Howard Allan (Tzvi) Stern - biogrpahy
Howard Allan Stern (born January 12, 1954) has been an American radio personality for 35 years. He is best known for hosting The Howard Stern Show, which until 2005 aired on terrestrial radio stations. He gained national recognition in the 1990s while being labelled as a "shock jock" for his outspoken and controversial shows. Since 2006, Stern has broadcast on Sirius XM, a subscription satellite radio service. Stern wished for a career in radio at the age of five. While studying at Boston University he worked at the campus station before his professional debut in 1975 at WNTN. Stern then carried out on-air, production and managerial duties in 1977 for two years at WRNW. He developed a more open personality from 1979 to 1981 in morning shifts at WCCC, WWWW and WWDC, where he paired with his current newscaster and co-presenter Robin Quivers. Stern moved to New York City in 1982 to work at WNBC in afternoons until his firing in 1985. Soon after, WXRK hired Stern for the following 20 years until his departure for Sirius in 2005. In this time, The Howard Stern Show reached a peak audience of 20 million to as many as 60 markets through syndication. It was the highest-rated morning radio show in New York from 1994 to 2001. Stern is the highest-paid radio figure, including the most fined, after a history with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over indecency led to $2.5 million in fines being issued to station owners that carried his show.
Stern describes himself as the "King of All Media" for his successes outside radio. His television career includes several late night shows, pay-per-views and home video releases. He is the author of Private Parts (1993) and Miss America (1995) that spent 20 and 16 weeks respectively on The New York Times Best Seller list. The former was adapted into Private Parts (1997), a biographical comedy film starring Stern and his radio show staff as themselves. The film grossed over $41 million in the United States.
Early life and education
Stern was born into a Jewish family who resided in Jackson Heights, Queens in New York City. His parents Ben and Ray (née Schiffman) are children of Austro-Hungarian immigrants, and his sister Ellen is four years his senior. In 1955, the family moved to the hamlet of Roosevelt on Long Island. On completion of sixth grade, Stern left Washington-Rose Elementary School for Roosevelt Junior-Senior High School.
Stern developed an interest in radio at the age of five. While Ray was a homemaker and later an inhalation therapist, Ben was a co-owner of Aura Recording, Inc., a recording studio in Manhattan where cartoons and commercials were produced. When he made visits with his father, Stern saw the likes of Wally Cox, Don Adams and Larry Storch voice his favourite cartoon characters, influencing the young Stern to talk on the air, rather than playing records. Ben was also an engineer at WHOM, an AM radio station in Manhattan where its FM sister station side became WXRK, the station that hired Stern for 20 years.
In June 1969, the family moved to the nearby village of Rockville Centre, where Stern transferred and graduated from South Side High School in 1972. Upon declining an offer to attend Elmira College, Stern opted for Boston University, where he spent the first two of four years in the College of Basic Studies. In 1973, Stern worked up the courage to visit WTBU, the campus radio station where he spun records, read the news and conducted interviews. He teamed with three students to host a comedy show named the King Schmaltz Bagel Hour. The four were fired during the first broadcast after a sketch called "Godzilla Goes to Harlem". Having gained admission to the School of Public Communications, Stern earned his diploma at the Radio Engineering Institute of Electronics in Fredericksburg, Virginia in July 1975, enabling him to apply for a first class FCC radio-telephone license. Stern then made his professional debut at WNTN in Newton, Massachusetts, performing airshift, newscasting and production duties between August and December 1975. He graduated magna cum laude in May 1976 with a Communications degree, and now funds a scholarship at the university.
Early professional radio career (1976–1981)
After graduating from Boston University in May 1976, Stern turned down an offer to work evenings at WRNW, a progressive rock station in the village of Briarcliff Manor in Westchester County, New York. He became unsure of his talent, and questioned his future in the industry. He then took media planning and creative roles at Benton & Bowles, a New York advertising agency, followed by a job in trading radio time for advertisers.Realising his mistake in declining radio work, Stern contacted WRNW and was offered midday cover shifts in December 1976. He was then hired full-time, working a four-hour midday shift six days for US$96 a week. While retaining his show, Stern worked managerial duties at the station. In November 1977, he switched roles from production director to program director for an increased pay of $250 a week.
In 1979, Stern spotted an advertisement for a "wild, fun morning guy" at WCCC, a rock station in Hartford, Connecticut. He showcased a more confident audition tape, playing Robert Klein and Cheech and Chong records mixed with flatulence routines and one-liners.He was hired with no change in salary, but a busier schedule. After a four-hour air shift, he voiced and produced commercials for another four. On Saturdays, after six hours on the air, he did production work for the next three. As the public affairs director, he hosted a talk show on Sunday mornings without music, which he favoured. Fred Norris, the overnight disc jockey, became Stern's producer and writer in late 1981. In the summer of the 1979 energy crisis, Stern put on a two day boycott of Shell Oil Company which attracted media attention. In early 1980, Stern left the station after being turned down for a $25 weekly pay increase.
Stern's audition tape for an advertised morning spot at WWWW, a rock station in Detroit, Michigan, was well-received by management. Accepting a $30,000 salary, Stern began on April 21, 1980. His confidence improved, learning to become more open on the air. "I decided to cut down the barriers...strip down all the ego...and be totally honest", he later told Newsday. He also began getting noticed in the industry, winning a Billboard Award for "Album-Oriented Rock Personality of the Year For a Major Market" and the Drake-Chenault "Top Five Talent Search". The station however, was losing listeners to its competitors. Arbitron ratings released in January 1981 showed Stern's decline in audience from a 3% market share to 1.6%.The station then switched to a more successful country music format on January 18. Much to Stern's dislike, he left the station soon after. He did consider offers at WXRT in Chicago and CHUM in Toronto, but they were not taken.
Washington and WNBC New York (1981–1985)
Stern signed a contract with WWDC in Washington, D.C. for a $40,000 salary starting on March 2, 1981. Recognising the importance of news segments for satire, he wished for a co-worker with a sense of humor to riff with on current stories. He was paired with Robin Quivers, a newscaster and consumer affairs reporter from WFBR in Baltimore. Stern felt restricted and controlled by management, who enforced a strict format. He made his first television appearance on Petey Greene's talk show. In January 1982, Stern had the second highest-rated program in Washington. He entered discussions with management at NBC's flagship station, WNBC in New York City, signing a five year contract worth $1 million. Stern's relationship with WWDC management worsened when his NBC deal was reported by the press in March 1982. On June 25, 1982, the station suspended Stern, who more than tripled his ratings during his stay. He released 50 Ways to Rank Your Mother, a comedy album of his radio bits. The record was re-released as Unclean Beaver in November 1994.
On April 2, 1982, a news report by Douglas Kiker on raunch radio featuring Stern aired on NBC Magazine. The piece stimulated discussion among NBC management to withdraw Stern's contract. When he began his afternoon program in September,management closely monitored Stern, telling him to avoid talk of a sexual and religious nature. In his first month, Stern was suspended for several days for "Virgin Mary Kong", a segment featuring a video game where a group of men pursued the Virgin Mary around a singles bar in Jerusalem. An NBC attorney was hired to man a "dump button" and cut Stern off should he enter offensive areas. This became the job for program director Kevin Metheny, who Stern would nickname "Pig Virus". On May 21, 1984, Stern made his first appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, launching him into the national spotlight.
In 1985, Stern claimed a 5.7% market share, the highest ratings at the station in four years. On September 30, Stern and Quivers were fired for what management claimed were "conceptual differences." "Over the course of time, we made a very conscious effort to make Stern aware that certain elements of the program should be changed...I don't think it's appropriate to say what those specifics were", said program director John Hayes, who Stern nicknamed "The Incubus". In 1992, Stern believed Thornton Bradshaw, chairman of WNBC's owner RCA, heard his "Bestiality Dial-a-Date" segment ten days earlier and ordered his firing. The radio pair kept in touch with their WNBC audience throughout October and November, touring club venues with a stage show.
K-Rock, early television endeavors and Fartman (1985–1992)
Stern returned to afternoons on New York City rock station WXRK on November 18, 1985. He signed a five-year contract with owner Infinity Broadcasting worth around $500,000 that escalated in successive years. On February 18, 1986, Stern moved to the morning shift and entered national syndication on August 18 when the show was simulcast on WYSP in Philadelphia. In October 1992, Stern became the first to top the New York and Los Angeles Arbitron ratings simultaneously. In the New York market, The Howard Stern Show was the highest-rated morning program from 1994 to 2001. In 1994, Billboard magazine added the "Nationally Syndicated Air Personality of the Year" category to its annual radio awards, based on entertainment value, creativity and ratings success. Stern was awarded the title from 1994 to 2002. Stern retained his morning position until December 16, 2005, where he began his contract at Sirius in 2006.In this 20-year period, he would be heard in over 60 markets] across the United States and Canada while gaining a peak audience of around 20 million.
In May 1987, Stern recorded five television pilots of The Howard Stern Show for Fox when the network planned to replace The Late Show hosted by Joan Rivers. The series was never picked up; one executive having described the show as "poorly produced", "in poor taste" and "boring". Stern hosted his first pay-per-view event on February 27, 1988, Howard Stern's Negligeé and Underpants Party. Over 60,000 homes purchased the two-hour special that grossed $1.2 million. On September 7, 1989, over 16,000 fans packed out Nassau Coliseum for Howard Stern's U.S. Open Sores, a live event that featured a tennis match between Stern and his radio show producer, Gary Dell'Abate. Both events were released for home video. From 1990 to 1992, Stern was the host of The Howard Stern Show, a Saturday night program on WWOR-TV. The series ran for 69 episodes to 65 markets across the country. In February 1991, Stern released Crucified by the FCC, a collection of censored radio segments following the first fine issued to Infinity by the FCC. Stern released his third video tape, Butt Bongo Fiesta, in October 1992 that sold 260,000 copies. He returned to Saturday night television a month later with The Howard Stern "Interview", a one-on-one celebrity interview series on E! that lasted 36 episodes.
Stern appeared at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards as Fartman, a fictional superhero that first appeared in the National Lampoon magazine in the mid-1970s. He rejected multiple scripts for a proposed 1993 release of The Adventures of Fartman, until a verbal agreement was reached with New Line Cinema. Screenwriter J. F. Lawton had prepared a script before relations soured over the film's rating, content and merchandising rights. The project was then cancelled.
Private Parts, E! show and run for Governor (1993–1994)
In early 1993, Stern signed a $1 million advance contract with Simon & Schuster to publish his first book. Co-authored with Larry Sloman and edited by Judith Regan, Private Parts was released on October 7, 1993. The book sold its first printing of 225,000 copies within hours of going on sale. After five days, it became the fastest-selling title in Schuster's history. Two weeks later, in its eighth printing, over one million copies had been distributed. Sales were supported by Stern's book signing tour. His first at a Barnes & Noble store on Fifth Avenue attracted an estimated 10,000 fans. The book spent 20 weeks on The New York Times Best-Seller list. Stern has written forewords for Steal This Dream (1998), a biography of Abbie Hoffman, Disgustingly Dirty Joke Book (1998) by Jackie Martling, and Too Fat to Fish (2008) by Artie Lange.
Stern hosted his second pay-per-view event, The Miss Howard Stern New Year's Eve Pageant, on December 31, 1993. It surpassed the subscriber record for a non-sports event held by a 1990 New Kids on the Block concert. Around 400,000 households purchased Stern's event that grossed an estimated $16 million. In early 1994, the event was released on VHS as Howard Stern's New Year's Rotten Eve 1994. Between his book royalties and pay-per-view profits, Stern's earnings in the latter months of 1993 totalled around $7.5 million. In its 20th anniversary issue in 1993, Radio & Records named Stern the most influential air personality of the past two decades. On March 21, 1994, Stern announced his candidacy for Governor of New York under the Libertarian Party ticket, challenging Mario Cuomo for re-election. He planned to reinstate the death penalty, stagger highway tolls to improve traffic flow, and limiting road work to night hours. At the party's nomination convention in Albany on April 23, Stern won the required two-thirds majority on the first ballot, receiving 287 of the 381 votes cast (75.33%). James Ostrowski finished second with 34 votes (8.92%). To place his name on the November ballot, Stern was obliged to state his home address and to complete a financial disclosure form under the Ethics in Government Act of 1987. Arguing the law violated his right to privacy and freedom of association, Stern was denied an injunction on August 2. He withdrew his candidacy two days later. Cuomo was defeated in the gubernatorial election on November 8 by George Pataki, whom Stern backed. In 1995, Pataki signed "The Howard Stern Bill" which limited construction on state roads to night hours in New York and Long Island.
In June 1994, six robot cameras were installed in Stern's radio show studio to film a condensed half-hour program on the E! network. Howard Stern ran for 11 years, until the last taped episode was broadcast on July 8, 2005. In conjunction with his move to Sirius, Stern launched Howard Stern on Demand, a subscription video-on-demand service, on November 18, 2005. The service was fully launched as Howard TV on March 16, 2006.
Miss America and Private Parts film (1995–1997)
On April 3, 1995, three days after the shooting of singer Selena, Stern's comments regarding her death and Mexican Americans caused an uproar in the Hispanic community. He criticized her music with added gunfire sound effects. "This music does absolutely nothing for me. Alvin and the Chipmunks have more soul...Spanish people have the worst taste in music. They have no depth". On April 6, Stern responded with a statement in Spanish, stressing his comments were made in satire and not intended to hurt those who loved her. A day later, Justice of the Peace Eloy Cano of Harlingen, Texas issued an arrest warrant on Stern for disorderly conduct.
Stern signed an advance contract with ReganBooks worth $3 million in 1995 to write his second biographical book, Miss America. Stern wrote about his cybersex experiences on the Prodigy service, a private meeting with Michael Jackson, and his past suffering with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The book sold 33,000 copies at Barnes & Noble stores on November 7, the day of its release, setting a new one-day record. Publishers Weekly reported over 1.39 million hardcover copies were sold by the end of 1995, ranking it the third best-seller of the year. Miss America spent a total of 16 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list.
Production for a film adaptation of Private Parts began in May 1996, with all shooting complete in four months. The film premiered at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden on February 27, 1997, where Stern performed "The Great American Nightmare" with Rob Zombie. Private Parts made its general release on March 7, 1997, where it topped the box office in its opening weekend with a gross of $14.6 million, and $41.2 million in total. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 79%. For his performance, Stern won a Blockbuster Entertainment Award for "Favorite Male Newcomer" and nominated for a Golden Satellite Award for "Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Comedy)" and a Golden Raspberry Award for "Worst New Star". The soundtrack topped the Billboard Pop Albums Chart, selling 178,000 copies in the first week of release.
On October 8, 1997, Stern filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against Ministry of Film Inc., claiming it recruited him for a film titled Jane starring Melanie Griffith, while knowing it had insufficient funds. Stern, who was unpaid when production ceased, accused the studio of breach of contract, fraud and negligent representation.] A settlement was reached in August 1999, with Stern receiving $50,000.
Return to Saturday night television and productions (1998–2004)
On April 1, 1998, Stern announced his return to Saturday night television with The Howard Stern Radio Show. Broadcast across the country on CBS affiliates, it featured radio show highlights along with material unseen in his nightly E! show. The show was a direct competitor with NBC's Saturday Night Live and Fox's MADtv for ratings. Concerned with its risqué content, the show began to lose affiliates after two episodes. Making its launch on 79 stations on August 22, 1998, this number was reduced to 55 by June 1999. A total of 84 episodes were broadcast. The final re-run aired on November 17, 2001, to around 30 markets.
In 1994, Stern launched the Howard Stern Production Company for original and joint production and development ventures. He radio personality intended to make a film adaptation of Brother Sam, the biography of the late comedian Sam Kinison. In September 1999, UPN announced the production of Doomsday, an animated science-fiction comedy series executively produced by Stern. Originally set for a 2000 release, Stern starred as Orinthal, a family dog. The project was eventually abandoned. From 2000 to 2002, Stern was the executive producer of Son of the Beach, a sitcom which ran for three seasons on FX. In late 2001, Howard Stern Productions was reportedly developing a new sitcom titled Kane. The pilot episode was never filmed. In 2002, Stern acquired the rights to comedy films Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979) and Porky's (1982). Neither has yet been re-made. In March 2003, Stern filed a $100 million lawsuit against ABC and the producers of Are You Hot?, claiming the series was based on a radio show segment known as "The Evaluators". A settlement was reached on August 7.
Stern announced in early 2004 of talks with ABC to host a prime time interview special, which never materialized. In August 2004, cable channel Spike picked up 13 episodes of Howard Stern: The High School Years, a second animated series Stern was to executive produce. On November 14, 2005, Stern announced the completion of episode scripts and 30 seconds of test animations. Stern eventually gave the project up. On September 10, 2007, he explained the episodes could have been produced "on the cheap" at $300,000 each, though the quality he demanded would have instead cost over $1 million. Actor Michael Cera was cast as the lead voice.
Satellite radio and CBS lawsuit (2004–present)
On October 6, 2004, Stern announced his contract with Sirius Satellite Radio, a medium free of FCC regulations, starting from January 2006. The move followed a crackdown on perceived indecency in broadcasting that occurred following the controversy surrounding the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show in February. The incident prompted tighter control over content by station owners and managers, leading to Stern feeling "dead inside" creatively. The five-year deal allows Stern to produce up to three channels on Sirius with a $100 million per year budget for all production, staff and programming costs including the construction of a dedicated studio. On January 9, 2006, the day of his first broadcast, Sirius issued 34.3 million shares of stock worth $218 million to Stern and his agent for exceeding a subscriber target set in 2004. A second stock incentive was paid on January 9, 2007, with Stern earning 22 million shares worth $82.9 million. Following his move, Time magazine included Stern in the Time 100 list in May 2006. He also ranked seventh in Forbes' "World's Most Powerful Celebrities" list a month later.
On February 28, 2006, CBS Radio (formerly Infinity Broadcasting) filed a 43-page lawsuit against Stern, his agent and Sirius. The suit claimed Stern had misused CBS broadcast time to promote Sirius for unjust enrichment during his last 14 months on terrestrial airwaves. In a press conference held hours before the suit was filed, Stern said it was nothing more than a "personal vendetta" against him by CBS president Leslie Moonves. A settlement was reached on May 25, with Sirius paying $2 million to CBS for control of Stern's broadcast archives since 1985. Stern's contract with Sirius XM will expire on December 31, 2010.
FCC fine history
From 1990 to 2004, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has fined owners of radio stations that carried The Howard Stern Show a total of $2.5 million for indecent programming.
While attending Boston University, Stern developed an interest in Transcendental Meditation, which he practices to this day. He credits it with aiding him in quitting smoking and achieving his goals in radio. Stern has interviewed Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the technique, twice in his career.
On June 4, 1978, Stern married Alison Berns at Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline, Massachusetts, both 24 years old. They have three daughters – Emily Beth (b. 1983), Debra Jennifer (b. 1986) and Ashley Jade (b. 1993). On October 22, 1999, Stern announced their decision to separate. The marriage ended in 2001 with an amicable divorce and settlement. Stern began a period of single living, dating actresses Angie Everhart and Robin Givens. In 2000, Stern began dating model Beth Ostrosky, co-host of Casino Cinema from 2004 to 2007. She also frequently appeared in the American edition of FHM. On February 14, 2007, after seven years, Stern announced their engagement. They married on October 3, 2008, at Le Cirque restaurant in New York City.
Stern regularly plays on the Internet Chess Club. He has taken on-line lessons from Dan Heisman, a chess master from Philadelphia.