Howard Stern

Love him or hate him, Howard Stern single-handedly revolutionized the talk radio format in the U.S. Before hitting it big in the '80s and '90s, talk radio was strictly limited to newscasts, but Stern took it a whole step further -- incorporating comedy (often sexually charged), sketches, song parodies, celebrity interviews, and witty observations into his weekday four-hour shows. Born on January 12, 1954, Stern grew up in Long Island, NY, and attended Boston University in the early '70s, where he got his start in radio. After graduating, Stern took several jobs at radio stations across the U.S. during the decade (including Hartford, Detroit, and Washington D.C.). While he was forced to play songs during his shows throughout the early years, he also found time to hone his talents as he focused on his ultimate goal -- a show that focused entirely on talk. It was during this time that Stern met future writer Fred Norris and partner-in-crime/newswoman Robin Quivers. The three formed a union that would turn out to be the winning ingredient for radio success. Although his ratings soared, Stern found it hard to break free of the restrictions laid down by narrow-minded program directors, station managers, and worst of all, the FCC. Stern returned back to his home state of New York in 1982 when he landed an afternoon slot on WNBC. The New York area automatically embraced Stern, who became a regional celebrity -- it was during this time that he also picked up show regulars Gary "Baba Booey" Dell'Abate (producer) and another writer, stand-up comic Jackie "the Jokeman" Martling. Despite enjoying big ratings and the promise of branching out into TV on the horizon, WNBC inexplicably fired Stern in 1985. Stern and his gang signed on soon after with WXRK in New York, and his career really took off when the show was moved to mornings and became nationally syndicated (WNBC would eventually go off the air). Due to the strength of his funny and unpredictable appearances on such television talk shows as Late Night with David Letterman, Stern landed his own Saturday evening TV show in 1990 (on New York's WOR). His fame spread throughout the decade as another show regular, "Stuttering John" Melendez (who specialized in asking abrasive questions to unsuspecting celebrities), joined the crew. Although the WOR TV show lasted only a few years, Stern succeeded in broadening his horizons -- including two autobiographical best-selling books (1993's Private Parts and 1995's Miss America), a motion picture (an adaptation of Private Parts in 1997), as well as two more TV shows -- one nightly show on the E! Entertainment Television network and another on CBS on Saturday nights (the latter of which was dropped by late 2001, however). In 2000, he also added TV show creator/producer to his impressive list of credits for the comedy program Son of the Beach, as well as developing a post-apocalyptic cartoon series called Doomsday. But despite all the success, this period proved to be one of turbulence for Stern as he and longtime wife, Alison Stern, divorced in 1999 and Martling left the show over a contract dispute in early 2001. (He was replaced by comedy actor/writer Artie Lang). But none of these distractions proved detrimental to Stern or his career, as his radio show continues to prosper. ~ Greg Prato

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