Saturday, November 17

How the ‘King of All Media’ got crowned


Wednesday, 3/5/97

How the ‘King of All Media’ got crowned

DJ Howard Stern takes on cinema in his new biopic ‘Private
Parts’

By Vanessa VanderZanden

Daily Bruin Contributor

He calls himself the "King of All Media." His no-holds-barred
image pervades not only cable TV but bookstores and airwaves alike.
As he gingerly affixes his long, curly locks and indicates his
willingness to begin answering questions about his long-awaited
film "Private Parts," many journalists wonder: Who is this polite
man and what has he done with the raucous radio disc jockey Howard
Stern?

"I was just doing an interview with a woman who said to me, ‘I
gotta tell you something, I was not a fan,’" Stern says. "’I never
got what you were doing. I didn’t understand it. I saw the movie
and I get it all now. … You know, I never understood why your
wife stayed with you but now I do.’

"And to me, this is incredible feedback, you know, this is
really wild."

However, baring his soul has never been that difficult a task
for Stern. In fact, it remains the reason why people wake up at 6
a.m. and flip their dials to KLOS to hear his New York-based
nationally broadcast show. Now Howard’s raw honesty and self-aware
ego transgress airwaves as he plays the lead in the film adaptation
of his best-selling autobiography, "Private Parts."

"When I wrote the book ‘Private Parts,’ I never envisioned it
being a movie," he said. "And when people from Hollywood said,
‘Let’s turn this thing into a movie,’ I said, ‘How?’

"I began to read people’s interpretations of the book and what
they thought the movie should be. It seemed very over the top. …
I really think that my life had something interesting in it. I
thought there was a love story there between me and my wife … and
ultimately I became this guy on the radio who said whatever was on
my mind, and that caused problems in the marriage. I didn’t want to
sugarcoat the movie."

Yet the film remains a comedy at its core, reflecting the
irreverent candor and wit which has framed Stern’s career. The
precise amount of humor and dramatic sensibilities took some time
to find, though, as script after mundane script met with rejection.
Only through the help of Ivan Reitman – director of such well-loved
hits as "Animal House" and "Ghostbusters" – and writer Len Bloom
did the screenplay come to life.

The culmination of this six-month process overjoyed a frazzled
Stern.

"Things were getting so bad that people from the studio were
saying to me, ‘You don’t want to make a movie. You’re scared to
make a movie,’" he recalls.

"I think it would be exciting! I’m the guy who bared his butt
cheeks on MTV. I mean, I’m not afraid to make a movie and it got to
the point where they said, ‘Well, if you won’t make this movie,
we’ll get Jeff Goldblum to play Howard Stern.’ I said, ‘No!’ The
Fly as Howard Stern? I don’t get it! I’d go, ‘No, man, I’m trying
to do the right thing here. I want to make a good movie.’"

Veering from the standard Stern footage available on his E!
channel show and mad vocal ravings readily heard through his radio
persona, Stern’s film indulges fans on a more intimate level. The
script strolls through his trials and tribulations from childhood
to the present day, as he narrates the scenes revealing all of the
neuroses embedded within his turbulent psyche.

"I wanted the movie to feel like there was a camera hidden in
the room somewhere and you were eavesdropping on my life," Stern
says. "I like the idea that the audience is getting to see me when
I was ‘the geek’ who didn’t know what to do on the air and how my
character developed on the air and how I came to the conclusion of
how to be honest on the radio. I wanted the audience to be in on
all the different hairstyles and the fact that I looked so darn
goofy. I’m still looking goofy."

Prepared to carry through Stern’s vision, Reitman brought in
director Betty Thomas for the project. Her rough camera angles and
sense of immediacy provide the movie with a documentary-like sense.
But Thomas was not only an appropriate choice for "Private Parts"
director because of her intimate filming style. Her skill for
coaching first-time actor Stern was equally important to the
success of the film.

"I’m used to being my own man. Anything I think of I can say and
open that microphone and I’m there," Stern explains. "Now, all of a
sudden, you’re making a movie and there’s a million people
involved. There’s a lot resting on your shoulders and I’m down
there going, ‘Betty! You don’t understand! I work spontaneously!
Just get a lot of cameras in here and then don’t miss a thing!’
Eventually, she just calmed me down, and she would take me through
the motions."

Soon Stern got the hang of acting. Thomas added to Stern’s
comfort by giving him the creative freedom to ad lib whenever he
desired, allowing for a truly organic product. At times, the two
would even sit down together in combined frustration over how to
shoot a sequence. But Thomas’ sharp cinematic instincts kept the
film moving right along.

"There’s a scene that I do with my wife in the movie (where) she
says to me, ‘I’m pregnant,’ and I remember I said to her, ‘You’re
pregnant?’" Stern says. "You know, I’m sitting across the table
from her and it never seemed real to me. It always seemed like I
was acting.

"While I’m doing something, Betty comes over and whispers in my
ear, ‘I have ovarian cancer.’ I go, ‘What?’ She goes, ‘That’s the
moment. That’s what you want to show. You want to show surprise and
shock. Your wife’s telling you she’s pregnant! You’re
overwhelmed.’

"I mean, just doing that little exercise all of a sudden would
get you on track."

Equally important to the success of the film is the role of
Allison, Howard Stern’s wife. Though initially many well-known
actresses snubbed reading the script, thinking, in Stern’s words,
"Oh, it’s a Howard Stern movie. It must be, like, a lot of
spankings or something," quite a few well-known stars began
expressing interest in the strong female part. Yet, finding a
believable actress not yet oversaturated in the media proved a
difficult task. Eventually, Mary McCormick of television’s "Murder
One" landed the role.

"Ivan and Betty showed me some tape of (‘Murder One’) and I
said, ‘Oh, she looks too, I don’t know, fancy or something,’" says
Stern of his initial reaction to McCormick. "So they would bring
these people in to do scenes with me and … I’m auditioning and -
being the big ego that I am – I would, of course, only pay
attention to myself. I’m not even paying attention to Mary, but
thank God they had it on tape because all of a sudden, Betty plays
it back for me. I go, ‘This is, this is Allison! Look no further,
this is Allison!’"

The real Allison Stern also makes an appearance in the flick.
She cameos as an NBC operator trying to deal with a lit-up
switchboard when Stern pretends to be the first gay disc jockey.
Though the footage looks a little fuzzy, the inclusion of Stern’s
wife in the work completes the sentimental mood to which test
audience members have responded to so positively.

"The Paramount people said, ‘This is the highest test screening
we’ve ever had since "Indiana Jones" and "Forest Gump,"’ and I’m
like, ‘What! Are you kidding?’" recalls a proud Stern. "You know, I
think a lot of people walked out and said, ‘The movie inspired me
to follow my dream.’ I never imagined that would happen. For the
best, I hoped that people would laugh, but it’s true. When you see
the transition, after his father calls him a moron and all these
radio guys tell him he stinks and then finally you succeed. So if
it’s inspirational to some people, that’s cool."

Though Stern’s goal in life was to enliven people’s mornings
with a humorous commute to work, the multitalented performer may be
branching out. A film sequel to "Private Parts" will probably soon
be in the works, while other acting proposals have already crept
up. Thomas has offered Stern a role in her next project, starring
Eddie Murphy, and Reitman has handed him a script for a separate
movie. Both roles require Stern to step out of his persona, but
such a leap may not prove too great a stretch.

"It was a challenge, this whole acting thing, because quite
frankly, I didn’t know if I could do it or not," explains Stern. "I
felt I could, but going back and playing yourself as a 20-year-old,
you gotta really sit down and say, ‘I wasn’t this guy that you’re
talking to now. I was a real insecure guy …’ I went back and
listened to all my old radio tapes and I noticed that when I was on
the air I was always out of breath because I was so damn nervous.
… I wanted the audience to see that I wasn’t self-realized. I
didn’t just go on the air and, you know (snapping his fingers)
become that guy. You have to show that progression – show it in a
way that’s believable."

Having revealed his forte for acting, Stern is sure to light up
the silver screen in many a future flick. His ability to reveal his
more sensitive side has perhaps built in him a stronger man. But
does that mean Howie, the mastermind behind Lesbian Dial-a-Date,
Fartman and on-air stripteases, will give up his title as hero to
all perverts and social deviants?

"All I can tell you is that having, of course, my first
on-screen kissing with Mary, I was upfront with her," he recalls.
"I said, ‘Listen, uh, I don’t know if you’re going to like this or
not, but I’m really turned on here. Let’s face it, I haven’t been
with a different woman in 20 years. I mean, this is pretty
wild.’

"I think all these actors who say they don’t get excited in
these scenes are lying. I just know they’re lying. Of course you
do, you’re there with a beautiful woman, how can you not get
excited?"

Long live the king.

FILM: "Private Parts" opens on Friday."I wanted the movie to
feel like there was a camera hidden in the room somewhere."

Howard Stern

Rysher Entertainment

Radio personality Howard Stern portrays himself in "Private
Parts."

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