Monday, July 1, 2013

HOWARD STERN - The Often Misunderstood "King of All Media"


The Often Misunderstood “King of All Media”

Keith "Dekker" Gleason
“What do you think of Howard Stern?” 

A question I’ve asked many friends and co-workers over the years and more often than not I get a response that is very negative. Most people think Howard is a pervert, a misogynist, a monster and a racist. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not too long ago, I heard on his show a poll they took on the streets where Sal and Richard (show staff members) asked people walking by whether Howard was worse than Hitler. Some of them actually preferred Hitler.

So where does this negative image come from?

Having been a fan of Howard’s show for a number of years now, I actually think the man is a comedic genius and have a hard time understanding why people hate him. Is it because he goes into areas that are uncomfortable for people, such as sex? Or is it the fact that he speaks his mind about everything? Or has his image been entirely ruined because of his headline-grabbing antics? Or is it the fact that he points out hypocrisy in Hollywood and the news? Or is there some other reason entirely?

I don’t consider my sense of humor anything out of the ordinary but I have a hard time being offended by what I hear on his show. The man is clearly having a good time while dissecting current topics, conducting Hollywood interviews and making fun of his staff members. Howard has always run his show in a truthful manner and often brings the audience into his daily life, which most fans really enjoy. There’s no host out there like him, and I think this is the reason he’s so polarizing. He says what’s on his mind and doesn’t care who’s listening. You have got to admire that quality in an entertainer, especially in an industry that is 99% fake.

I didn’t always feel this way though. I remember first hearing about Howard Stern in the early 90’s. He had not been syndicated in Massachusetts at that point in his career, but there was a news channel doing a story on one of his latest offensive ventures. I was intrigued by this wild haired, rock star-looking radio guy, cause let’s face it, most entertainment news reports were on actors and directors. You rarely ever saw a story on an FM radio jockey. We also had morning programs on the local rock station that featured wild FM hosts and I remember thinking “what’s the big deal about this Howard Stern guy? He’s doing a broadcast just like anyone else, right?”

Fast forward a couple years later, I moved to NJ to go to art school and every morning I had to commute on the busy highways there. This was the first time I really listened to Howard Stern. I remember that day he was making fun of the actor George Hamilton and his ridiculous leathery tan. The jokes were funny as hell and Robin, his on air sidekick, helped fuel the fire. It went on and on, he continued to make fun of this sunburn-loving actor and I was laughing hysterically and now I understood why he was in the headlines. I continued to listen to his show on my commute for the next few years. At this point I liked his program very much but I was still not convinced that he was better than the other morning shows back on WAAF 107.3 FM, my home town rock radio station.

This all changed in March of 1997 when I saw Howard’s movie “Private Parts.” based on his best selling autobiography. I was blown away by how much of a pioneer he was on this brand of entertainment, now called Shock Radio. Howard crafted a show that broke all boundaries, smashed all radio show formats, and disobeyed all kinds of well-established broadcasting rules. He was constantly attacked for not sticking to such outdated concepts as reporting the weather and time every hour. Station managers would get pissed at him for carrying on endless conversations with his traffic copter girl about everything but the morning commute. This stuff doesn’t seem like a big deal now, but back in the late 70’s no one had the insight to break format like this. What other morning show host would ask their traffic copter to fly by the Verrazano Bridge just to witness all his fans flashing their high beams? You don't even hear bits like that on the radio nowadays.

Examples of Howard's early ground-breaking shows can be heard at his current home on Sirius Satellite Radio, they will often re-run old broadcasts from his NBC days. After seeing “Private Parts” I continued to listen to his show more intently and realized his shock value image comes mostly from people not getting the show. More often than not, he’s actually very smart and often very compassionate. This is the kind of stuff that really irritates me and other Stern fans when people say he’s “the devil” or that his program is for the “lowest common denominator.”

The Howard Stern show continues to be one of the best radio shows in existence. The news section at the end of the show is often one of the best parts of the broadcast. Robin will read out news stories and they will dissect them with a laugh, while pointing out the vapid behavior of today’s celebrities, some of the funniest comedy happens here. I also enjoy the first hour of the show quite a bit, when Howard often talks about his life or what happened to him the night before, his life is an open book for the show. Howard is also the best interviewer in the business, hands down. He has the ability to make a guest feel relaxed and open up about their lives. He also cuts out a lot of the talk show BS you hear on Leno or Letterman. He can take people that I have no interest in and make me care about them. His conversation with Lady Gaga is a prime example of this. I wouldn’t have thought I'd have an interest in her and yet, it was one of his best interviews of the year.

What about that compassion that I mentioned earlier? There are many examples of Howard’s caring, generous nature. Howard has been a big proponent of gay rights. He has talked about their struggle for equal rights in great lengths on his show. His support and on air tirades have lead out of the closet actor George Takei (Sulu from Star Trek) to become part of the show from time to time as the guest announcer. He is also a very big supporter of abortion rights and has often championed a women’s right to choose. Along with his wife Beth Ostrosky Stern, he often helps out the North Shore Animal League, raising funds and helping to find homes for abandoned pets. Sounds like an inhuman monster to me, right?

These are the things people don’t talk about or know about Howard Stern. Like everything in this country, most people judge a book by its cover rather than give someone or something a chance. I’m glad his recent turnout as a judge for “America’s Got Talent” has helped brighten up his image within people’s homes but after hearing the latest Stern street poll, we still have a long way to go. I’m just one of many fans that preach the praise of Howard and I hope this article will help in a small way to show people what I enjoy about his morning show and why he’s one of my favorite celebrities of all time!

Baba Booey to you all!

Howard's new job as judge on America's Got Talent

My Top 5 Stern Show Moments of all time

5)  Chevy Chase Feud – Howard has had feuds with a lot of celebrities over the years but this fight was one of the most entertaining. It started with Chevy Chase bad-mouthing Howard during a commercial break on the Larry King show. This got back to Stern by a listener and the war began. These two went back and forth for over a year straight. It finally reached a boiling point when Chevy called into the show to ask how he could make it stop. Everywhere he went, he was being harassed by Stern Show fans and he wanted it to end. Years later, after battling each other for so long, Chevy finally made an in studio appearance and now they are good friends. Howard even mentioned that Chevy came to his wedding and Howard has helped out Chevy with a bunch of his charities as well.

4) Gary Love Tape – A cornerstone to the Howard Stern show has always been poking fun at not only celebrities and guests, but also his staff on the show. One of the best examples of this is the Gary Love Tapes. The tape was sent into the show by one of Baba Booey’s (Gary's Nickname) ex-girlfriends, and was an apology video asking her to get back together with him. It’s every guy’s worst nightmare on film. Howard raised a ton of money to get Gary’s permission to air it and the rest is history. Howard even filled the studio with guys willing to pay for a chance to see it. Classic ball busting that still comes up on the air from time to time.

3) George Washington Bridge Jumper – This is an example of when the show stops being a show and brutal reality sets in. On this particular day, Howard got a call from a listener who was calling with a cell phone from on top of the George Washington Bridge. The guy had just lost his job and was contemplating ending it all by jumping off. Howard talked to him for a while and kept him on the phone long enough till the police arrived and they could take him to get help. A few short weeks after the incident Howard called a press conferences to have himself honored as a hero. He would talk on the air about how real heroes never need praise but then he would go to the press conferences and carry on like a Diva. It was a hilarious three weeks. This incident was so famous that it inspired the beginning of the Robin Williams movie “The Fisher King”.

2) Howard Stern for Governor – What started as a funny bit on the air snowballed into a real life political event. Howard announced he was going to run for governor under the Libertine party. He was sworn in as a candidate and even went on to campaign around NY State. His plan was to win and turn the government seat over to his political partner and enact a couple of laws that he was passionate about. The whole thing came crashing down when Howard was required to open up his financial statements to the public which he did not want to do. Who can blame him?

1) 9/11 Show – This I feel is the pinnacle of Stern Show history. I listened to this broadcast again recently and it’s every bit as heartbreaking as it was then. The reason I put this as number one though is because Howard was willing to stay on the air after the twin towers went down just so he could bring news updates from people reporting in all over New York. He took lots of calls from upset people that day and provided a good place for people to converse and grieve about the tragedy happening around them. He also stayed on the air well after his show was supposed to end and finally shut it down once he thought he could do no more for his state. The current mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani came in a few weeks later to personally thank Howard and crew for helping out NY in its greatest time of need.

You Tube - 9/11 Audio show link

Stern Show Honorable Mention

Richard Christie gets Waxed – Besides all the great moments I mentioned above, I felt I also needed to mention one of the funnier more bizarre circus moments of the show. This also showcases Howard's ability to find funny moments in situations that normally wouldn't be. On this segment Stern show staffer Richard Christie volunteered to get a Brazilian wax on his private parts live on the air. The sounds of pain that was released from his mouth as each hair was ripped out is one of the funniest things I've ever heard. So simple yet so funny! give a listen below and see what I'm talking about.

You Tube - Richard Christy Waxing Part 1 

You Tube - Richard Christy Waxing Part 2

Me and Baba Booey from his book signing! Howard would make fun of me for this pic.

Bow Down to the king of all media

Other articles from Keith Gleason:

DRAGON'S LAIR: The Quest for a Perfect Video Game

Keith “Dekker” Gleason – “Hero Envy” Central
Keith Gleason is the creator of the"Hero Envy" webisode series. Besides writing and starring in the series, he is also the brainchild behind the graphic novel of the same name. He is one of the Reckless Sidekicks on the "Swass-Cast" memorabilia podcast and in his spare time travels around the state performing stand up comedy and hitting arcades looking for working versions of Dragon’s Lair.