Howard Stern’s new satellite show kicks off this morning, but a lot of his fans are going to miss the opener. I spent a good chunk of my Sunday calling and/or visiting every Circuit City, Best Buy, Radio Shack and Fry’s Electronics in the Greater Los Angeles area looking for a second Sirius receiver.
There were massive piles of unsold XM units lying around at each of the outlets I visited, but the Sirius shelves in SoCal have now been picked clean. It appears a lot of people waited till the last minute before taking the plunge.
There were plenty of the cheaper Sirius Sportster units available as recently as Dec. 30, when I visited both Circuit City and Fry’s in Burbank - and I wish I had grabbed one then. The reason I didn’t? The Circuit City salesman who assured me the home dock I ordered for my Sirius S50 in December would be in my hands by Jan. 8. He was lying. Circuit City has my money. I have no home-dock. So I’m probably going to be down in my car driving around Studio City at 3 a.m. to hear Stern’s first official minutes on satellite.
Clearly, retailers and manufacturers seriously underestimated the demand for Sirius receivers. In a perfect world, Sirius would help rectify the inventory situation by streaming the Stern Channels on its website, as it does with its music channels, until the shelves are restocked. But I’m not holding my breath.
Mind you, this was the situation in Los Angeles, where Stern was replaced by acclaimed radio vet Adam Carolla. One can only imagine the situation in New York, Boston and Philadelphia, where fans and critics alike have expressed little more than disdain for the David Lee Roth show that replaced Stern’s terrestrial show in those markets.
6 a.m. (ET). Monday. Howard 100
6 a.m. (PT). Monday. Howard 101
Hey, everyone. Hope I'm not intruding. "Moriarty" here, and I wanted to tag on some of my own thoughts about the premiere of Howard's new show today. I'll try to update it as long as I'm still awake. I'm working on my end of the year list article right now, as well as this week's DVD SHELF, so I'll be awake for a while still.
2:58 AM, Los Angeles Time. Howard 100 on the dial is just a heartbeat. Onscreen, the phrase, "Join The Revolution!" keeps scrolling with a phone number to call. I'm not sure why.
3:01 AM, LAT. I walk back into the room from grabbing a drink, and I hear the sounds of "Thus Spake Zarathrustra" and a fart. Followed by Howard's familiar theme song, Rob Zombie blasting from the speakers. George Takei starts, introducing himself as the show's new announcer. "Thank god those annoying heartbeats are finally off the channel. Hoorah!" And the announcements continue. Benjy. Richard. Gary. Sal. Artie Lange. Fred. Robin. Then finally, "The richest man on the planet, free from terrestrial radio, with no bullshit! Howard Stern!"
And the first thing he does? Complain about his headphones. It's right back to business as usual.
His headphones are indeed fucked up. And within the first ten minutes, the commercial-free show needs to take a break, which even Howard had to laugh at, and he looked through the entire Sirius song library to find something to play to give them a moment. This leads to a discussion about what to play. Gary voted for Ben Folds doing "Bitches Ain't Shit," Artie wanted The Beatles, and George Takei asked Howard to play "Sentimental Journey," which forced Howard to send George to the Robo-Spanker.
Took 'em a moment to find it, but once he did, they got the song playing. Tom Petty. "Last DJ."
Once they came back, they had George Takei do some announcing, just to show him off a bit. They're not kidding. George Takei is their new announcer, and he'll read pretty much anything they put in front of him in his unmistakable style. Takei is the new Shatner, folks.
Howard got into a discussion of how many people are signing up to get their Sirius, and how the show's already a success. He talked about how 180,000 people got their services activated yesterday alone.
More technical troubles kept interrupting Howard, but he's making his basic point. He's happy. He's relieved. He knows the show is already paying for itself, so now it's all about just settling in and actually doing the show. He talks about how bittersweet it was to walk away from terrestrial radio, and how he's got some unresolved feelings about it. He thought his last show on regular radio was weak, and he thought he really screwed up some stuff. He didn't hear a lot of the speeches that were made that day, and he wanted to play them on this first show, but Viacom won't let them now, so Howard's not going to. He's beating himself up, beating up Scott the Engineer. He talks about how he's never going to reach 20 million people at the same time again at the punch of a single button. He talks about the 3 million person Sirius audience, which is bigger than most cable networks at their very best.
3:22. Howard says "fuck" for the first time.
3:23. In discussing what is or isn't appropriate to say on the show, Howard and George Takei end up saying "cunt" about 30 times.
In general, they're not going to be swearing on the show. Howard doesn't think saying "fuck" for the sake of "fuck" is funny, and that's actually nice to hear. They'll swear, of course, but when it happens, sounds like it will be natural, not something they're overthinking and overdoing just because they can.
3:26. They start taking phone calls for the first time, even as they're still wrestling with technical issues. I was out of the room again and missed the number.
3:30. Howard's playing an uncensored bit, where Fred mashed the Pat O'Brien tapes with Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog," which is frankly hilarious. When you can hear it uncensored, it's pretty glorious. That never could have existed on the old show at all. What's even better is listening to Howard explain the whole Pat O'Brien scandal to George Takei, who keeps mentioning ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES because he's thinking of the wrong Pat O'Brien. When he says how old he is, he says he was born the year that King George VI was coronated, turning the question into a history lesson. He's 68, born in 1938. Howard finally explains the tape that George just heard, since George was obviously shocked by it. His "Oh, myyyyyyyy" is hilarious.
They just played the phone number again. It's 1-888.89.ASSHOLE. I know that doesn't make sense, but that's the number. It was busy when I called it, so maybe it's right.
Then they played the complete Pat O'Brien tapes for George. They are pretty blisteringly dirty, if you've never heard them. "Well, I think that humanizes him," is George's big response. He isn't scandalized in the slightest. I love George's laugh. It's so bizarre. I'm not sure how much of it is him actually laughing, and how much is Fred playing his laugh as punctuation.
Howard says there's a press conference coming up later this morning. He says this and his upcoming CHARLIE ROSE appearance will be his last press for a while, the end of his publicity tour about the switch to Sirius.
George discussed his experimentation with heterosexuality. He also talked about losing his virginity at Boy Scout Camp at 14, having sex with one of his counselors. I'll say this... George isn't playing coy about anything. They tease him about getting his merit badge in fellatio, and George doesn't miss a beat. He talks about how "gorgeous" the guy was, describing his arm hair and his leg hair, and Fred starts playing romantic music to underscore the story as Artie offers to show him his backhair. They digress mightily, though, through thoughts on BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, Vinnie and his movie piracy, and many other subjects.
3:51. It takes this long for George to get out his full story. By this point, Artie's freaking out. During the entire story, Artie keeps getting more and more vocal and disgusted. Howard informs George that Artie is a rabid homophobe, to which Artie responds, "There are two types of men in the world: gay guys and homophobes." It's great. Artie's very uncomfortable with how flamboyant George is, and George seems to delight in making Artie uncomfortable.
3:55. Howard listens to an NBC report about the show's first morning, which starts to get sort of like standing between two mirrors. They listen to the NBC clip, on which, they play a clip of the show from earlier, and the one really funny part is listening to how the NBC guy sounds practically disappointed that Howard's show so far isn't wall-to-wall profanity. "So far... nothing. But we'll stay tuned." Hilarious.
4:00. Howard's been on the air for a full hour now, and he's starting to settle in to a real groove. It feels like the old show, but looser, and Howard's in a good mood. He talks about how he's been listening to David Lee Roth's show, and how he's got some ideas for how David could make the show better. He decides to call in to talk to David and offer his help live on the air. I haven't listened to any of DLR's show, and don't plan to, but the way Howard describes it, he's not just hammering the guy. I think Howard is sort of amazed by the show, and he's not looking to shit on him for taking his old time slot. His first big piece of advice: stop screening the phone calls to keep all the negative ones out.
4:03. They can't get through to David Lee Roth, so they decide to move on. By the way, I'm a moron. When I look at the radio, the phone number is right there on the screen. 1-888-9ASSHOLE. Makes more sense, I guess.
4:07. "Thus Spake Zarathrustra" and the fart sounds again.
I'm excited to hear that the show will be re-broadcast every night, so that even if I don't hear it in the mornings, I'll have a chance to hear it. The other programming during the day sounds good, too, but that rebroadcast is something I've always wanted.
4:15. I really can't believe that I'm listening to a discussion of whether or not George Takei still has anal sex. For the record, he does not. But after he allows Howard to quiz him about what he will or won't do, he insists that he'd like to hear what Howard does. They keep offering to let George Takei have Will the intern, and George doesn't sound like he's opposed to the idea.
Will seems nervous.
4:23. David Lee Roth has passed on the request to have Howard call in live. This leads to the debate about whether that refusal came straight from DLR, or whether it's the management. This turns into a pretty big conversation about him again, and then a bigger conversation about radio in general.
For the talkbackers who are showing up to comment that this isn't the end-all-be-all cutting edge show to end all shows, I think you're missing the point. Either you enjoy listening to Howard or you don't. Opie and Anthony played the Pat O'Brien tapes before? Okay. Yay for them. I think they're both annoying shitbags. You think the same of Howard. Variety is the spice of life. I'm not posting these descriptions of the show for you. I'm posting them for fans of the show who don't have a Sirius hook-up. I'm not trying to convince anyone, okay?
Captain Janks shows up and plays a few prank calls he couldn't play on terrestrial radio. Nothing particularly blistering, but I always love the way he causes awkward silences with his questions.
4:38. They play a commercial for TISSUE TIME, another show on Howard 100. It's the dirtiest thing all morning so far, as Heidi, the host of the show, gives a handjob to Evil Dave Letterman. I still can't believe how much Evil Dave sounds like the real Dave, and listening to him ask her to work a finger up in his ass is like a surreal dream if you grew up watching Letterman the way I did. At the moment of climax, Dave orders her, "Tell me you're Al Roker, and you're going to rape me." This may be the most deranged bit that they've ever created for Evil Dave. Hats off. The biggest laugh of the show so far. "I want every employee of Sirius Radio to come to Studio 1-B right now and rape my ass!" It's not a commercial, per se, turns out. It's just a segment from an episode of TISSUE TIME, which is basically a phone sex show. It's the first time I've ever been afraid of my wife walking in on me listening to the radio.
4:44. Howard reveals that he is married again. The rumors are true. Robin immediately demands that he pay her a million dollars, claiming there was a bet back on the old show. Artie is devastated. Ralph says he doesn't believe it. Gary demands an explanation. George thinks that it is great, but he turns it into a demand for gay marriage equal rights. Sal congratulates him and says, "Call me in six months once she stops sucking your dick." They go back to Artie, who is truly shocked.
4:49. Howard reveals that he is not married. The rumors are not true. Howard was just curious how everyone would react. He tells the story of how the rumor got started, and how it spun out of control.
4:52. Gary comes in to tell Howard how the press conference is coming along. There's a lot of celebrity press in the lobby, eating breakfast, getting ready.
4:55. I love it when they play clips of George Takei where they've taken conversations with him and re-cut them to make him say insane things. I love it even more when they play those clips for George while he yells "I did not say that! You fabricated that!" in the background.
5:02. We're starting the third hour of the show now, and Howard decides they're going to read the Revelations now. This is a feature they've been prepping for, in which each of the members of the show has admitted something tremendous, and those revelations are about to be read on the air. George Takei does the intro, mentioning his own recent revelation of his homosexuality as an example of what to expect.
First one: "I cheated on my wife, and she caught me." They won't say who belongs to each of these comments. Not yet. So it becomes a guessing game.
Second one: "I once hid in a bathroom closet and pleasured myself when my family members when to the bathroom." We know this is a "him" at least thanks to the way Will describes.
Third one: "In the last year, I got a girl pregnant and had to pay for her abortion." Shock from everyone, and another "Oh, myyyyyyyyyyyyy" from George.
Fourth one: "I think I'm addicted to porn. I jerk off twice a day, and prefer to masturbate to having sex."
Fifth one: "I have spent well over $10,000 on internet porn."
Sixth one: "My buddy and I once ordered the massage girls to our hotel room, but they ripped us off and left us staring at each other."
Seventh one: "I have pleasured myself with meat and vegetables."
Eighth one: "I have a half-sister I never met and don't want to."
Ninth one: "I've had cosmetic surgery."
Tenth one: "A guy once blew his load on my chest." "Oh, myyyyyyy."
Eleventh one: "I once had my stomach pumped for alcohol poisoning, and when I woke up in the hospital, an acquaintance of the same sex was fondling my genitals."
5:11. It's on to the guessing now, and this is what makes it fun. They're going to wait a whole week before they reveal who said what, to allow for many arguments and bets. Right now, though, they've got to move quickly and get to the press conference, and in the meantime, they'll play another song. This leads to another conversation of what they should play, which leads to more guessing, which just turns into a free-for-all. By the time Artie finally chooses a Springsteen tune, it's 5:25, and they still haven't taken their pre-press conference break.
5:31. The press conference finally begins, with George Takei doing a super-pompous introduction that concludes with, "He is as close to a God as any man I've ever seen."
I'm not going to do a blow-by-blow of the press conference unless a particularly great question and answer pops up.
5:44. Okay. That's it. The show's great, but I'm off to bed. I'll have to listen to the rest later. I hope you guys are enjoying it. It was nice being here for this much of it live.
Thanks to Drew Carey for the generous (and forward-thinking) gift of the Sirius subscription. I'll be renewing it myself when this one is up. Great stuff, and I recommend Sirius overall. I've compared it to XM, and if Sirius only had Cinemagic (an all movie score channel), then there would be absolutely no competition at all. Sirius is pretty great. Subscription radio may be giving some people fits, but the model makes sense to me. Enough for now, though. Viva La Stern! Viva La Revolucion!