The self-proclaimed "King of All Media" (a humorous reference to Michael Jackson's appellation "The King of Pop") has been dubbed a shock jock for his highly controversial use of scatological, sexual and racial humor. Stern has said that the show was never about shocking people, but primarily intended to offer his honest opinions on a gamut of issues (ranging from world affairs to problems among his own staff). Though controversial, he is the highest-paid radio personality in the United States and the most fined personality in radio broadcast history.
He is best known for his national radio show, which for many years was syndicated on FM radio stations (and a few AM stations) throughout the United States until his last terrestrial radio broadcast on December 16, 2005. He began broadcasting on the subscription-based Sirius satellite radio service on January 9, 2006.
In addition to radio, Stern moved into publishing, television, feature films, and music. He has written two books, Private Parts, which he adapted into a film, and Miss America. Stern's television endeavors include a variety show on New York City's WWOR-TV, a nightly E! show documenting his radio broadcasts, a similar CBS program that competed with Saturday Night Live for a time, "Howard On-Demand" for digital cable subscribers in various markets, and Son of the Beach, a parody of Baywatch for FX which Stern executive produced.
In 2006, Howard Stern was elected into Time Magazine's "Time 100: The People who shape our world" and was ranked #7 in Forbes Magazine's 2006 annual Celebrity 100. On February 13, 2007, Stern became engaged to his long-time girlfriend, model Beth Ostrosky.
Howard Stern was born into a Jewish American family living in the Long Island town of Roosevelt. His father Ben Stern (born July 11, 1923) owned a Manhattan recording studio. Stern's father encouraged his son's interest in radio from an early age. His mother Ray (born October 22, 1927) was a homemaker for most of Howard's childhood. Stern has one sibling, a sister named Ellen, who is four years his senior. Stern describes his sister as being his "complete opposite".
Although both his parents are Jewish, Stern's on-air banter is that he is only half Jewish, with the other half being Italian, because "it's very hard to be Jewish in this country. My half Jewish side has been beaten with chains." Stern's Hebrew name is Tzvi (IPA: [ʦvi]); his paternal grandparents, Froim and Anna (Gallar) Stern and maternal grandparents, Sol and Esther (Reich) Schiffman, were Austro-Hungarian Jews who immigrated to America at about the same time.
Stern often said that his parents verbally abused him as a child, which was corroborated during a 1990 broadcast when he played old family recordings, many of which have become oft-played soundbites, including remarks such as "I told you not to be stupid, you moron" and "Shut up! Sit down!" being screamed at a 7-year-old Howard. These old recordings were later used in a parody commercial for the "The Ben Stern Day-Care Center", which specialized in producing overachieving, self-hating megalomaniacs. Stern said his mother ran her house with "the intensity of Hitler" and that his father's "favorite sport was yelling."
Stern has long claimed on his show that he has a small penis. He uses this assertion to comedic effect in a scene in his biopic where he is shown showering with his African-American peers at Roosevelt Junior High School. He was supposedly one of the few white students in a predominantly African-American school. When Stern's family moved in 1969, he transferred to South Side High School, from which he graduated in 1972. Stern attended Boston University, graduating in 1976 with a bachelor's degree in communications, carrying a 3.8 Grade Point Average. During his time at Boston University Stern also worked (before being fired) as a volunteer at the campus radio station WTBU. Stern now funds a scholarship at Boston University.
Stern grew to be tall, standing 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m). On June 4, 1978, Stern married college sweetheart Alison Berns at Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline, Massachusetts. They have three daughters: Emily Beth (b. 1983), Deborah Jennifer (b. 1986) and Ashley Jade (b. 1993). A hallmark of Stern's humor was his claiming to be tempted by the strippers, porn stars and lesbians appearing on his show, but always insisted that he had to be faithful to his wife. In 1994, Stern ran for Governor of New York as a libertarian. The campaign was generally seen as a political stunt and Stern dropped out before the election. In October 1999, Stern announced that he and wife Alison decided to separate. They amicably divorced in 2001, ending in a settlement.
Stern began a period of single living on New York City's Upper West Side, dating dozens of women including Angie Everhart and Robin Givens. Despite reportedly spending time with Carmen Electra "five times", the two have denied there was anything more intimate than an outdoor shower in bathing suits. Stern also owns a weekend house on Long Island.
Stern has had his share of stalkers and death threats. On January 15, 1998, Lance Carvin was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for stalking and threatening to kill Stern and his family.
Since early 2000, Stern has dated model Beth Ostrosky, who is 18 years his junior. Ostrosky co-hosts Casino Cinema on Spike TV. She had also frequently appeared in the American edition of men's magazine FHM until it ceased publication in 2007. The pair live together with their Bulldog named Bianca Romijn-Stamos-O'Connell. On February 14, 2007, Stern announced that he and Ostrosky became engaged the day before.
Terrestrial radio career
After graduating from Boston University, Stern worked briefly as a disc jockey at WNTN in Newton, Massachusetts. Stern then worked as a disc jockey and program director for WRNW in Briarcliff Manor in Westchester County, New York, playing rock music. In 1978, Stern landed his first morning show job in Hartford, Connecticut at WCCC-FM and WCCC-AM, whose progressive rock format promoted Howard's development as a "free form" personality. It was at the Hartford radio station that Howard met his future show writer and producer, Fred Norris, who was working as an overnight deejay at the time. Stern moved to FM radio station WWWW "W4" in Detroit, Michigan, further developing his show until the station adopted a country music format, and then went to WWDC-FM "DC101," in Washington, D.C. for a year, making it the #1 station in town. In 1982, he returned to New York City to work at NBC's flagship AM radio station, WNBC Radio. Also working at NBC at that time was David Letterman, who became a fan of Stern's radio show. Stern's guest appearance on Late Night with David Letterman on June 19, 1984, launched Stern into the national spotlight and gave his radio show unprecedented exposure. Stern would appear on Letterman's show many times thereafter.
Stern and his crew were fired from NBC in 1985, ostensibly in response to a particularly outrageous sketch — "Bestiality Dial-A-Date" — although relations between station management and Stern had been strained from the beginning (as well documented in his book Private Parts). He quickly returned to FM radio by joining local rival station WXRK, premiering November 18, 1985, moving permanently to the morning drive time slot in February 1986. By year's end, his show was simulcast on WYSP in Philadelphia. Before long it was also heard in Washington, D.C., and was then syndicated nationwide by Infinity Broadcasting. The program made great sport out of feuding with other cities' top-rated deejays, and soon Stern's broadcast was number one in several major markets, including Philadelphia and Los Angeles. His Arbitron numbers were strongest in the country's number one radio market, New York City, where his morning ratings more than tripled his station's average numbers the rest of the day.
Satellite radio career
On October 6, 2004, Stern announced on his show that he had signed a five year contract with Sirius, a satellite radio service. Sirius provided a budget of $500 million to pay Howard, his staff and general production costs. His personal salary has not been revealed. Other media sources have claimed that Stern netted a $225 million one-time stock bonus for meeting subscriber quotas, which he did meet in January 2006.
Stern stated that he was growing increasingly unhappy doing his show on terrestrial radio. The combined stresses of heavy censorship and editing by management as well as lengthy commercial breaks weighed into his decision to start anew on Sirius. Stern admitted to feeling "dead inside creatively" in December, 2005 while still on terrestrial radio..
The Sirius deal, which took effect on January 1, 2006, enabled Stern to broadcast his show without the content restrictions imposed by the FCC. Moreover, the deal also enabled Stern to program an additional Sirius channel.
On February 28, 2006, CBS Radio announced it had filed a lawsuit against Stern, his agent Don Buchwald, and Sirius Satellite Radio, saying Stern used CBS's airwaves to unfairly promote the satellite service and enrich himself.Late Show with David Letterman and its news magazine show 60 Minutes. "I made them millions of dollars. If I was hurting them, why did they keep me on the air for 14 months?" Stern said. "How can you have it both ways?"
The lawsuit also claims that Stern "repeatedly and willfully" breached his contract with CBS, "misappropriated millions of dollars worth of … airtime" for his own benefit, and "fraudulently concealed" his performance-related interests in Sirius stock. The suit, filed in New York state court, sought compensatory and punitive damages. Not to be outdone, Stern earlier in the day (prior to CBS's announcement) held a press conference at which he mentioned that CBS added to the media attention, booking him for appearances on
Leslie Moonves appeared on one of Stern's final shows to compliment him on his move to Sirius and thank him for the record advertising revenue the network sold. Moonves told Stern that he bought Sirius stock. Stern said the network had the option to "push the button" on his program, taking him off the air, if they did not agree with what he was presenting to the public.
On May 11, 2006, CBS said it was near settling the lawsuit with Stern. "We have an agreement, but there are details that have to be worked out," said CBS lawyer Irvin Nathan. Some details of the agreement were officially announced May 26.
As a result of the CBS lawsuit settlement, Stern announced on June 7, 2006 that Sirius gained exclusive rights to his entire back catalog of radio shows from his days at CBS (about 23,000 hours). The shows cost Sirius approximately $2 million, which equates to approximately $87 per hour of tape. Sirius has the rights to the tapes until the end of Stern's current contract with Sirius, and then all ownership rights will return to Stern.
Career in other media
In 1993, Stern released his autobiography, Private Parts. The book was a bestseller and became the fastest selling book in Simon & Schuster's history.
In 1988 when Fox was looking for a late night talk show host to replace Joan Rivers, they gave Howard the opportunity to record five pilot episodes of a late night show. Stern claims that he and the network did not see eye to eye with censorship of the episodes, and a show never materialized.
In 1990, Stern aired a sketch comedy show on New York's Channel 9, which was also called "The Howard Stern Show". The show lasted 65 episodes before ending in 1993.
In 1994, Stern embarked on a political campaign for Governor of New York, formally announcing his candidacy under the Libertarian Party ticket. His platform included restoring the death penalty, limiting road construction work to nighttime hours, and abolishing tolls. However, he subsequently withdrew his candidacy because he did not wish to comply with the financial disclosure requirements for candidates.
In 1996, Stern released his second book, Miss America, which focused more on his radio career.
In 1997, he starred in Private Parts, a biographical film chronicling his rise to success. The film is based on his 1993 autobiography Private Parts. The film premiered at the top of the box office in its opening weekend with a gross of $14.6 million. It grossed slightly more than $41 million in total.
The movie received mostly positive reviews from critics, including Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, who were frequent guests of Stern's radio show. Some critics claimed the film glossed over his use of sexual and racial humor.
For his performance, Stern won the Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Male Newcomer. The awards are given based on write-in votes from fans, and Stern won by a wide margin. Stern was nominated for a Golden Satellite Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Comedy). He was also nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst New Star.
In 2002, Stern's production company Howard Stern Productions acquired the rights to the 1982 movie Porky's and the 1979 movie Rock 'n' Roll High School. Stern was also a producer of the TV series Son of the Beach, which ran for three seasons.
He informed listeners early in 2004 that the ABC television network was in talks with him to produce an interview special.