Howard Stern: Howard Does Hollywood
Remember when people were still riled up about Howard Stern? The world’s most famous shock jock and self-proclaimed “King of All Media” still has a following. But he’s been around too long for people to be all that shocked by his shenanigans. He’s a judge on America’s Got Talent fer cryin’ out loud! Twenty years ago, Stern was getting ready to take his shtick to the next level with a movie based on his best-selling autobiography, Private Parts. Movieline writer Martha Frankel could barely contain her disgust while interviewing him for the magazine’s coverstory.
Here’s the thing about Howard Stern–everybody’s got an opinion. People say he’s a moron, a pig, a racist, an animal who knows no limits, a self-serving jerk, the Antichrist. And those are people who’ve never even listened to his radio show!
His fans are even more rabid– over 25,000 of them turned up in Philadelphia a few years ago when he did a book signing for his first book, Private Parts, an autobiography that went on to sell more than a million copies. His next book, Miss America, was a best-seller, too.
But almost anyone who’s ever listened to Stern will tell you this: at some point, he will get you laughing so hard that you have to pull off the road. He rants for four or five hours a day on the radio–the show runs from six in the morning until 10, or until he’s good and ready to shut up. (The show is filmed and parts are played back on the E! channel, too.) During his show, Stern will level his laser mouth on subjects as diverse as abortion (he’s vehemently pro-choice), immigrants (why don’t they learn to speak English?), politicians (he’s as sure as you are that they’re all idiots), his wife, Alison (he used her miscarriage as fodder for some of his sickest humor yet), the size of his penis (he claims it’s as small as a raisin), and just about anything else that pops into his perverted little head. And 18 million people are usually listening to all this.
Women often take their tops off during his broadcasts so they can show him their breasts–breasts being one of the most important things in his life. He’s turned up on Late Night with David Letterman in drag. His broadcasting companies have been fined millions of dollars by the FCC for indecency. In short, Stern has found a way to offend almost everyone in America.
But is Howard Stern really a threat to the nation? Not likely. It helps if you just picture Stern as a 14-year-old with a wild libido. Just like any other 14-year-old, he’ll taunt and annoy you until you finally send him off to his room (i.e., switch off that radio). Stern actually was a 14-year-old once, in Roosevelt, Long Island, where he was often the only white kid in his class. He got beat up daily. He didn’t have friends, money, or a good haircut. (He now has money, but as you’ll see, friends and a good haircut are still out of his reach.) At some point, exhibitionism blossomed, and armed with smarts and insecurity, he was off and running. Now, as if to prove his point that he is the “King of All Media,” Stern is starring in the film version of Private Parts. The thinking here is, who better to play Howard Stern than Howard Stern? We shall see.
I go to meet Stern at his radio studio in Manhattan, and sit in a waiting room with Gary Dell’Abate, Stern’s producer. On the show, porn star Jenna Jamison has just given Stern her underwear. “Ummm,” he says, “these smell great.” Then he wonders aloud why they’re so wet. After he gets off the air and goes into his office, I go in, too. All 6’5″ of him reaches out to shake my hand. Yeah, right, that same hand that just caressed Jenna’s wet panties. I sit down without shaking.
“I’m more germ-phobic than anyone else,” Stern insists. “You don’t have to worry.”
Still, I keep my hands in my lap.
“Let’s have fun,” Stern says. “Let’s get really loose.”
“OK, but I’m definitely keeping my shirt on,” I tell him. “There’s only so much I’m willing to do for a good story.”
“Didn’t Gary tell you the rules? You have to get naked, and I get to finger you.” Stern sees the look on my face and laughs. “Only kidding. I mean, if you feel this overwhelming desire to show me your tits, go right ahead. A lot of women do. But it’s not mandatory.”
“How is it possible that a guy who couldn’t get laid in high school,” I ask, “now has women falling over themselves to get naked around him?”
“Isn’t fame great? I’m not an idiot–I know that girls used to puke when they saw me. And the only reason I can get women now is because I’m famous. But, unfortunately, my wife won’t let me date…”
This is a constant theme in Stern’s running monologue–how his wife stuck with him when he was a nobody, and how he isn’t going to be just like those Hollywood guys who drop their wives and run off with some bimbo as soon as they get famous.
“I mean,” he says, “Jenna Jamison would fuck me now. And she’s the most gorgeous thing. Playboy Playmates would fuck me now! I find it all amazing. I thank God that I have Alison– she’s a great wife, a great mother, and if I didn’t have her, I’d definitely have AIDS, because I would never know how to stop. I’d just fuck my brains out.”
“There are those who would argue that you wouldn’t have far to go.”
Stern nods and runs his hands through his hair. “Let them say what they want. I truly believe that when Private Parts comes out, people will finally understand. It’s a great story, sort of a cross between The Godfather and Rocky. It’s my story, the real thing, about how I had this vision for radio and how everyone tried to stand in my way. It’s about how I had to believe in myself even when they told me I’d never work again. It’s about how I slayed the dragon…”
Even Stern has to laugh at this point. “OK,” he says, “maybe I’m overstating the point. But I don’t really think so. This is going to be a great movie. It has sex, pathos, sex, a great story, sex…”
“Howard, let’s talk about movies. When you were a kid, did you go to the movies a lot? Were you one of those smart kids who went to foreign films and thought you were really cool?”
“Well, actually I was movie-obsessed. My parents used to take me to movies all the time. Most Sundays, we would go into Radio City Music Hall, because they would have movies and have a floor show. I remember seeing Carousel and all those family-type pictures. No foreign films for the Sterns. Once, my father decided he would take me to the movies by himself–my mother had no interest in seeing this movie, so we went alone. There we were, me and Dad, at Barbarella.
And I’m sitting next to my father, and on comes Jane Fonda, who’s one of the sexiest women in the world, and she’s wearing plastic over her breasts, and my father realizes what a mistake it was bringing me to this, because I was a little kid. We’re sitting there watching this movie together, and I’m definitely getting a boner, and I’m sitting there going, oh God, my father must be aroused too. I was so embarrassed, and I couldn’t enjoy the film, it was just an awful experience sitting there next to my dad watching Barbarella with a bunch of guys with their raincoats over their laps.
“But I also had a stag film, an old eight-millimeter movie, and it was great,” he continues, veering off the sexy Hollywood movies I’d intended to get him to talk about. “It was about this woman who’s naked and her TV’s on the fritz. She calls the repairman. He shows up, she throws a fur coat over her naked body, and he’s sweating because there’s no air conditioning, and she’s sitting on the couch and her fur coat opens up and he fucks her wildly in this bedroom…now, that was a great movie, one of the best movies I ever saw. And believe me, I saw it hundreds of times.
“But trying to go see porno movies when I was in high school–before I was 18 years old–was a big challenge. The movie I wanted to see was Russ Meyers’s Supervixens, and I went with my friends and all four of us had phony birth certificates with the same name on them. I was, of course, the last dufus to go into the theater. All three of my friends got in, and finally by the time I got to the door, the guy goes, ‘Wait a second, you’re the fourth guy tonight who’s shown me a birth certificate with the same name on it! You’re out.’ And I never got to see the movie. It’s very unfortunate.”
“What movies do you find sexy now? I would think…”
“Listen, I am so jaded. My fans send us films that are illegal here, really weird shit.”
“You mean with little kids or something?”
“No, no, I would never watch that shit. No, just sick porno movies, from Europe or Japan. They send me these movies with guys fucking farm animals, I swear, fucking chickens until they die. The chickens, that is. I’m fascinated by odd human behavior. We got one the other day that took place on a beach in Japan. These women come out of the water and these Japanese guys are asking these women to do something, they’re offering them money. I can’t speak the language so I don’t understand what they’re offering the money for, but it turns out they want to get the girls to take a shit on a surfboard! The whole movie is them trying to go to the bathroom on the surfboard. And in the background, real families are having picnics. So this was pretty perverted stuff.”
“When you go out…” I begin.
“I don’t go anywhere,” Stern says. “I hate to leave the house. I do my show, then I go home and sit in the basement and watch videos and that’s it. I can’t go anywhere because my fans go crazy when they see me. It gets horrible. And because I’m so tall, I’m hard to miss. Really, I could be in a room with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, it wouldn’t matter, because I tower over everyone and they can spot me a mile away. Everyone’s watching everything I do. So I prefer to stay in my house. That’s where I’m happiest.”
“What happens when you go out with your friends?”
“Howard, you have friends, don’t you?”
“No, not really. When I first married Alison, my mother sat me down and said, ‘Howard, now that you’re married, you have to go out with other couples, because you have a wife and you have obligations to your family.’ And I said, ‘Alright.’ So we used to go out with other married couples, her friends and their husbands, and the husbands would, inevitably, five minutes into the evening, start critiquing my show and telling me what they liked or didn’t like. They’d say things like, ‘I like your show, but really Howard, you’ve got to lay off the Jews.’ And that was it–my eyes would glaze over and I wouldn’t say another word all night. We did that a few times, and then I said, ‘Alison, they seem like nice people, you should definitely have a nice social life with them, but I am never going out with them again. This is going to kill us–we’ll wind up in divorce court.’ And I didn’t.”
“But I’m not complaining. I like staying home. I hate when celebrities complain that they can’t go out in public. Who would want to? You stay home, you don’t have any problems. I have the kids to entertain me [Stern has three daughters]. So I can honestly say that I don’t really have any friends. But I don’t have a need for that.”
Whew. This guy is maybe more of a nutcase than I’d imagined.