He will not stop. Sitting on a fold-out chair on 50th Street in Manhattan, Howard Stern just keeps moving. Even when he is sitting still, he is moving. Leg tapping, plot hatching. "I don't know," he says, rubbing his hands together. "Let's see it on the monitor." And then he's back on his feet, moving through a cloud of PAs and ADs, pleasant-looking young people (clipboards, Styrofoam cups) who control the block like an occupying army. "Everyone quiet," they say. "We're making a movie." This is on location for Private Parts, the film that Paramount Pictures is releasing of Stern's best-selling autobiography. Stern has now returned, along with a 120-person crew, to the Rockefeller Center entrance to NBC, where, 15 years ago, his radio co-host, Robin Quivers, was frozen out of a job. Howard was hired by NBC radio; Robin was not. In the movie, for dramatic effect, Robin is simply fired. "It can be very hard playing your life," says Stern. "When I bring back some of these old feelings, I get really fucking emotional."
It is 6 a.m. Sunday. August. In America, if a celebrity wants to move through a city like a regular person, he must do it early. "We try to shoot before the people show up," says Stern, who has been here since 5, grappling with his past: How does a man at 43 remember the anxieties of being 20? Was I the same person back then? Even now, with the city still cool and full of shadows, the crowds have begun to gather. They stand across the street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, in Fashion Cafe caps and T-shirts that say things like "I'm With Stupid." Yokels in town on weekend packages. Stern lets his eyes move over them, scratches his stomach, yawns. He lives under their gaze, like a meal under keep-hot lights, bubbles coming up through the sauce. "The advantage is, I'm playing myself," he later says. "So I go back and say, 'OK, what the fuck was I really like?' Then I try to tap into those moments in my life. I want people to feel like they're really watching this guy — like they've stepped into a photo album."
He walks over to a monitor, where an engineer will play back the scene that has just been filmed. Someone asks for the time. The crew must finish by noon, before the Dominican Day parade rolls through midtown, grinding up any errant clipboard boys. Stern, standing between Private Parts' director, Betty Thomas, and a makeup man who waves a blush brush, taps his foot. He is dressed like a kid who has waited all night for Pantera tickets, in khakis, white T-shirt and a denim button-down, sleeves cut off. "I've never seen myself on a big screen," he says later. "I've only seen it on little monitors. But I've seen it enough to get used to myself on camera." He pushes back his long hair, revealing sharp Old World features. "Here it is," he says, looking at the screen, which flickers to life.
Robin, as herself, racing out of NBC. Howard chasing. The neon Rainbow Room sign glowing in daylight. Robin saying she's been fired and wants Howard to quit. Howard saying that's just what the execs want him to do. Robin saying, "Oh, you're going to hang me out like garbage," climbing into a '70s-style high-top yellow cab. The driver also looking like something from the '70s. Robin rolling down her window, yelling at Howard, telling him to fuck off, the words echoing off the buildings like a gunshot. The yokels tittering. New York!
When the monitor goes black, Stern looks at the street, where the cab is moving back into place. And there is Robin, being driven in reverse, like someone moving the wrong way through time — which is exactly what Stern has been doing all summer: moving back through time, playing himself at all ages, taking the moviegoing public on the 43-year journey that has been Howard Stern. "It's the story of a guy coming up," he later says. "No different than Don Corleone or Stallone coming up as Rocky, or anybody who did it other than the conventional way."
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