern: The King of More Than Just Radio.
It’s Not Always Easy Being A Howard Stern Fan
I remember driving to a Philadelphia mall in 1986. There was a billboard announcing Howard Stern’s arrival. I seem to recall Sam Kinison being on the billboard. At that time, my friends and I would trade tapes of funny radio shows. We were fans of John DeBella and Mark “The Shark” Drucker, the two main figures of the WMMR morning show. We thought they were hysterical. Remember, we were children.
But something about the Howard Stern billboard grabbed my attention. I remember the first time I listened to the show. I was on my school bus going to Junior High in Chalfont, Pennsylvania. I tuned up from 93.3 to 94.1. There was Howard Stern. He was talking about calling Samantha Fox’s 976 number. At that age, I was very interested to see what happened on that sexy phone line. But the bus pulled into Unami Jr. High, and I never found out what sexy things Samantha Fox said. I tuned in again the next day, the next day, and so on. At the time of this writing, 2023 is near its end. I still listen every day.
But exactly what kind of fan am I? Some people think I’m a pervert, probably (hopefully) because I’m a fan. Many young people have no idea who he is, so I’m not even sure he’s still relevant. Why do I still listen?
Overview of Howard Stern’s Career
Love him or hate him, Howard Stern is important to pop culture. Without Stern, we may not have podcasts and reality television today. We may not have daring interviewers. We might have nothing but sanitized commercial content. To him, he wanted to invent a form of rock and roll radio. He leaned into the freedom of speech to broadcast things that others hadn’t said or done on the air before. Howard Stern offended many people, but important people often offend people. what’s up
Howard Stern was born on January 12, 1954, in Queens, New York. He began his radio work in 1976, working for several stations in the New York City area. He admits he had trouble landing and keeping jobs because he had not yet found his voice. “You have no future in radio,” Stern would be told. But in 1982, he landed his own show on WNBC, which quickly became the highest-rated program in the market. The new Howard Stern was born.
In 1985, Stern moved to WXRK in New York, where he started doing afternoon broadcasting, following the popular Don Imus program. It wouldn’t take long for Stern to take the morning slot. Stern would remain at the station for the next 20 years. He became even more known for his irreverent humor and controversial content during this time. The media and various organizations often criticized him for his on-air antics, but his popularity grew. The FCC routinely scrutinized him and sometimes fined him due to his shock-jock antics. Stern and company eventually owed a couple of million dollars in fines.
In 2006, Stern moved to satellite radio, signing a five-year, $500 million contract with SiriusXM. This significant move allowed Stern to have more creative control over his content and reach a wider audience. However, it took him away from the terrestrial radio marketplace, where he had become accustomed to competing. While his reach wasn’t as big, he enjoyed censor-free radio on SiriusXM.
Importance of Howard Stern in the Radio Industry
Howard Stern’s impact on the radio industry is immeasurable. He calls himself the King of All Media, a tongue-in-cheek statement. But radio is where he truly became the king. He has been a trailblazer in the world of radio broadcasting, paving the way for other hosts and shows to push the boundaries of what is acceptable on the airwaves. From Mancow to Imus, there is not an on-air personality that has not been aware of Howard Stern.
Stern’s influence can be seen in the rise of shock jocks and the popularity of morning radio shows throughout the 80s and 90s. He has also been credited with helping to launch the careers of several comedians and musicians, including Jimmy Kimmel, Sarah Silverman, and Bon Jovi. Some suggest the Howard Stern Show is the inspiration for the MTV Unplugged acoustic series since he would often bring in musicians who stripped down their hard rocking gear for the small, intimate radio studio.
“Shut Up, Sit Down!” – Stern’s Early Life
Childhood and Family Background
In Queens, New York, Howard Stern was born to Jewish parents Ben and Ray Stern on January 12, 1954. His father was a radio engineer, and his mother was a homemaker. (Ben Stern has recently passed away.) Howard Stern grew up in a middle-class neighborhood in Roosevelt, Long Island, where he attended Hebrew school and had a bar mitzvah. He speaks often about his time in Roosevelt, sharing that he was commonly picked on and beaten up by the African Americans in his school. This childhood trauma seems to be something that has left emotional scars on Howard.
Stern has often spoken about his difficult relationship with his father, who was often critical and distant. However, he has also credited his father with sparking his interest in radio and introducing him to the broadcasting world. This early exposure to radio would later shape Stern’s career and influence his unique broadcasting style. Ben Stern had no time for words of warmth, but his hard-working attitude certainly shaped Howard’s work ethic. In addition to his poor treatment at school in “black” neighborhoods (as he would refer to it), Howard Stern often cites his sadness about having unloving and unguiding parents. He would play old childhood recordings of his father scolding him, “Shut up, sit down!” While the tapes amused audiences, it also painted a picture of a very unloving family.
In addition to his parents, he has a sister (Ellen) whom he rarely speaks about. Howard is otherwise very private about his family life, including his children, only being more vocal about them in recent years.
Education and Early Career
After graduating from high school, Stern attended Boston University, where he studied communications. While at BU, Stern began working at the campus radio station WTBU, where he hosted a weekly show. This experience allowed him to hone his skills as a radio host and develop his signature style of humor.
After graduating from BU in 1976, Stern returned to New York and began looking for work in radio. He landed his first job at WRNW in Briarcliff Manor, New York, where he worked as a DJ and news anchor. This early radio experience helped Stern build his skills as a broadcaster and gain valuable experience in the non-college industry.
First Radio Show and Rise to Fame
In 1982, Stern was hired as a DJ at WNBC in New York City, where he quickly became known for his irreverent humor and controversial on-air antics. He also began to develop a loyal following of fans who appreciated his unique brand of humor. Despite facing criticism from some quarters, Stern’s popularity grew, and he quickly became one of the most recognizable voices on the airwaves. Even the other WNBC DJs, especially Don Imus, made life harder on Stern. There was a lot of jealousy, and Howard responded by showing his teeth. You’ll never meet a more competitive disc jockey.
In 1985, Stern was given his own morning show on WNBC, which he used as a platform to push the boundaries of what was considered acceptable on the radio. He became known for his outrageous sexual stunts, such as broadcasting from a coffin and staging a mock funeral for rivals. These stunts helped to cement Stern’s reputation as a boundary-pushing broadcaster and helped to grow his audience even further. He was often seen as a champion of free speech.
Despite the controversy surrounding his show, Stern’s popularity continued to grow, and in 1986, he was offered a contract by WXRK, a competing radio station in New York. He accepted the offer and began hosting The Howard Stern Show on WXRK later that year. Over the years, The Howard Stern Show became one of the country’s most popular and influential radio programs, with millions of listeners tuning in each week to hear Stern’s interviews with celebrities, his commentary on current events, and his trademark humor.
In conclusion, Howard Stern’s early life and career were marked by his passion for radio and his willingness to push the boundaries of what was considered acceptable on the airwaves. Despite facing criticism and controversy throughout his career, Stern’s unique brand of humor and his ability to connect with his audience has made him one of his generation’s most successful and influential broadcasters.
The Howard Stern Show Evolves
The Howard Stern Show is a radio talk show hosted by the legendary American radio personality Howard Stern. At times, the show was aired on the E! network. At one time, Howard and the team also had a small show on Channel 9 in NYC, but it did not last long due to the high effort of work. Stern and the gang already had a full morning radio show to consider! The radio show has been on the air since 1979 and has been broadcasted on various radio stations throughout the United States, starting in Philadelphia. The show’s format is a unique mix of comedy, interviews, and commentary on current events. The show is known for its irreverent humor and controversial content, often landing Stern in hot water with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
One of the show’s key features is its cast of regular characters, including Stern’s longtime co-host Robin Quivers, producer Gary Dell’Abate (aka Bababooey), and writer Fred Norris. The show also features a rotating cast of comedians and celebrities who make regular appearances, including Gilbert Gottfried, Sam Kinison, David Letterman, and more. Previous core performers include Jackie Martling, Artie Lange, voice actor Billy West, Stuttering John Melendez, and Al Rosenberg.
Evolution of the show over the years, including changes in format and content
Over the years, The Howard Stern Show has undergone several changes in format and content. It was always a show best suited for adults, but there have been different generations. Stern focuses primarily on music and celebrity interviews in the show’s recent years. However, his old format incorporated more locker-room comedy and controversial content into the show, including porn stars and odd personalities.
In the 1990s, the show hit its prime. Howard Stern became known as the biggest of the “shock jock” style, which included sexually explicit content and controversial interviews with celebrities. This led to several high-profile controversies, including a 1992 interview with singer Madonna, in which Stern asked her about her sexual preferences and drug use.
In recent years, the show has shifted away from its shock jock roots and has focused more on interviews and commentary on current events. Stern has also become more politically active, using his platform to speak out on issues such as gun control and LGBTQ rights. The show has also incorporated diverse voices and perspectives, including more women and people of color as guests and contributors. The days of strippers and porn stars are in the past.
Key moments and controversies, including interviews with celebrities and controversial on-air moments
- One of the most controversial moments in the history of The Howard Stern Show came in 2004 when Stern announced that he would be leaving terrestrial radio and moving to satellite radio. The move was seen as a major blow to the FCC, which had been cracking down on Stern’s controversial content for years. His former terrestrial radio station even sued him for promoting satellite radio too often during his final days on FM. Many thought Stern would fail at Sirius, but he thrived. The Howard Stern Show is still broadcast through SiriusXM. Most terrestrial radio stations have fallen.
- Another key moment in the show’s history came in 1997 when Stern interviewed former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. The interview was highly controversial, with many accusing Stern of giving Duke a platform to spread his hateful views. However, Stern defended the interview, arguing that exposing Duke’s beliefs to a wider audience and challenging them was important. While Stern clearly disagreed with the content, airing the show allowed the real person to be exposed, which did not help his reputation.
- Why do they call him Bababooey? The long-time Stern Show producer, Gary Dell’Abate, was fond of collecting animation cells. That is, the individual cells of a classic cartoon. He obtained a Quickdraw McGraw and Baba Looey cell. Upon sharing his purchase with Howard Stern, Gary accidentally called Baba Looey by the name Bababooey. Howard heard the mistake right away and began the new nickname. Gary never thought it would last. It most certainly has.
- Despite the controversies, The Howard Stern Show has remained one of the most popular radio shows in the United States. Stern’s irreverent humor and willingness to tackle controversial topics have made him a beloved figure among many fans while also drawing criticism from those who view his content as offensive or inappropriate. The show continues to evolve and adapt to changing times, cementing its place in radio history.
Howard Stern on Demand
Howard Stern on Demand was a subscription-based service that allowed fans of Howard Stern to watch video recordings of his radio show online. The service was launched in 2005 and is available to subscribers of SiriusXM, the satellite radio company that broadcasts Stern’s radio show.
The format of Howard Stern on Demand is similar to that of Stern’s radio show, with a mix of interviews, comedy skits, and discussions on various topics. However, the service also includes behind-the-scenes footage and exclusive content unavailable on the radio show. It also introduced a few new personalities to the show.
The reception of Howard Stern on Demand was positive, with many fans praising the service for its convenience and the ability to watch the show on their own schedule. However, some fans have criticized the service for not offering enough exclusive content and for being too expensive. It eventually was shut down, but it is not clear why. The Howard on Demand staff discovered the ending of this small business unit live on air. People like Scott DePace and Doug Goodstein didn’t even see it coming.
Today, Howard on Demand could be compared to podcasts that broadcast on YouTube or stream on Twitch.
Changes in Howard Stern’s Personality and Brand
Early persona and shock jock image, including his controversial on-air moments and reputation
The self-proclaimed “King of All Media,” Howard Stern, rose to fame in the 1980s and 1990s as a shock jock radio host. His early persona was characterized by raunchy humor, controversial on-air moments, and a reputation for pushing boundaries. Stern’s show often featured sexually explicit content and was known for his confrontational interviews with guests.
One of Stern’s most infamous on-air moments occurred in 1992 when he aired a game called “Guess What’s in My Pants?” where female contestants were asked to identify objects he had placed in his pants. The segment sparked outrage and led to protests from women’s groups and advertisers.
Despite the controversy, Stern’s shock jock image helped him build a loyal following, and he became one of the most popular radio hosts in the country. His audience was massive.
Transition to a more serious interviewer, including his interviews with political figures and other serious topics
In the early 2000s, Stern shifted away from his extreme shock jock persona and became a more serious interviewer. He began to focus on more substantive topics, including politics, social issues, and celebrity interviews. One of Stern’s most notable interviews during this period was with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2015. Stern pressed Trump on his political views and controversial statements, providing a rare glimpse into the candidate’s thinking. But there was also a lot of R-rated commentary as well.
Stern also used his platform to advocate for causes he believed in, such as animal rights and cancer research. He became a vocal supporter of the charity organization North Shore Animal League and uses his show to raise awareness and funds for saving animals.
Howard Stern’s Impact on the Radio Industry
Howard Stern didn’t just host a radio show; he reinvented the wheel. His style is so audacious, so willing to push boundaries, that it’s become a sort of Holy Grail for radio hosts. Many have tried to emulate him, but capturing that Stern magic is like catching lightning in a bottle.
Adam Carolla is a prime example. The guy doesn’t mince words when he talks about how Stern has influenced his career. “The Adam Carolla Show” echoes Stern’s irreverent humor and unfiltered conversations, making it a standout in today’s podcast landscape.
Then there’s Opie from “Opie and Anthony,” another host who cut his teeth on Stern’s style. He’s said Stern was a huge influence during his formative years despite blaming him for hurting his career later. The O&A show itself became a breeding ground for edgy, controversial content, not unlike Stern’s own show. Though they eventually became competitors, the Stern influence is unmistakable.
But the list doesn’t stop there. Stern has also paved the way for shock jocks like Bubba the Love Sponge and Tom Leykis, who’ve taken the “no rules” radio philosophy to new heights. Then you’ve got Mancow and The Greaseman, who’ve also been heavily influenced by Stern’s approach to radio.
Do you know Rover from “Rover’s Morning Glory” and Elliot Segal of “Elliot in the Morning?” Both have cited Stern as an influence and have built their shows around candid, often controversial, discussions. With his unique blend of humor, sports, and talk, even Jason Ellis has mentioned Stern as a key influence in his career. In fact, Jason has been one of Stern’s best guests.
And it’s not just the guys; Stern’s open, candid style has also influenced radio hosts like Wendy Williams. Williams has often cited Stern as an inspiration for her no-holds-barred approach to radio and television. Howard Stern is more than just a radio host; he’s an industry-shaping powerhouse. His influence is like a thread woven into the very fabric of radio culture, and it’s not going anywhere. Even as Stern takes a step back, his legacy continues reverberating through the industry. Whether you’re a fan or not, you can’t deny the man’s impact. It’s as if Stern wrote the playbook, and everyone else is playing catch-up.
Future of radio in the post-Howard Stern era, including the potential for new hosts to emerge and the impact of changing technology on the industry
Howard Stern’s exit from terrestrial radio to satellite was like the end of an era, leaving many of us wondering what’s next for the radio industry. Stern’s a legend and his influence isn’t going to fade overnight. But let’s be real: the game is changing, and it’s not just because the King has left the building.
First up, let’s talk about the podcast revolution. Podcasting has become the new frontier for radio hosts looking to break free from the constraints of traditional broadcasting. It’s given rise to a new crop of hosts who are taking pages out of Stern’s playbook, adopting that irreverent style that made him a household name. So, while Stern may have moved on, his spirit kind of lives on in these up-and-comers.
Now, onto tech. The rise of streaming services and on-demand content from terrestrial stations has completely flipped the script. Gone are the days when listeners had to plan their lives around radio timetables. This shift has forced radio hosts to get creative and find new ways to engage their audience beyond the old-school AM/FM dial limitations.
Howard Stern may have stepped away from traditional radio, but his influence is like a shockwave that’s still rippling through the industry. Whether it’s inspiring a new generation of podcasters or forcing the industry to adapt to new technologies, Stern’s impact is far from over. The radio landscape is evolving, but it’s doing so in the shadow of a giant. And that, my friends, is the Stern effect in action.
Howard Stern’s Personal Life
Stern’s been married twice, and each marriage tells a different story. His first wife, Alison Berns, was his college sweetheart. They met at Boston University, and their love story was so captivating it even got the Hollywood treatment in the film Private Parts. They had three daughters—Emily, Debra, and Ashley—and were together for 21 years. But life happens, and they went their separate ways in 2001.
Then Beth Ostrosky, a model and actress younger than Stern, enters the story. They started dating and got engaged in 2007, sealing the deal with a lavish wedding ceremony in 2008. They’ve been inseparable ever since, often seen arm-in-arm at high-profile events, charity galas, and even casual outings. Their bond has been a strong one.
Now, let’s talk about Stern as a dad. He’s always been super vocal about his love for his daughters. Emily’s made a name for herself as an actress, appearing in indie films and off-Broadway shows. Debra’s been working her magic behind the scenes as a screenwriter for TV shows. Ashley, the youngest, is still in school but has made a few guest appearances on her dad’s radio show. Stern doesn’t just mention them casually; he often dedicates segments on his show to talk about his family life, sharing both the joys and challenges of fatherhood.
But Stern’s family influence doesn’t stop with his kids. He’s had a complex relationship with his parents, which he’s openly discussed. His mother battled depression, and that struggle left a lasting impact on him. On the other hand, his father’s strict upbringing played a role in shaping his work ethic and drive. Stern might describe them as far from the emotional cheerleaders one might expect, but their influence on his life and career is undeniable.
And let’s not overlook Stern’s philanthropic endeavors. He’s strongly supported various charities, including the North Shore Animal League and the Robin Hood Foundation. He’s also been a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, often using his platform to speak against discrimination and hate speech. In 2014, Stern and Beth launched “Bianca’s Furry Friends,” a campaign named after their late dog, Bianca. The campaign was a smashing success, raising over $1 million to build a new wing at the North Shore Animal League, providing a safe haven for animals.
Stern has a close-knit circle of celebrity friends, and each friendship tells its own tale. But his closest friend started as a fan – Ralph Cirella, a stylist and frequent guest on Stern’s show. Their friendship has been long-standing, and Cirella has often been considered part of Stern’s inner circle.
Then there’s John Stamos, the actor best known for his role on “Full House.” Stamos and Stern have been buddies for years, often seen hanging out and even going on double dates with their spouses.
Jimmy Kimmel, the late-night talk show host, is another good friend of Stern’s. They’ve been on each other’s shows multiple times, and their friendship extends beyond the professional realm. They often spend vacations and holidays together, solidifying their bond.
Billy Joel, the Piano Man himself, also shares a close friendship with Stern. They’ve interviewed each other several times, and their mutual respect is evident. Stern is a huge fan of Joel’s music, and the feeling is mutual when it comes to Joel’s admiration for Stern’s radio prowess.
But perhaps one of the most noteworthy friendships is with Jon Bon Jovi. Stern was one of the first to give Bon Jovi’s music airtime, helping to launch the band’s career. Their friendship came full circle when Stern had the honor of inducting Bon Jovi into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was a momentous occasion, not just for Bon Jovi but for Stern, highlighting his impact on the music industry.
Branching Out Beyond Radio
While Howard Stern was making waves on the radio, he wasn’t content to stay in one lane. In ’86, he took a shot at late-night TV, and by 1990, he had his own nationally syndicated show. This move wasn’t just about diversifying but about conquering new mediums. His book, “Private Parts,” dropped in ’93 and hit the big screen by ’97, solidifying Stern as more than a one-trick pony.
But don’t get it twisted; Stern’s in-your-face style was a constant, even as he ventured into new territories. Sure, he evolved, but he never lost that edge that made him Howard Stern. As the years rolled on, Stern started to shift gears. He went from shocking folks to engaging them—like, on emotional levels. His interviews got deeper and more insightful, and he started treating his guests with a kind of respect you wouldn’t expect from the old King of All Media. After 9/11, the show took a more serious turn, diving into topics like politics and societal norms, showing that Stern had layers.
In 2006, Stern made a game-changing move to Sirius XM, dodging the FCC’s restrictions and gaining creative freedom. But instead of doubling down on shock value, he went deeper. His interviews became legendary for their depth and sensitivity, even when he was grilling guests. He’s been a shock jock, a TV host, an author, and a damn good interviewer. But it’s not just his career that’s evolved; the man himself has changed. He’s opened up about his struggles with mental health, showing a vulnerable side that resonates with fans (including me).
Back in the ’80s and ’90s, Stern was all about pushing boundaries. His show was so controversial it got him booted off WNBC in ’85. But he bounced back, landing at WXRK and skyrocketing to become one of the most listened-to shows in the country. In 1990, Stern took his talents to Channel 9 (a local NYC channel) with “The Howard Stern Show.” It was classic Stern—edgy, controversial, and always pushing the envelope. It had brand new skits and competed with Saturday Night Live. Figures like Kenneth Keith Kallenbach are discoveries from this show.
Speaking of Kenneth Keith, Stern’s shows have always featured a colorful cast of characters, none more so than the Wack Pack. Critics might say he’s exploiting them, but Stern argues he’s giving them a platform they wouldn’t have otherwise. The Wack Pack are hilarious characters with different disabilities.
When COVID hit, Stern took it seriously. Known for his germophobia, he shifted his show to his home and urged his team to do the same. Stern became an advocate for public health measures, showing maturity and concern that highlighted how much he’s grown over the years. We watched (well, listened) to Stern realize his anxiety about leaving the house. We’ve watched him grow and fall. We’ve seen all his dark and mean sides. And we’ve seen his pure kindness.
Howard Stern: a complex, evolving figure who’s more than just a shock jock. He’s a multimedia titan, a probing interviewer, and a man who’s not afraid to show his softer side. So, am I a fan? He’s a different performer, and I’m just fine with that. I’m hanging in until the end.