Kate's Notes

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Howard Stern

Howard Stern

Howard Allan Stern (born January 12, 1954) is infamous for his foul-mouthed, lascivious and raunchy radio-show out of New York which propelled him to one of the top radio personality in the mid-1980s, and to the top of the world by the 2000s. He is also a television personality (his radio show was recorded and broadcast across the country on the E! television network), a media mogul, a humorist, a movie star, starring in his biographical film, 1997’s Private Parts), and an author of a book of the same name, whose 2004 contract with Sirius Satellite Radio garnered him a $550-million paycheck to fund his show.

The self-proclaimed "King of All Media" has been dubbed a shock-jock for his highly controversial use of bawdy, sexual and racial humor. Stern has said that the show was never about shocking people, but primarily intended to offer his honest opinions on a gamut of issues (ranging from world affairs to problems among his own staff). However much his “honest opinion” may shock the masses, he is the highest-paid radio personality in the United States; though he is also the most fined personality in radio broadcast history.

In 2006, Stern was elected into Time magazine's "Time 100: The People who shape our world" and was ranked #7 in Forbes magazine's 2006 annual Celebrity 100.

Early Life and Education

Howard Stern was born in Roosevelt, Long Island, New York into a Jewish American family; and even though both of his parents are Jewish, Stern has long claimed that he is only "half-Jew" – the other half being Italian. Stern's Hebrew name is Tzvi; his paternal grandparents, Froim and Anna (Gallar) Stern and maternal grandparents, Sol and Esther (Reich) Schiffman, were Austro-Hungarian Jews who immigrated to America at about the same time. As a child, Stern’s father Ben Stern owned a Manhattan recording studio, where Howard developed an interest in broadcasting as a child.

In Howard Stern’s world, it is often hard to separate fact from fiction, given his penchant for exaggerating stories of his youth or experience on-air to make them more interesting or funny or disparaging. For example, Stern has often said that his parents verbally abused him as a child, which was corroborated during a 1990 broadcast when he played old family recordings; in these recordings you can hear Ben Stern scolding a 7-year old Howard, saying "I told you not to be stupid, you moron" and "Shut up! Sit down. These old recordings were later used in a parody commercial for the "Ben Stern School of Broadcasting,” which specialized in producing self-loathing and emotionally disturbed workaholic media leaders. Stern also has said that his mother ran their house with "the intensity of Hitler.” However, contradictory to his shtick, he has also said that such exaggerated claims were only part of the show, and that his parents were actually warm, loving and supportive.

In addition, Stern has said that he was supposedly one of the few white students in a predominantly black student body when he attended Roosevelt Junior High School. However, even that was negated when Howard Stern's former gym teacher ('Mr. Chestnut') mentioned that the school's student body was 60% black at the time, revealing Stern’s assertion to be an exaggeration.

Getting on the Radio

After graduating from Boston University, he worked as a disc jockey and program director for WRNW in Briarcliff Manor in Westchester County, New York, playing rock music. Outwardly and publicly shy, he discovered on the radio, he had a talent for Lenny Bruce-type offensive comedy, and developed a wide-ranging confrontational style. Along with several other students, he created an on-air show called the "King Schmaltz Bagel Hour, "a takeoff on the popular "King Biscuit Flour Hour." Predicting his penchant for controversy, the show was canceled after its first broadcast, which included the comedy sketch "Name That Sin," a game show where contestants confessed their worst sins. In 1976, he received a bachelor's degree in communications from Boston University, carrying a 3.8 GPA and also working (before being fired) as a volunteer at the campus radio station WTBU.

In 1978, Stern landed his first morning show job in Hartford, Connecticut at WCCC-FM and WCCC-AM, whose progressive rock format promoted Howard's development as a "free-form" personality. Radio station owner, Sy Dresner thought Stern's use of phone calls (as radio personality Don Imus was doing then) was a natural ratings appeal. It was at the Hartford radio station that Howard met his future show writer and producer, Fred Norris, who was working as an overnight deejay at the time.

Stern moved to FM radio station WWWW (aka W4) in Detroit, Michigan, further developing his show until the station adopted a country music format. He quit and then went to DC101 in Washington, D.C. for a year, making it the #1 station in town. That is where he met his longtime producer and friend, Robin Quivers. In 1982, he returned to New York City to work at NBC's flagship AM radio station, WNBC Radio. Also working at NBC was David Letterman, who became a fan of Stern's radio show. Stern's guest appearance on "Late Night with David Letterman" on June 19, 1984, launched Stern into the national spotlight and gave his radio show unprecedented exposure. Stern would appear on Letterman's show many times thereafter.

Stern and his crew were fired from NBC in 1985, ostensibly in response to a particularly outrageous sketch — "Bestiality Dial-A-Date" — although relations between station management and Stern had been strained from the beginning (as well documented in Private Parts). He quickly returned to FM radio by joining local rival station WXRK, premiering November 18, 1985, moving permanently to the morning drive time slot in February 1986. By year's end, his show was simulcast on WYSP in Philadelphia; before long it was also heard in Washington, D.C., and then was syndicated nationwide by Infinity Broadcasting. The program made great sport of feuding with other cities' top-rated deejays, and soon Stern's broadcast was #1 in several major markets, including Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

In 1992, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) fined The Howard Stern Show's owner, Infinity Broadcasting, $600,000, after Stern discussed (among other things), masturbating to a picture of Aunt Jemima. As Stern is a man of integrity and pride, he refused to be disgraced by the FCC, and invited them to kiss his ass.

His Arbitron numbers were strongest in the country's #1 radio market, New York City, where his morning ratings more than tripled his station's average numbers the rest of the day. In 1993, Stern released his autobiography, Private Parts. The book was a best-seller and became the fastest selling book in Simon & Schuster's history.

In 1994, Stern embarked on a political campaign for Governor of New York, formally announcing his candidacy under the Libertarian Party ticket. Although he legally qualified for the office and campaigned for a time after his nomination, many considered his gubernatorial run a publicity stunt. His platform included restoring the death penalty, limiting road construction work to nighttime hours, and abolishing tolls. After he accomplished his platform's goals he planned on resigning the post. However, he subsequently withdrew his candidacy because he did not wish to comply with the financial disclosure requirements for candidates.

In 1996, Stern released his second book, Miss America, which focused more on his radio career; and like his first book, it was also a bestseller.

Private Parts

In 1997, he starred in Private Parts, a biographical film chronicling his rise to success. The film is based on his 1993 autobiography Private Parts. The film premiered at the top of the box office in its opening weekend with a gross of $14.6 million. It grossed slightly more than $41 million in total.

The movie received mostly positive reviews from critics, including Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, who were frequent guests of Stern's radio show. Some critics claimed the film glossed over his use of sexual and racial humor.

For his performance, Stern won the Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Male Newcomer. Stern was nominated for a Golden Satellite Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Comedy). On the other hand, he was also nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst New Star.

In October 1999, Stern announced that he and wife Alison decided to separate. They eventually divorced, ending in a settlement. Stern began a period of single living in Manhattan, and dated dozens of women including Angie Everhart and Robin Givens. Despite reportedly spending time with Carmen Electra "five times" (as revealed on the July 29, 2002 broadcast), the two have denied there was anything more intimate than an outdoor shower in bathing suits.

In 2002, Stern's production company Howard Stern Productions acquired the rights to the 1982 movie Porky's and the 1979 movie Rock 'n' Roll High School. Stern was also a producer of the television series “Son of the Beach,” which ran for three seasons.

He informed listeners early in 2004 that the ABC television network was in talks with him to produce an interview special.

Howard Stern Show: Bigger than a Satellite

In 2004, Stern was suspended from six markets because of alleged indecency involving a show featuring Rick Salomon of Paris Hilton sex tape fame. The move was considered to be part of the backlash triggered by the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy.

In addition, in 2004, he did a 180-degree turn in his politics, lambasting President George W. Bush for his lack of planning in the Iraq War, adding an entire page of anti-Bush website links on his personal website and making direct attacks on members of George W. Bush's cabinet. Shortly afterwards, Clear Channel Communications dropped his show from their stations in several markets after being fined by the FCC for an incident (several years earlier) that they deemed as profane. Stern took this as a personal attack and managed to negotiate his return on stations owned by Infinity Broadcasting in those same markets where he was dropped, and began campaigning heavily for Democratic Party Presidential candidate Senator John Kerry, D-MA.

On October 6, 2004, Stern announced on his show that he had signed a five-year deal with the satellite radio service Sirius. Sirius provided a budget of $500 million to pay Howard, his staff and general production costs; however, his salary has not been revealed. Other media sources have claimed that Stern netted a $225 million one-time stock bonus for meeting subscriber quotas, which he did meet in January 2006.

Stern stated that he was growing increasingly unhappy doing his show on terrestrial radio. The combined stresses of heavy censorship and editing by management as well as lengthy commercial breaks weighed into his decision to start anew on Sirius. Stern admitted to feeling "dead inside creatively" in December, 2005 while still on terrestrial radio.

The Sirius deal, which took effect on January 1, 2006, enabled Stern to broadcast his show without the content restrictions imposed by the FCC. Moreover, the deal also enabled Stern to program an additional Sirius channel.

On February 28, 2006, CBS Radio announced it had filed a lawsuit against Stern, Stern's agent Don Buchwald, and Sirius Satellite Radio, saying Stern used CBS's airwaves to unfairly promote the satellite service and enrich himself. The lawsuit also claims that Stern "repeatedly and willfully" breached his contract with CBS, "misappropriated millions of dollars worth of … airtime" for his own benefit, and "fraudulently concealed" his performance-related interests in Sirius stock. The suit, filed in New York state court, sought compensatory and punitive damages. Not to be outdone, Stern earlier in the day (prior to CBS's announcement) held a press conference at which he mentioned that CBS added to the media attention, booking him for appearances on Late Show with David Letterman and its news magazine show 60 Minutes. "I made them millions of dollars. If I was hurting them, why did they keep me on the air for 14 months?" Stern said. "How can you have it both ways?"

Leslie Moonves, Head of CBS appeared on one of Stern's final shows to compliment him on his move to Sirius and thank him for the record advertising revenue the network sold. Moonves told Stern that he bought Sirius stock. Stern said the network had the option to "push the button" on his program, taking him off the air, if they did not agree with what he was presenting to the public.

On May 11, 2006, CBS said it was near settling the lawsuit with Stern. "We have an agreement, but there are details that have to be worked out," said CBS lawyer Irvin Nathan. Some details of the agreement were officially announced May 26.

As a result of the CBS lawsuit settlement, Stern announced on June 7, 2006 that Sirius gained exclusive rights to his entire back catalog of radio shows from his days at CBS (about 23,000 hours). The shows cost Stern approximately $2 million, which equates to approximately $87 per hour of tape. Sirius has the rights to the tapes until the end of Stern's current contract with Sirius, and then all ownership rights will return to Stern.

Personal Life

On June 4, 1978, Stern married college sweetheart Alison Berns at Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline, Massachusetts. They have three daughters together: Emily Beth (b. 1983), Deborah Jennifer (b. 1986) and Ashley Jade (b. 1993).

Stern was famous for his schtick about staying faithful to his wife, despite his much-detailed attraction to the strippers and porn stars who appeared on his show. But in October of 1999, Stern announced that he and Alison were divorcing.

Stern cited his workaholism as the cause of the split. Alison received a large divorce settlement and remarried in 2001.

His views on parenthood have not soured as his views on marriage have since his divorce. While he shares custody of his three children with his ex-wife Alison, he says he would gladly take full custody of them if ever called upon to do so.

Stern has had his share of stalkers and death threats. On January 15, 1998, Lance Carvin was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for stalking and threatening to kill Stern and his family.

Since early 2000, Stern has dated model Beth Ostrosky, who is 18 years his junior. Ostrosky frequently appears in the men's magazine FHM, and hosts "Filter" on the G4 network. The pair lives together with their English Bulldog named Bianca Romijn-Stamos-O'Connell. On February 14, 2007, Stern announced his engagement to Ostrosky. He gave her a 5.2 carat emerald cut diamond ring. This was Stern’s (53 at the time) second marriage and Beth’s (34) first.

Stern funds a scholarship at Boston University.

Stern used to suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, and now practices transcendental meditation. He is also a brown belt in Japanese Shotokan Karate.


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