Love him or hate him, Howard Stern has become a famous radio personality who dominated the airwaves for over 40 years. The legendary shock jock is known for his controversial broadcasts wherein you can hear him making self-deprecating jokes, provocative interviews, and offensive commentaries on celebrities, sex, and bodily functions. He always had something to talk about, but he is an influential radio figure despite his controversial nature and is a bigtime personality on the airwaves.
Who is Howard Stern?
Howard Stern is one of the most notable shock jocks in America, bringing his signature style to New York listeners in 1982 and to the whole nation by 1986. He experienced receiving repeated fines and interference from the FCC, which eventually drove him to satellite radio in 2004. He was also an author of multiple best-selling books and served as a judge on America’s Got Talent.
Howard Allan Stern was born on January 12, 1954, at Queens, New York City. He is the youngest child of Ben and Ray Stern. He spent the early part of his youth in the town of Roosevelt, Long Island. Stern’s early inclination for radio and recording seems to be inherited from his father, a part-owner of a recording studio who frequently taped his son and daughter on the holidays. So when Stern was just five years old, he knew he wanted to be in radio. His dad would set him up a tape recorder, a turntable, and a microphone, so he would record radio shows for himself, even faking the commercials and prank calls.
Stern did not just love radio, but he also loved performing outrageous shows. In the basement of their home, Stern would put together elaborate puppet shows for his friends. He was urged by his mother to do this, but little did she know that Stern was doing The Perverted Marionette Show. The parents weren’t privy to it, but his friends would beg him for these outrageous puppet shows.
His craving for attention was coupled by his outsider status, as he grew up in a largely African American community of Roosevelt. He had a rough childhood and had trouble fitting in with the Black people, as he was usually the target of periodic school fights. In 1969, their family moved to Rockville Centre, a largely white community. Stern couldn’t adjust to his new environment, and he didn’t feel like he belonged. During his high school years, he made a few friends and enjoyed poker and ping pong.
In 1972, Stern enrolled at the Boston University, where he volunteered at the college radio station and got his first taste of the business. His debut program called “Godzilla Goes to Harlem” – a racially charged skit – was canceled by the university. He also met his future first wife, Alison Berns, at the university.
After graduation, he set out to begin his radio career immediately. His first gig was on a small radio station in Briarcliff Manor, New York. He then moved to Hartford, Connecticut, then to Detroit, Michigan. When the latter station changed its format from rock to country and western, Stern quit and fled to Washington, D.C.
Career as Shock Jock
In D.C., Stern made significant career inroads. He found a job hosting a morning program at the album-oriented rock station WWDC. This is where he began to develop a reputation for his wild antics. Despite several issues the management had over his content, the studio was led to install a seven-second delay so they can censor questionable moments. It was believed that Stern was suspended over a controversial and insensitive bit regarding the January 1982 crash of Air Florida Flight 90. He got on the phone and called the airline, asking for prices to the 14th Street bridge, the site of the crash, and if it would be a regular stop.
Later that year, Stern signed with WNBC, four months before his contract with WWDC was about to expire. Since then, his relationship with the management of WWDC declined, and he repeatedly criticized the management and other deejays on air. By June, Stern was terminated from the station. By the end of his stay, Stern’s ratings more than tripled, and he became the second-highest rated morning show in D.C.
Due to the controversial nature of Stern’s show, the management at WNBC discussed the potential withdrawal of Stern’s contract. But rather than buying him out of the deal, the management decided to control Stern. Stern’s afternoon show was closely monitored, as he was instructed to avoid discussions on sex and religion. The station even hired an attorney to operate a seven-second delay to censor if he said something potentially offensive. While at the WNBC, Stern also feuded with its morning host Don Imus, who was also a shock jock. Despite the management’s continual restrictions, Stern’s popularity with the audience grew.
At first, Stern tried to play nice and follow the station’s mandates, but after a short time, he openly went to war against the station. He began showcasing bits and segments like “Sexual Innuendo Wednesday,” and “Bestiality Dial-a-Date,” which caused him to be suspended and his show to be canceled.
After getting fired from WNBC in 1985, Stern signed with Infinity Broadcasting to host afternoons at the rock music station WXRK. As he was determined to beat WNBC and Imus in the ratings, Stern moved to primetime morning slot in 1986. Stern lasted for 20 years at the WXRK, and his show was syndicated in 60 markets across North America.
In 1990, Stern became the host of the Saturday night variety show The Howard Stern Show on WWOR-TV. In New York, the show frequently beat Saturday Night Live in the ratings. He confronted two of his favorite subjects, sex, and race, in controversial ways. The program ended in 1992 after 69 episodes.
By this time, his radio show has been the subject of fines issued by the Federal Communications Commission over material that they deemed indecent.
Stern as “King of All Media”
In the early ’90s, Stern rose as a popular radio and television figure, leading to the first instance of proclaiming himself the “King of all Media.” In 1992, Stern returned to Saturday night television as the host of The Howard Stern “Interview,” a weekly one-on-one celebrity interview series on E! Network that ended in 1993.
In 1993, Stern’s popularity was taken to new heights after the release of his autobiography entitled Private Parts, a detailed and funny look at Stern’s life that served to pay homage to his wife and the job she’s done to raise their three children. His work became the fastest-selling book in Simon & Schuster’s 70-year publishing history. He followed it with another best-seller, Miss America, in 1995.
In 1998, Stern announced his return to Saturday night television after he signed a deal with CBS to compete with MADtv on Fox and Saturday Night Live on NBC. Local broadcasters became concerned about the risqué content of his show, so the show began to lose affiliates. The show originally aired at 79 stations but decreased to around 30 stations when the final show aired at season three.
Stern became the executive producer of Son of the Beach, a TV parody sitcom of Baywatch that ran from 2000 to 2002 on FX.
The disc jockey released his third book entitled Howard Stern Comes Again in 2019. The book is a memoir that also contained collections of his best interviews over the years.
Move to Satellite Radio and judging America’s Got Talent
After the controversy brought about by the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show in February 2004, the government became stricter in cracking down indecency on radio and television. The tighter control over the content made Stern feel “dead” creatively. Stern decided to leave terrestrial airwaves and signed a five-year deal with Sirius Satellite Radio, a satellite radio service exempted from the FCC’s broadcast regulations. Stern took his shock jock formula to a new territory, making him wildly wealthy.
In 2010, Stern renewed his contract with Sirius XM to work on his radio show for another five years. However, his transition to satellite radio has not been smooth sailing, as he engaged in a legal battle with Sirius, which merged with rival XM in 2008, over stock rewards. Stern claimed that the company owed his company and his agent $330 million, but a judge threw out the lawsuit in 2012.
In 2011, Stern returned to network television as a judge on America’s Got Talent for its seventh season. Despite his reputation for harsh speech, he became surprisingly supportive of contestants at times while showing off his quick wit. He stayed on for four seasons before signing off in 2015.
Outrageous Facts About Howard Stern
Howard Stern is such a controversial personality that making wild antics and shocking commentaries has become expected of him. Here are some of his outrageous facts about this disc jockey:
- One of Stern’s most infamous stunts happened on the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards. Stern wore an elaborate gold superhero costume and descended unto the stage via wires. He revealed that he is Fartman, then bared his buttocks to the audience and loudly passed gas into the podium, shocking all Hollywood.
- Did you know that Stern was nominated to run for governor of New York? He promised to limit road construction during the night only, restore the death penalty, and add toll booths to get rid of traffic. However, he dropped out of the race because running required him to disclose personal finances, something that his contract won’t allow him to do.
- Since he speaks whatever comes to his mind, he may not come off as smart. But Stern has the grades to prove otherwise. He graduated as magna cum laude from Boston University, with a grade point average of 3.8.
- Stern didn’t get along with Kevin Metheny, the program director, who was in charge of censoring him. He called Metheny “Pig Vomit” and frequently feuded with him on air.
- After the Hispanic singer Selena was murdered, Stern got into big trouble for his commentary. Instead of respecting the dead and mourning with the fans, Stern started to mock the late singer’s admirers. He went on to say, “Alvin and the Chipmunks have more soul. Spanish people have the worst taste in music.” Hispanic leaders were offended and quickly called for a boycott of Stern’s radio show.
- Another controversy was started by Stern just one day after the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. Stern questioned why the killers didn’t try to have sex with some of the girls before shooting them. He even stated, there were “really good-looking girls running out there with their hands over their heads,” making light of the tragic situation. This made angry listeners demand the station to fire Stern.
- However, there’s one tragedy that Stern didn’t poke fun at – the September 11 attacks. Stern was on the air as planes hit the Twin Towers, and the world knew it wasn’t an accident. In his show, he got serious for once. He let listeners to call in and talk about it.
- Despite Stern’s popularity, Jay Leno was not at all amused by Stern’s appearance on his show. On The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Stern showed up with two women in bikinis. He got the two women to kiss on camera and interrupted Jay, who was trying to interview other guests, the film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel.
- Even the friendly Dolly Parton had a beef with Howard Stern. He once took segments out of her audiobooks and spliced them together to make it seem like Parton was making hateful comments. Parton responded by saying, “I have never been so shocked, hurt and humiliated in all my life.”
- Stern’s eldest daughter Emily expressed how it wasn’t easy having Stern as her dad. In an interview with the New York Post, Emily revealed that the way Stern talked about women had significant repercussions on her personal life, and it even kept her from dating men.