Sunday, September 16, 2012

Miss America by Howard Stern - a Book Review

I still remember when the movie Private Parts hit the theatre in March of 1997, when I was still only 15. I was born and raised in Toronto, so I had never even heard of Howard Stern. But I knew the movie would be awesome – I could tell from the television previews - so I rushed off to watch it in the theatre, and, not surprisingly, I was right; in fact, it was even better than I had expected. It was a box-office hit. Sheer genius, that’s what it was. I loved it so much I went back with a friend of mine, and I watched it a second time. I had never watched a movie twice in the theatre before, but I loved it so much that I felt compelled to. I was really blown away. It was the most awesome thing I had ever seen. It is still in my top five favourite movies of all time.

When I found out, the following summer, that Howard Stern was about to hit the airwaves on Q107 in Toronto, I was beyond ecstatic. I couldn’t wait. I knew he would come in like a hurricane, and completely monopolize Toronto morning radio, and, again, not to my surprise, I was right. Within the first few days of him hitting the airwaves in September of 1997, one third of all cars on the roads of morning traffic were tuned into the Howard Stern Show - the greatest radio show in the history of this planet, that’s for sure. Princess Diana had just recently died at the time, and he was doing a lot of hilarious song parodies about the incident that you can find on YouTube now, and he was getting a lot of calls from angry women who adored the Princess – idiots who can’t take a joke – but his ratings soared due to all the people who do not know well enough to change the station when they do not like what they are hearing, and instead stay tuned even longer. Masochists.

I read the book of Private Parts, which is a completely different thing than the movie, in the summer of ’98. It was a really thick book, but I was so drawn into it and its brilliant hilarity and outrageousness that I finished it in no time. I have never finished a book that quickly in my life. It was the fastest selling book in Simon and Schuster’s history, and rightly so. That same summer somebody got me the Private Parts Soundtrack. I listened to that thing incessantly for years to come. It was one of my prized possessions, and I have a very large CD collection. That album both rocks and makes you laugh at the same time. It’s pure gold, just like everything else Stern has ever done, including his hit show on the E Network that he had on for years, and which aired five days a week. Hey, why do you think he’s called the King of all Media? Because he excels at every medium he puts his mind to: radio, television, literature, film and soundtracks. In short: the man is a GOD!

A lot of years have gone by since I read Private Parts, but my most favoured brand of comedy has not changed, and my first published book, Incorrigibility attests to that. I have now finally read Howard Stern’s second book, published in 1995, entitled, Miss America. It become clear to me, before even finishing the first chapter, why it quickly became the fastest selling book in publishing history. Yes, indeed, you read right. (Now it’s Harry Potter, however, that holds that record.) It isn’t just how funny the man is that enthralls a person into what he has to say, no. It is, more than anything, his unabashed authenticity – the thing that makes phonies, more than anyone, hate him so much and call him an ‘asshole.’ I’m not saying I don’t understand why so many people call him that, hell, he admits to being one three or four times in the book. The man is a professional asshole, make no mistake about it. But I’ll take an asshole who brashly speaks his mind, and who has made millions and millions of people enjoy their rides to work in the morning while being stuck in traffic, over an uptight asshole who is disingenuous to the very core of his or her being.

Howard gets a lot of flak from puritans from both the religious and feminist spheres, claiming that he is sexist and objectifies women. The first claim is a ridiculous lie on its face, because he absolutely, thoroughly believes in the equality of the sexes – that is, equal pay for equal work – and in no way ever exalted his sex over woman’s, and everyone knows that. The problem is that the word “sexist” is so vulgarly thrown around these days, which has, in turn, caused it to lose its true, original meaning. And to call Howard Stern of all people that – a man who believes in the sexual freedom and liberation of women, and who always fights for their right to choose – is pure slander; that’s all it is, and it sickens me to my very core.  It should sicken you, too, as a matter of fact, both on an intellectual and moral level.

The second claim, of course, has to do with the different women who are constantly coming on his show to strip down to nothing (or almost nothing) and talk about their sex lives, a major aspect of the show since the early 80s. To this, I would first just like to say that I have never, for the life of me, been able to see how a woman can suddenly transform into a sex object, or be deemed as being treated like one, simply by showing off her beauty and having others admire it. She is still a person while that happens, after all, not an object. The claim is ridiculous and nonsensical and is usually thrown around by dirty-minded losers who like throwing filth and guilt on sexuality, often because of their own sexual frustrations and hatred towards life (sex, of course, being a biological prerequisite of life and the ultimate expression of life), not to mention insecure women who hate the way they look and are insecure about aging and no longer being (or never in their lives being) nearly as attractive as the beautiful women who go on the Howard Stern Show to be ogled. It is not so much a contempt for Howard, as for the male sexual prowess itself and towards what men tend to find most sexually appealing that drives this backlash of defamation.  

Second of all, even if women were “objectified” by Howard Stern, not to mention strip clubs and pornographic magazines, for that matter, I still do not see anything wrong with this so-called objectification, namely, because ALL OF US are objectified in our day-to-day lives! It’s the norm of existing at all! A cashier is objectified as someone who works a cash register. Does that mean we no longer view that person as a human being but merely as an object because that is all we happen to know of him or her at that moment? Of course not! And I don’t see any shame in being a cashier, nor do I see any shame in being paid to pose naked for a centerfold. What’s the use of having a beautiful body, if you’re not going to harness it in some way? It’s a gift, just like an intelligent mind is. There is no shame in that. NONE! The shame would be in taking such gifts for granted and letting them go to waste.

Finally, I would like to pose this question: How can something that is already “objectified” be objectified as if it were not already? That is, long before there were ever cook books, food was objectified as something that you ate and was desired as something that fills the appetite and sates the taste buds. And long before there was Howard Stern, Hugh Hefner and pornography of any kind, women were, indeed, something that were lusted after, and so were men! Sexual attraction and the human interest in sexuality is not a twentieth-century phenomenon! It is a biological fact among animals, which we are, like it or not, and no amount of petty idealizing is ever going to change that. Lust is GOOD! Sex is AWESOME!! It’s the reason I’m here writing this right now, and why you are alive and breathing and reading it! If our parents had never lusted after each other, we would not be here right now. End of story. And stop using obnoxious morality to infect others with your degenerate hang-ups and to then get a feeling of moral superiority over them; it’s pathetic! And for the record, nobody ever has a gun to the heads of the women who choose to strip down on Howard's show and talk about their sex lives. They willingly and freely come on for just that reason! It's damn good publicity being on the Howard Stern Show.

But to continue: As with his first book, Miss America lets you right into his life from the get-go, giving you the most intimate of details, without any preliminaries. It is raw and it is real, and that’s why, like all his work, it has gained such mass appeal from people. The first chapter is all about Howard’s discovery of cyber sex shortly after the founding of the internet, and his preoccupation with masturbation, even at the age of forty-one, which is how old he was when he wrote this masterful book. He takes you right back to his antics in childhood, and his sexual frustrations and obsessions with getting girls, just like he does in Private Parts. Chapter Two is one of the most captivating of the entire book and is many people’s favourite section. It’s about the secret interview that Howard has with Michael Jackson and his agent, which Howard held himself from revealing on the air in order to keep it a surprise for the book. It’s hilarious! I won’t say anymore about it, however. This review isn’t meant to be a spoiler of any kind.

In Chapter Three, he discusses his own personal struggles since college with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and then severe, excruciating back pain that started as shoulder and neck pain near the end of his days at WNBC. After years of being held hostage by them, he found a way of overcoming their stranglehold over his life, and reveals the secret as to how he did that in this remarkable chapter. It’s an incredible story, and millions of people out there could benefit from this section, whether they have OCD, back pain, or any other kind of ailment that they have to suffer with on a daily basis. It’s a matter of dealing with your emotional and psychological issues head on, instead of suppressing them out of fear of looking weak. In suppression comes the toll taken on the mind and body. What this chapter is, is one of self-overcoming and strength, and offers hope to so many. Howard did not give up, you see, like so many do with their physical and/or mental anguish. He did not want to go to a physician who would merely give him prescription drugs that would create a whole new whack of problems from side-effects. He searched and searched until he finally met the doctor who would change his life for the better – Dr. Sarno.

Through meditation, Howard realized that his OCD was a manifestation of his unwillingness to turn an honest eye towards all of his insecurities, anxieties and feelings of failure that if he did not make it in the radio industry, he would be a mere shell of a man who could not support a family. The OCD was there to distract him from this turmoil of his, as a suppressive mask. He then realized that his egregious back pain was there to distract him from what was causing his OCD. The whole thing is truly a remarkable story that begins with his childhood, and then goes on through college. His very messed-up LCD stories are incredible, but also very intense and frightening! Great, great stuff!   

Chapter Four is The Stern Ponderosa. Part of it is about his home life with his wife and kids, and how boring of a person he usually is when he is at home. It is in this chapter that he gives his “Fantasy Fuck List” of women he would have liked to sleep with if his wife, Alison (whom he later divorced in ’99), died. Each woman is divided into OCCUPATION, NEGATIVE TRAITS, AVAILABILITY, CHANCE OF SCORING AND DESCRIPTON. Fun, fun stuff! Chapter Five is about what he calls his “second family.” They are, of course, his coworkers and employees. He gives great detail about his relationships with them, and the hilarious idiosyncrasies of their personalities and characteristics. For me, by far the funniest personality of them all is Fred Norris. I always liked Fred. As for Robin, it turns out she’s completely insane, and for years was impossible to work with both on a professional and social level, which did not surprise me at all. I was never a fan of Robin’s to tell you the truth. Chapter Six is a short chapter about pretentious celebrities, both in the Hollywood and political sphere, whom he cannot stand. Nobody can rant like Howard Stern, he’s a master at that forte of his.

Chapter Seven is without a doubt my favourite chapter of the book: LONG LIVE THE BEAST!  This one really grabbed me from the very beginning, because I could relate heavily to what he was saying:

“Yes, somewhere, deep in my bosom, deep in my soul, deep in my heart, lives…‘THE BEAST.’ For the most part, THE BEAST never emerges and never rears its ugly head. I keep THE BEAST buried, deep inside. On most days you’d say I was a model citizen: I am kind to my parents, faithful to my wife, and loving to my children. But make no mistake, I have a dark side, and that dark side is evil and mean. I am capable of true terror, but it is THE BEAST who drives me to do those cruel and unthinkable acts.”

Howard gives the details as to what created this beast inside him in his life, in case you were wondering. It’s fascinating stuff!

Now, WNBC had fired Howard Stern, and the rest of the chapter is how Howard harnessed the beast to destroy WNBC in the morning ratings from his new-found home at 92.3 K-Rock. The beast had called out to him from within for the first time on March 25, 1986 to do just that, for when the beast sets Howard’s mind on doing something, he does not rest until it is accomplished. The beast does not let him rest, you see. After the ratings report that showed K-Rock’s landslide of a victory at number one, Howard and the gang held a funeral on the streets of New York City for the ratings-death of WNBC within shouting distance of NBC’s godforsaken office building. They had won over their entire audience! Within half an hour, four thousand loyal Stern-show fans showed up to salute the man who put his former bosses in their place, and rub their noses in the biggest mistake they had ever made. Robin eloquently read the eulogy and then everyone gave WNBC the finger in unison, the beast from the open sunroof of the hearse they had rented. That’s what you get for firing the greatest thing to ever happen to radio, YOU MORONS!!

Next was the Philadelphia market where he destroyed DeBella and held a funeral for him in his hometown after defeating him in the ratings as well, not to mention DeBella’s wife, who DeBella was giving a severely hard time to in their divorce. This is where the great Captain Janks comes into play. He was personally offended by DeBella for the most hilarious of reasons, and ended up dating his ex-wife, thanks to the Dial-a-Date that Howard had set up on the show for her to come on. God, revenge is so sweet, and it was being dished out here on all sides! Midway through the chapter, which is about midway through the book, there is a short but brilliant, and very professionally done, Fartman comic strip, followed by different titles and movie posters that Howard went through for his movie, which was still in the making while the book was being written. We’re talking sheer juvenile brilliance, baby, I’m telling you!

In Chapter Eight, Howard then goes on to give the details, both on the air and behind the scenes, of how he went on to take over radio across the United States through syndication, something unprecedented and unheard of before him. It’s a very short and to-the-point kind of chapter. The next two chapters will easily be a lot of people’s favourites, as they are simply HILARIOUS! Chapter Nine is all about Howard’s infamous run for governor of New York State. Chapter Ten is pure gold, simply because it revolves around the great Stuttering John, who is, of course, one of the legendary former characters of the Howard Stern show, and is also one of the highlights of Private Parts, the book.

Chapter Eleven is great, especially for people, like myself, who are huge fans of prank calls. Howard Stern phony phonecallers are a phenomenon that were unleashed across America beginning with Captain Janks in 1989. Howard highlights and writes out in script-form the greatest prank calls ever done to live television shows in his honour. It’s fabulous, especially since Howard himself loved doing crank calls as a kid, as did I when I was 16 and 17, but that’s a different story altogether. Chapter Twelve is all about celebrities whom he loves and whom he loves to hate on. There are some classic interviews in this chapter, it’s awesome. And the rant against that walking, talking abomination of American right-wing punditry and rhetoric, Rush Limbaugh, is simply superb and warmed my heart to read!

Chapter Thirteen is another heroic chapter, this time about Howard’s battle with the U.S. Government, specifically, the abhorrent, repressive foulness known as the FCC. He shows how he became a kingmaker, that is, was able to win seats for governors so they could then, in turn, assist him against the oppressive, archaic tactics of censorship and extortion, executed, mafia-style, by the government of a supposedly free country. There’s a great story in there about how he got a pit stop named after him, too, which is just more brilliantly quirky stuff from a truly brilliant, unbelievably exciting life! – A life to be envied, to be sure.

Now Howard Stern, a true American icon and hero, is, of course, dominating satellite radio, and has been doing so ever since he got on Sirius Radio back in late 2005, when he said “goodbye” to his 20 million fans on terrestrial radio. Millions of them, of course, went on to purchase a Sirius radio and subscribe to Sirius so they could hear Howard completely and utterly raw and unadulterated, WITHOUT ANY GOVERNMENT INTERFERENCE WHATSOEVER, and, frankly, reading this marvelous book has truly brought out a need inside me to join as well. I really do miss him so very much, and hearing snippets of his show here and there on You Tube just isn’t cutting it for me anymore.

I give both this book a genuine five-star rating, just like I give that rating to Private Parts the book, Private Parts the movie, Private Parts the soundtrack, and, of course, to the Stern Radio Show itself.

Yes, indeed! Howard Stern: Truly the King of all Media, and, as he rightly said of himself on the air way back in ’83 while Eddie Murphy was on the show, truly God’s gift to comedy! PURITANS BE DAMNED!! And, not to get too philosophical, from a Nietzschean perspective, Howard Stern is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to an Overman in my life. IF THIS MAN IS NOT A GENIUS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THEN THE WORD ‘GENIUS’ HAS NO MEANING!! Howard, I LOVE YOU! I’ve ALWAYS loved you! I will always continue to love you! Thank you SO MUCH for all the laughs, the sheer ingenious comedy, for fighting the good fight against the insidious, insufferable curse of puritanism, for exposing ostentation wherever you have come across it, and for being the greatest interviewer I have ever heard in my life! You’re the only one who really knows the right questions to ask, and how to get the answers that everyone wants to hear, killing us with side-splitting laughter in the process. Your wit is undeniable to anyone with a sense of humour.

Thank you, Howard; thank you for being you.

Yours Truly,

Rayme Michaels

P.S. For the record, I do not agree with Stern at all when it comes to foreign policy. When it comes to that, I find his views to be abhorrent, ignorant, hateful and overtly racist. 

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