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Sign up here to see what happened On This Day , every day in your inbox! By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Notice. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. More About. He knew it could take a long time to make any real money in radio and feared Alison might not want to follow his dream while crisscrossing the country and getting by on a meager income.

She had a degree in social work and wanted to pursue that as a career. As a result, he hated the job. But both Alison and his mother convinced Stern to follow his dreams of a radio career and quit the advertising job. She believed in him from the beginning. On June 4, , Alison Berns and Howard Stern were married at the reformed Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline, Massachusetts, in a small ceremony attended by their families and close friends.

He later made it clear in many interviews that he could never have lasted as someone simply playing songs; he needed to do more. Stern contended that anyone could spin records, but it took a lot more creativity to get behind the microphone and actually entertain your audience.

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This was the period in which radio drew its largest audience: listeners getting ready for work or driving to work. At the Hartford station, Stern was in his element, playing mostly hard rock, of which he was a fan. But his goal was to play less music, and this job gave him the opportunity to talk to commuters on their way to work and the many people who felt compelled to call a radio station. Station owner Sy Dresner encouraged Stern to start taking phone calls, and slowly but surely, Stern started to banter with callers on air and work some of his own stream of consciousness and off-thecuff humor into the daily morning show.

Clearly, the results were positive as phone calls increased and the ratings were very good. Ratings are broken down into demographics, or statistics about the listening audience, including age group, gender, lifestyle, and income. When they met, Norris was the late night DJ. A year younger than Stern, Norris, who had changed his name from Nukis, was known for his intellect.

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Norris and his partner made the front page of the local newspaper for their efforts. Norris and Stern shared a desire to make it as DJs. Like Stern, Norris was rather quiet and unassuming off the air. The friendship proved quite fortuitous for Norris as it has provided steady work and high pay in an industry that is anything but stable. But it was more than friendship that brought Norris into the world of Howard Stern. Norris was a jack of all trades—a musician, radio producer, writer, and entertainer in his own right.

Years later, Norris met his wife, also named Alison, on a dial-a-date segment of the show. Norris, however, never ceases to amaze, and wins almost every time. In , former Beatle Paul McCartney, who appeared on the Stern show a number of times in later years, was arrested while on tour for possession of marijuana. His efforts failed, but his popularity grew.

His style was drawing attention, not only from listeners but also from station managers and owners. Stern had ongoing, yet mild, battles with the station manager in his efforts to talk more and play less music. Nonetheless, he was able to work his brand of morning radio onto the airwaves between songs, and for his efforts he won local DJ awards. He took phone calls and did offbeat interviews, including those with prostitutes, which kept listeners glued to a new brand of talk radio.

Unknown to Stern, however, the Shamrock Broadcasting Network, which had purchased the station shortly before Stern arrived, had other plans for their future. Fortunately for Stern, his uncanny ability to raise the ratings in the always competitive morning drive time slot once again brought him plenty of attention from station owners and managers, and he opted for station WWDC, in Washington, D. One of the most important factors for Stern in choosing a station and a market in which to be heard was moving forward in his career.

Sure, other radio DJs talked with listeners and guests, but they were typically formula interviews or scripted conversations. Stern was already looking for unusual topics people did not typically hear on the radio. By , when he talked to the station owners in Washington, D. He did not mention that his plan was to use Washington as a stepping stone back to his hometown, New York City, the number one market in the country.

While working out the details of his contract, Stern had a couple of requests. The two had remained friends and Stern knew Norris was a good producer.

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He also wanted a sidekick, someone he could play off and who could respond to his ongoing stream of consciousness. The closest the station let him get to having a sidekick was to have his own newsperson read the top news stories on the hour. Station manager Denise Oliver gave him a tape of a woman newscaster named Robin Quivers and gave Quivers a tape of Stern from his days in Detroit.

It was a good match and both agreed to try it out. The station, however, thought it was unprofessional for Stern to talk to the newscaster during the show. Little did they know that Robin Quivers and Howard Stern would emerge as the preeminent team in the modern era of radio. She often played the role of straight woman to his comedy. That was how Robin Quivers learned the role of sidekick, while on air and often without warning, as Stern would extemporaneously involve her in whatever he was up to.

Quivers had no real comedic training and was not expected to bring comedy to the show. However, she responded to the political, social, and personal matters Stern dangled in front of listeners to keep them entertained. In fact, when Quivers has to miss a show, Stern rarely goes on without her, opting instead to air a rerun in her absence. Robin Quivers hails from Baltimore, Maryland.

Neither of her parents had more than a seventh-grade education, and the family had little money. As she later described in her autobiography, Robin Quivers, A Life, she was sexually molested by her father. Recognizing how far she has come after such a painful childhood, Robin Quivers works today with charities that help children who have been sexually molested.

Needing to get away from her family life, Quivers joined the United States Air Force where she served as a nurse and reached the rank of captain. After her stint in the military, she went to the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. After graduation she found a job at DC, shortly before Howard Stern joined the station.

She is usually the lone female voice on The Howard Stern Show, unless a female guest is also on. As an African American woman, Quivers has been criticized for working with Stern, given that he makes his share of racist jokes and comments and his show exploits women as sex objects. So, why did Quivers stick with Howard Stern? Like Alison, Quivers caught on very early that there is a distinct difference between the Howard Stern on the radio and the one who in real life is reserved, often uncomfortable around people, and respectful and loyal to the people he cares about.

Quivers has always seen the vulnerability behind the voice and knows the real Howard Stern. In her radio development with Howard Stern, Quivers also learned, despite very candid on-air conversations about her real life, that on-air and off-air personas can be very different. Quivers appreciates the humor of the show even when it is sometimes aimed at minorities. Whether they are talking to a rock star or the foul-mouthed, belligerent Yucko the Clown, a regular guest of the show, they are trying to entertain a listening audience that is wondering what they will hear next.

Stern also knows that despite their occasional on-air battles, Quivers understands their brand of humor, which is why she has also backed him percent when station managers, the Federal Communications Commission FCC , and others give them a hard time about the content of the show. He talked quite openly and candidly about his own personal life, sometimes crossing the line and being chastised by station management.

Other times, he simply went too far. She had become accustomed to his frank openness about their life together, though she occasionally had to reel him in a bit. The scene concludes with Stern going to commercial, and the look on his face shows that he realizes that he has gone too far. At the same time they knew he could put a station on the map, and their ratings and revenue would grow quickly. Then, January 13, , a blizzard hit the Washington, D. Schools were closed, as was National Airport for a time. Five people on the bridge were killed as the plane sent drivers into the icy waters.

Station owners and sponsors were not amused, and many listeners thought Stern had crossed the line. Although Stern remained with the station for a few more months, this wellpublicized incident was the end of his days in Washington, D. Stern had made it full circle back to New York City, the largest radio market, and where he had hoped to end up all along. Little did the executives at NBC know that this would become a far more challenging and confrontational relationship than they had ever imagined.

Unlike his previous stops, Stern was not given the morning show, but instead an afternoon time slot. The morning belonged to the very popular Don Imus, who had already been with the station for several years. The Imus in the Morning program was the highest billed morning show in the New York market. Like Stern, Imus pushed the limits on what was acceptable. He was quick to attack those he did not like. They were both billed as shock jocks for being outspoken and voicing their opinions on the air. Imus, however, was more focused on the politics and people making the news.

He had an ax to grind. Stern took a different approach. While also talking openly about celebrities, he preferred exploring more prurient interests and had a greater focus on sexuality, lesbianism, offbeat characters, and off-color humor. Both had very large followings, but there was a very distinct difference in their bad boy images.

An even more telling sign was their off-the-air personalities. Stern left his raunchy, unabashed radio persona in the studio and remained reclusive. He was respectful to most of the people he met and openly talked about his goal of being the best radio personality in New York, but beyond that he had no other agenda. In contrast, Imus became known as the same cantankerous, angry personality off air as he was on air—sometimes even worse.

In time, the two grew to loathe each other. A later comment about Pacman Jones, an African American football player, also drew similar criticism. Now we know. He talked about his wife Alison, their personal life and sex life, and anything else that came into his stream of consciousness. As illustrated in the movie Private Parts, not long after starting at the station, despite promoting him as a bad guy, station management and Stern frequently held pre-show meetings to discuss what he had done on the air the day before.

They wanted Stern to be bad, but not really bad. There was a lot of disagreement about what was and was not permissible on radio. Much of what Stern did had never been done before, and, back in , no clear-cut rules were in place. Stern backed up his argument with two valid points.

First, there was freedom of speech as supported by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Second, he was getting the highest ratings in the city during his afternoon time slot, which meant more revenue for the station. Convinced that this would happen, Stern kept promoting that he would have a naked woman in the studio. For the next week Stern did nothing but play an ongoing string of what he considered to be the worst tunes he could dig up while basically taking away the comedic antics that made the show such a hit. In fact, he was, for a change, following the playlist, while adding what he considered bad pop music.

Finally, after a week, his fans could no longer stand it. The glass viewing windows were covered with brown paper, and a couple of listeners hired strip-o-gram strippers to show up at the NBC studio and disrobe.

This was the introduction of strippers on The Howard Stern Show. However, unlike Stern, he was very popular in high school and active in school activities, including the astronomy club, the wrestling team, the school newspaper, and the radio station where he served as a DJ. He also has a strong work ethic and incredible dedication to the show and his job. As producer, he screens and books guests, schedules interviews, puts together show segments, makes sure everyone is on the same page for the broadcast, and then reviews what did and did not go well afterward. Upon starting off in the morning slot, Stern vowed to beat Don Imus in the ratings.

Before long he had indeed moved ahead of Imus to the top spot in all of New York radio. Stern also appreciated the greater freedom K-Rock afforded him. His battle for freedom of speech had given him greater license than ever before, and he had expanded the airwaves with his frank openness and honesty. The war for freedom of speech had only just begun. Newsday Web site. Carol F. Howard Stern radio show, November 5, Syndication meant stations in other parts of the country paid the company that owned and created The Howard Stern Show to add the show to their lineup.

Once in local markets, the stations could then sell advertising to local sponsors. In time, the show would reach more than a dozen major markets through syndication, including Los Angeles, where some radio critics did not expect Stern to be as successful as he was in the Eastern cities. Yes, Howard Stern brought tremendous ratings, and sponsors loved the idea that their commercials would be heard by many more listeners than ever before, but worried program directors and sponsors were never sure when Stern and his cohorts would come up with his next R-rated phone call or questionable on-air game.

One popular segment that emerged in the late s came from the hiring of John Melendez, who was known on air as Stuttering John. Like Stern, Melendez also hailed from Long Island, where he was often picked on as a youngster because of his stuttering problems. An intern at the Stern show recommended hiring John to conduct interviews.

In no time, Stuttering John gained notoriety for asking top celebrities very personal and unusual questions that most interviewers would not dare ask. Some celebrities were offended but most played along.

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Howard Stern: A Biography

Another time he asked former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr what he did with the money his mother gave him for singing lessons. Although it was a backhanded insult, Ringo went with the joke. Stuttering John became a regular on the show for several years, and his popularity eventually led him to work on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. One ratings point can allow a station to charge thousands of dollars more for commercials as they will be heard by thousands of additional listeners.

As a result, Stern was given a longer leash and afforded much more latitude to do what he wanted on air than many other radio personalities. His comedy act typically included dirty jokes and grade-school bathroom humor. Martling typically got angry at the audiences for groaning more than laughing at his routine. Nonetheless, he was unrelenting in his desire to make it as a performer and worked constantly at comedy clubs while spending hours recording and hyping his comedy albums of mostly tasteless jokes. Like Stern, Dees was at the top of his market, doing an outrageous morning show on the other side of the country.

Stern has always had a soft spot for tasteless and bodily function jokes, acknowledging that although they may be a bit juvenile, they make him laugh. He knew about Martling, who had built a career based on such jokes. Martling gave the show another source of comedy material. In , he left over a contract dispute. There are certain no-nos, such as cursing on broadcast radio or television. But in addition to certain strict rules and regulations there are judgment calls, where it is up to the FCC to determine whether what was broadcast was considered indecent.

Typically, if nobody meaning listeners or sponsors complained, the FCC would not make an issue out of what was being aired. In fact, the FCC received more complaints about content of The Howard Stern Show than they had received regarding any radio show ever aired. Stern was outraged because this was radio and nobody could see the alleged piano-playing incident.

Meanwhile, Stern was attracting a steadily growing audience of listeners. Stern and his staff took their work very seriously. If Stern loved his work before the syndication deal, he was now married to it. Some stations had commitments to other programming, but most let the syndicated show run long because it meant keeping more listeners tuned in. Along with doing the radio show itself, which began at 6 A. For Stern, this meant waking up at 4 A. As they saw it, Stern did not provide wholesome entertainment and was polluting the airwaves. Stern has often countered such claims by reminding his critics that he does not force anyone to listen to the program and is simply exercising his rights to speak freely.

Stern has always believed his job is to entertain. He is aware that some of what he does may provoke criticism but believes most people know he is joking and it is all meant to be in fun. At times he has been provoked by critics and various special-interest groups that believe he is destroying morality. One of the most outspoken groups, and a longtime thorn in the side of The Howard Stern Show, is the American Family Association, a Christian-based group that claims not to promote censorship but instead their own ideas of traditional family values.

They have gone after Stern sponsors for years, getting some to stop advertising. Nobody agrees with everything he says on the show. It is just entertainment and nothing more. The media had grown in the years since Lenny Bruce or the Smothers Brothers, so there was a much larger audience than ever before. Although the FCC is an independent government agency, there have been times when the chairman has made an effort to appease his political party by cracking down on what is considered indecency.

This is where Howard Stern has zigzagged back and forth over the line on numerous occasions. For the FCC to consider something obscene it must meet certain criteria. For example, does the material in question describe sexual conduct or activities in an offensive manner? Does the material appeal to a prurient interest? These are among the questions raised and where the debate often begins. What one person may consider artistic, another may consider obscene. The line between suggestive and offensive material has always been open for debate. Many artists have had paintings and other works of art removed from exhibitions or museums over the same debate of art versus indecency.

In the case of radio, it depends largely on who is listening and what their personal sense of morality is. What compounds the problem is that the FCC cannot monitor even a fraction of the broadcast media in the United States, so they rely largely on the complaints from citizens. The positive aspect of this is that individuals can voice their discontent to a government body that will respond. The downside is that if someone simply enjoys complaining or has a personal dislike of a particular program or broadcaster, he or she can make trouble just for the sake of causing trouble.

How Howard Stern became a new man

The FCC was designed to, and should only, take complaints from average people. It was inevitable that someone like Westcott would make a career of trying to stop the Stern radio express. Stern has certainly not been alone when it comes to raising the ire of the FCC. If you can outrage the FCC even more than Stern, you must be doing something right, or wrong, depending on your point of view. Stern was actually impressed by Bubba, enough to later bring him on the show and help build the career of the Love Sponge.

Stern, however, topped the list. Those who sided with Stern believed strongly that he was exercising his freedom of speech in good not so clean fun, and that although he was indeed offensive, he was poking fun at everyone, including himself. Much to the dismay of many of his critics, the FCC often seemed impervious to the outcry to get Howard Stern off the air.

Fines were occasionally dropped or hearings were not followed up. Newspaper headlines only seemed to increase his audience and provide Stern with more fuel for the ongoing feud. Many entertainment reporters caught on to the fact that the battles between Stern and the FCC were making the show bigger and drawing more listeners.

Stern would attack the FCC and call those who ran the commission names on air, much to the delight of his audience. Meanwhile, he was often worried about whether or not the FCC could actually pull the plug on his show. He would take his time, address an issue, present a guest or a game, and set up everything much in the way a good salesman makes you anxious to see a product demonstration. He also had a feel for when a bit was running too long. Throughout all of the turmoil, Stern had mastered the art of presenting compelling radio.

By the s, the show was attracting more celebrities, including movie and television stars whom Stern would put in the hot seat, and Playboy and Penthouse models who talked openly about sexual activities. Stern pried on serious topics as well as those that would evoke laughs. Stern also offered his opinions about any topic, be it a frivolous news item or the major political stories of the day, and he would look for a means of presenting his own opinion, especially if it was something others dared not say out loud.

Such opinions occasionally got him in trouble; for example, regarding the story of the caning of a young American man overseas, Stern said he thought it would be a good form of criminal punishment in the United States. Alison trumped decency groups and the FCC when it came to putting the clamps on Stern. During these early years of syndication the Stern family also grew. Debra Stern was born in and Ashley Jade Stern in While Stern talked in great detail about his life with Alison on the air, his daughters were rarely discussed. He took his role as a parent very seriously and was often described by Alison as a very caring father.

For Stern, the biggest struggle was not with the FCC, but over his own personal schedule. Sleeping from 8 P.


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  4. This afforded him the opportunity to spend some quality time with Alison and his girls. But television was the next logical step for Stern. The problem, however, was the tight schedule. Stern already devoted more than 50 hours a week to his radio show, so creating and producing a television show of the quality he wanted seemed an impossible task. Although the syndicated program captured a few of the comedic elements of the radio show, it was choppy and looked thrown together. To make matters worse, the show was the immediate target of the anti-Stern brigade, and they contacted the FCC before, during and after each sketch, joke, or questionable phrase complaining that Stern was presenting a deviant message to the American public.

    The FCC was slow in responding, but advertisers were scared off by threats of boycotts of their products led by ADA members and other groups. The radio show remained the number one priority for Howard Stern and all those involved. A few short years later May however, the E! Network, entertainment TV, picked up on what Stern does best: his radio show. The network began broadcasting edited minute versions of the daily radio programs directly from the Stern studios at K-Rock in New York City.

    This worked very well, because the time and effort put into the television show were minimal. Essentially, the radio show continued as it was with the addition of some cameras and lighting. The rest was up to the editors at E! The show was an instant rating grabber. Stern and his crew had more creative freedom than in previous television attempts because there were no sponsors and the program was not on network television.

    The winner was Elaine Marks, a model who had appeared in Playboy magazine a couple of years earlier. Stern knew that the level of production quality would suffer with too much time divided between other projects, and he was not one to do mediocre work or work with people he did not know or trust. This was before the election of several other celebrity governors, including Jesse Ventura, the pro wrestler who became governor of Minnesota in , and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor elected governor of California in What they did not anticipate was that there was actually a message behind the madness and that Stern actually had some real issues that he wanted to address.

    First, Stern was rallying for the death penalty to be reinstated in New York State, which Republicans feared could draw votes away from their candidate if Stern did get on the ballot. Others, however, saw his campaign as a way of getting his messages heard.

    One stumbling block was the FCC rule mandating that candidates must receive equal time on the media. All of the furor generated what Stern loved most—media attention. Stories appeared in the New York Times and other leading papers in the United States and around the world. Despite his serious political intentions, Stern promised that should he win, he would resign the moment he achieved his three-part platform. Howard Stern? In the end, however, Stern withdrew from the race for governor because, by law, candidates need to disclose how much money they earn, and he did not want to make his earnings public.

    The syndication of his radio show and the nightly E! Hounded for interviews and receiving numerous offers to appear at celebrity gatherings, Stern continued to steer clear of anything that would affect his time spent working on the radio show. The commitment to his career was unwavering, although it would eventually take its toll on his marriage. Nonetheless, he acknowledged many times over the years that he was indeed obsessive compulsive and as a result a workaholic.

    Todd S. He describes his radio career and his ongoing battles with authorities in his attempt to do his own show his own way. Interspersed are lesbian stories, for which Stern has always had a great passion, and some interesting photos. Naturally, the book became the center of great debate and led to another battle of art versus censorship.

    No matter how many copies the book sold, the anti-Stern rabble-rousers had their usual complaints: too vulgar, full of juvenile humor, tasteless, and so on. The book set off its own censorship concerns. For example, when the book was released in paperback, roughly 60 pages were added with new and updated information, primarily reactions to the original release.

    This meant that truly devoted Stern fans had to buy two copies to get the whole photo, and some hardcore Stern fans did just that. Antonelli later appeared on the television talk show Donahue with Howard Stern and a lawyer representing Westlaco. She went on to sue the city and ended up settling out of court. For decades, books have been pulled from library shelves and classrooms because someone complains that a book is unsuitable for some reason and has challenged the school or library.

    These are books that, to some individuals or groups, are considered too controversial, unorthodox, or inappropriate for young readers. According to the ALA, most challenges are made by parents, and most are unsuccessful. Ironically, many of the books that were once banned are now on school reading lists. Greater acceptance in society in some parts of the country and greater cultural awareness, especially regarding issues of race, and acceptance of various lifestyles, are now allowing such once banned books to be widely accepted in most schools and libraries.

    It was typically assumed that Stern fans were sophomoric, nonreading underachievers, slackers, freaks, weirdos, and degenerates. Although this group makes up some of the audience, Howard Stern fans come from all walks of life. The publishers backed off from the possible uproar such a cover might have caused and went instead with a photo of Howard Stern dressed in drag. The second book became the fastest-selling book in publishing history when it was released in Though it was not as big a seller as Private Parts, the book still sold millions of copies to fans, admirers, and those still curious about the ever-changing world of Howard Stern.

    For example, he describes his initial meeting with Michael Jackson, where he tore into the controversial former pop star for being weird. At one point Stern was signed to a deal with New Line Cinema to make a movie out of his Fartman character, which he had introduced to the world in an infamous appearance at the MTV Music Video Awards.

    In time, the project was canceled over what was said to be a rights issue to the Fartman character. Because movies are made with a welldeveloped storyline, in this case taken from his autobiography, his freedom to be himself would be limited by the need to move the storyline forward in roughly 90 minutes, less than a single Stern radio broadcast. Stern was used to a stream of consciousness format, interrupted only for commercials, in which he was able to keep on talking, switching subjects, and remaining in complete control of what was going on in his own comfortable environment.

    Turning an offbeat autobiography, with some questionable content, into a major motion picture with a star who had never acted on the big screen before would be a major challenge. Reitman had worked with another major star with little acting experience—basketball player Michael Jordan in Space Jam. Getting the right script was next on the agenda.

    Betty Thomas was brought in for the job. After a career as an actress in movies such as Tunnel Vision and Used Cars and on the hit television drama Hill Street Blues in the early s, Thomas had turned to directing. He routinely asked Betty Thomas if she thought he was an actor, and she would provide encouragement. Having worked long and hard to get to the number one position in radio, and having changed the face of the medium, Stern did not want to go before the cameras and embarrass himself. So, Thomas worked closely with Stern on how to stay in the character and how to interact with his costars, such as Robin Quivers and Fred Norris, who were playing themselves; Mary McCormack, who played his wife, Alison; and Paul Giamatti.

    He talked about his experience on the set and what it was like working with Stern. When Thomas began putting the pieces together for Private Parts, she recalled that Gwynne had been a radio DJ for many years before launching his acting career and asked him to take a look at the script. He had never been an actor, and she really did not want him crashing on the set or falling apart.

    She knew I had done radio and thought that perhaps having me around as a safety device to talk radio might be helpful to Stern to keep him in his comfort zone. Stern was very uncomfortable, but like a good reader, which he always was, like radio people are, he read the lines and he got through it. He was walking around the control room mock-up they had built for us.

    He looked nervous and did not look particularly happy, but we got into a conversation about the soundboard. I told him it reminded me of a or board. Gwynne was impressed that Stern never complained. For the scene between Stern and Gwynne, Thomas let them try several approaches. Look at this guy. He looks like Big Bird. Less than a minute long, the scene was shot several times over four days. Because Stern had to be up early for his radio show, he could not stay later than around 4 P. During the long stretches of downtime, Gwynne recalls that he and Stern talked about the radio business and swapped stories of the early days on the road in small town after small town.

    He knew it was about reproducing himself as a guy on the radio who was starting out and was terrible. He broke all the rules, like Salvador Dali the artist. This was a red carpet event featuring the cast and crew of the movie plus the stars of the radio show, several of whom, such as Robin Quivers and Fred Norris, played themselves on screen. It was a hot ticket, and thousands of fans lined the streets around the theater in support of their hero—and waited for the reviews.

    It revealed how Alison understood Stern and was supportive while he genuinely needed her love and approval. The rough spots in their relationship and his need to tell the public everything about their personal life put their relationship to the test, but it all worked in the end. Sure, the movie contained raunchy moments, as one would expect from Stern, but it was hard for audiences not to root for him as the movie depicted how the geeky teenager built a career as a major radio star.

    The movie was well-received by critics, even those who were ready to hate it. If it showcases [Stern] in all his glory, it also shows what little glory there is to celebrate. For someone like Stern, there is usually a big gap between his fans and his harshest critics.