Two words that assault the senses like no others…with the possible exception of: gang rape, escaped pedophile, serial killer and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Say what you will about Howard (and most people will say a bunch), he does attract a lot of attention. Syndicated nationwide, his radio show is heard by millions. His syndicated TV show and a later stint on E! cable was watched by a rabid audience. And now, he’s written a book.
“Howard Stern, Private Parts” (Simon & Schuster) is available at your local bookstore…if they carry it…and if it isn’t sold out. Go buy a copy. It’s a must-read for everyone in radio.
It’s the fastest seller in Simon & Schuster history, something I’m sure the venerable publishing company is very proud of. And why should the book be a best seller? Howard has said the secret to a successful radio show is “lesbians.” No less than three chapters pertain to the subject, but there are other, just as titillating chapters, including: My Sex Life; Pig Virus; If you’re Not Like Me, I Hate You; Yes, I Am Fartman; You’ve Been A Bad Girl, Haven’t You and Out Of The Closet, just to mention a few.
With poetic prose like the aforementioned, who can argue? Faulkner, Hemmingway, Stern. It just rolls off your tongue.
Howard is critiqued and criticized by just about everybody, but whether you like what he does or not (I personally think he’s great), he can’t be ignored. What makes Howard different is his honesty. With Stern, what you hear is what you get. There isn’t any hype or hyperbole. It’s just Howard. That honesty comes across in his book. He is quick to point out that the fame he achieves from what he does for a living never ceases to amaze him. As he describes it, “So here I am at the top of the heap…a heap of shit! When you’re in an industry with Cousin Brucie, Zookeepers and Rush Limbaugh, what would you call your heap?”
Howard Stern is living testimonial to the truth that “it’s not brain surgery, it’s only radio.” (I wonder if brain surgeons, before performing an operation, say to each other, “Relax, it’s not radio…it’s only brain surgery.”) We all have the tendency to take everything too seriously. Take Howard’s listeners…please. Howard’s just having fun…saying things that most of the audience thinks, but won’t voice. Those who get angry are probably taking life too seriously. I mean, it’s only radio.
And just because Howard says it, does that make it mean something?
Unlike most of his listeners, I had the distinct pleasure/pain of being the object of one of Howard’s nuclear assaults. When I was programming WAPP in New York in 1985, Howard was doing afternoons on WNBC. His contract was coming to an end and WAPP’s General Manager Pat “The Rock And Roll Duck” McNally and I thought hiring him to do mornings might be a good idea. At this time, WAPP was behind both Z100 and WPLJ in the Top 40 race, so almost any change would have been an improvement.
This was shortly after I…and just about every other programmer of note…had been approached about the programming job at WNBC. I, with all the others, turned it down without a thought, even thought they offered twice the amount of money I was making. Who in his right mind wanted to be the program director of a station that featured Don Imus doing mornings and Howard Stern in the afternoons? Only someone with limited experience or a career death with! (My worst fears were quickly born out when WNBC finally did hire a PD from somewhere in Virginia. Imus called in sick and the guy had to do the morning show on his first day at work. Stern taped the show and played bits of it back in the afternoon, critiquing each break by the new “hillbilly.” It was brilliant.
Anyhow, back to the story: I had one meeting with Howard. I must tell you, he’s a great guy. The brief time I spent with him was pleasant and hysterically funny. McNally continued meeting with Stern and his agent and eventually offered him a contract. After some contemplation, our offer was turned down. Interestingly enough, the reason Howard gave was that he didn’t want to do mornings.
Gary Stevens, President of Doubleday Broadcasting at the time, wasn’t disappointed. He had been lukewarm to the idea from the beginning. When we were rejected, he declared “…the kid (Howard) would never make it.”
The day after the negotiations ended, I was on my way into the city to meet Stevens. I got caught in a massive traffic jam leading into the Midtown tunnel. Naturally, I was listening to Howard Stern. He began his program by saying he wanted to talk about “…that WOP radio station…WAPP and the punk program director who ran it…Gerry Cagle. There I was, stuck in traffic, being ripped by the master. I hunched down behind the wheel, afraid to look left or right at the other drivers. I knew they were listening to Stern and I felt they knew he was taking about me. It was a humiliating, yet somehow exciting experience.
I was relieved, if only for a moment, because Howard only tore into me for a minute. Then he switched to Stevens…berating him for being everything from a closet Jew who changed his name because he was ashamed of his heritage to being a cheap miser who wouldn’t come up with enough money to pay him. I’m leaving out some of the juicier comments, but suffice it to say that Howard carved out a new orifice or two for good measure. Howard went on to say how he could have saved WAPP from our miserable ratings, but we were too cheap to hire him.
But he didn’t stop Stevens. Next victim: Nelson Doubleday, the chairman of the company. Howard ripped the book company, the broadcasting company and the Mets. And he ended his brilliant tirade by launching into the “real” reason behind his not being hired: Nelson Doubleday’s daughter wanted to have sex with him…or something of that ilk.
It was outstanding…if a little too close to home.
When I got into Stevens’ office (hoping he hadn’t heard Stern’s program), it was evident that he had been listening. He was seated behind his desk, his shoulders slumped, a pale drawn look on his face. “I’m ruined in this town,” he moaned. I wasn’t with Stevens in his meeting with Doubleday. I can only imagine what was said.
Shortly thereafter, Doubleday sold all their stations and closed the broadcasting division. The company line was that it had nothing to do with Stern. I don’t necessarily share that opinion.
The bottom line? Doubleday made millions on the sale of their stations. Gary Stevens made a fortune by brokering the deal. He’s not the most successful radio station broker in the business today, so he wasn’t “…finished in this town.” Pat McNally is the GM of Live 105 in San Francisco. Howard (the kid) did make it.
And me? I never did manage to make WAPP a winner. New York’s largest audience had finally heard about WAPP, if not exactly how I had planned it. But Howard Stern ripped me for a minute or two on WNBC, somehow validating my career and giving me a brief moment of fame in the Big Apple.
Howard, I love you. You make me turn on my radio. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
And the book ain’t bad either.
P.S. Could we have a picture of Robin’s breasts for Page 6?