Where do old interviews go to die? Since 1988 they’ve gone into the MTV News vault, but we’ve been exhuming them to bring you these classic natterings. Here’s the latest in the series, which runs every Tuesday.
Things haven’t been quite the same since Howard Stern turned his back on terrestrial radio at the end of 2005 and relocated to an off-world satellite system. Ever since he erupted out of New York in the mid-’80s, Stern had been an ever-present part of popular culture, a name that — given his various on-air outrages and feuds and books and movies and TV talk-show appearances — might crop up in casual conversation on a daily basis. Howard was the first “shock jock” — a one-of-a-kind original, never to be confused with the horde of morning-zoo morons who followed in his lucrative wake. But there was always more to him than just the dumb stuff — the butt-bongo riffs and porn-star reminiscences and mad features like “Bestiality Dial-a-Date.” He was also an excellent interviewer, unafraid to ask even the most breathtakingly indelicate questions. And he applied his demands for total disclosure to his many personal issues as well (the puny-penis problem preeminently).
Howard ruled every radio market into which he was syndicated. But as the new millennium got underway, with Republicans in control of the White House and both houses of Congress, he found his show being slammed with ever-heavier fines by the Federal Communications Commission. On the basis of one listener complaint, for example, the FCC decided that a single 2003 Stern show contained 18 affronts to common decency and levied a fine of $495,000 against Clear Channel Communications, which had aired the show on six of its stations. Clear Channel subsequently dumped Howard, with the company’s president, John Hogan, noting that “the Congress and the FCC are even beginning to look at revoking station licenses. That’s a risk we’re just not willing to take.”
So Stern’s move to satellite radio — beyond the reach of the antiquated FCC — was inevitable. And he brought his fans with him, to an extent that justified the five-year, $500 million contract Sirius had given him. But even though you can hear the new, unfettered Howard over the Internet now, he’s no longer a part of the national consciousness in the manner he once was. It’s like he’s moved away to a better neighborhood — a place to which the average Joe (and Stern is definitively an average-Joe phenomenon) no longer has effortless access.
He was still very much with us in 1993, though, when we talked to him about his just-released autobiography, “Private Parts.” It was a funny book, and it topped the sales charts and spawned a hit movie four years later, too. This of course strengthened his claim to be the “king of all media,” and rightly so. Too bad, though, that old-fashioned Earth-based radio is no longer an outpost of his domain.
Enjoy digging through The Loder Files? You’ll find more here, and there’s much more to come from the vaults — check back every Tuesday!