Ahhhh, the shower. All day, Howard Stern has felt so goddamned pressured. He’s in one of his obsessive funks, so frequent lately, and can’t wait to get under the hot water. And freaking relax. So Howard sneaks off, pads across the whitish bathroom tiles, a towel secured around his waist. Howard’s not one to run around the apartment naked. Not with his very small penis—no need for Beth to see him unaroused.
Howard steps into the shower, a palace of curved, floor-to-ceiling glass, determined to escape the stress that is freaking brutal. Every morning, Howard does four-plus hours of America’s most popular morning-radio show. In a few weeks, he will join Sirius, a satellite-radio company, where he vows to reinvent the medium. Sirius is betting $500 million (and, probably, its future) on Howard; it’s given him two entire channels. That’s 48 hours of dead air to fill every single day. Plus, Beth seems to feel a little ignored right now. No wonder he’s barely sleeping.
In the shower, Howard powers up the hot water. There are nozzles everywhere, like eight of them. His hair, that dense wheel of curls, which, thank God, he still has, flattens against his head. Just stand there, Howard tells himself. Zone out. He’s a Transcendental Meditation guy. Every morning and night, he empties his head, which is what he’d like to do right now. Except the vibe’s not right. Is it the freaking bathroom mirror? From the shower, Howard can catch a glimpse of himself, enough to disturb anyone. “Fat!” is Howard’s reaction to a mirror. “Ugly!”
Just freaking breathe. In TM, you let distracting thoughts float right out of your mind. Some thoughts, though, are like fish bones. Like how about that ad Howard’s boss took out? Good riddance to twenty years of stale fart jokes, as if he couldn’t wait to usher Howard out the door. Infuriating! Reduce Howard to fart jokes! What about his penis and vagina material? He practically invented saying penis and vagina on the radio! And his stripper bits and lesbian gags and his legion of deformed and defective characters? Howard’s boss ought to drop to his knees and thank him. Those fart jokes built an empire! That genius should get testicular cancer!
Which might be about the time that Howard hears the voice. Where the fuck is this coming from? Howard thinks. He hears a series of sharp, percussive notes, like an old Teletype machine. It’s the way WINS, the all-news radio station, introduces its newscast. Then Howard hears a news anchor’s sonorous voice. Except that instead of introducing the WINS newscast, Howard hears the voice intone, It’s “he Howard 100 News.”
It’s like the radio gods are sending Howard a radio show. All the news you want about the universe that is Howard Stern. Everything about the characters in Howard’s world, their fascinating lives, including, yes, the gases they pass. And not just the gases! Howard hears that rich newscaster’s voice say, The Howard Stern Sports Department. But our sports, thinks Howard. Like how about High Pitch Eric, one of his characters, who’s fat and disgusting and speaks like a girl, eats for a whole day. People could bet on his, uh, output. It’ll be the . . . Craptacular! Howard can imagine the hushed, reverent tones of the sportscaster, as if he’s describing Tiger Woods. There in the steamy shower, Howard puts his fist to his mouth, like it’s a microphone: High Pitch approaches the Porta Potti. He appears ready. Concentration is on his face . . . That’s funny! That’s genius!
Howard’s boss no longer permits fart noises on the air. But on satellite, anything goes. Yes, Howard thinks, I want to host the Craptacular.
Howard’s so excited about “The Howard 100 News” he’s got to tell Beth. He rushes out of the shower, almost forgetting the towel. Six foot five and hung like an acorn! Where’s the goddamned towel? “Honey?!”
In recent years, Howard Stern claims to have harbored a deep secret. It’s a notion that seems, on the face of it, preposterous. After all, Howard has a confessional urge like no one’s ever heard. Before Howard, radio was mostly comforting, discreet, tasteful. Emotion, if it surfaced at all, was happy (later on, and even worse, it was mellow). “[Radio] was a lot of people who didn’t say shit,” grumbles Howard. To Howard, that was all phony, and Howard despises phonies. “The show is about honesty,” he says earnestly. But Howard’s honesty is not the honesty of, say, Oprah. Howard hates Oprah. Howard’s earliest professional instinct was to erase the line between private and public, which often mirrors the one separating discomfort and comfort. Howard says, “Discomfort is something interesting to explore.” Starting, of course, with his own. His anal fissures? His ex-wife’s miscarriage? Howard wants you to know.