Man or Mouth?: The Rolling Stone Interview With Howard Stern

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Did you have to move a couple of times because your daughters were being threatened?
No. I had to move because I didn't have any privacy. I was very famous in New York, and I was still not getting paid any money by NBC, and I had to live in a community where I had absolutely no privacy, with kids camping out on my lawn every night, banging on the doors and screaming my name out all night.

So now you have a big wall around your property?
No, not a big wall, but I have some isolation.

No, no. A couple of cameras. Little rifles.

Are those to protect you from Jerry Seinfeld after your relentless mockery of him and his 17-year-old girlfriend?
Jerry has a sense of humor about everyone but himself. Jerry dating a 17-year-old is very funny. You know, in the beginning, when Jerry needed ratings bad, he came on my show many times. And I said then, "Jerry is the biggest fuckin' phony. The day that show gets popular, he will find a reason to stop being friendly with us." I knew Jerry would dump me as soon as that show got big.

I noticed when I was at the studio during the show, Jackie "the Joke Man" Martling is constantly feeding you jokes. How much of it do you use?
I use a lot of it. If he writes 100 lines, I'll use 95 of them.

How important is your team of sidekicks, or "mutants," as you call them – Robin Quivers, Fred Norris, "Stuttering" John Melendez – to your act?
I have never been one to take credit for the show entirely. Fred writes the song parodies and sketches. Robin is the navigator. She knows how to get me going and how to light certain buttons. They help me tremendously.

The psychiatric analysis at the end of your book says that you grew up in a "shaming environment" and that you enjoy the sense of power that comes from demeaning and humiliating people.
I hate to say it, but it's true. I used to doodle little pictures – not used to, I still do – I draw pictures while I'm on the air. And I looked down one day, and I said, "What the fuck am I drawing?" It had penises and balls and vaginas and tits. So I said, "I got to give these to a psychologist." They sent back what you now read in the book. And I'm reading it, and I go, "Oh, this isn't me. I'm not going to put this in the book." And I finally read it like five times. I'd reread it, and I'd go, "You know what? This is me. This is pathetically me."

How long do you spend on your hair?
Oh, hair's a big part of my life. For a while I had that layered look, and I looked like Big Bird or something. I don't look good with short hair. I'm very long and lanky, and I have a skinny neck. When I have long hair, you can't tell how skinny my neck is, so I look a little better. Same thing with the dark glasses. I think they make my nose look smaller. Sometimes I look in the mirror, and I want to throw up. If I could just be good-looking, it would be so much easier.

How much weight did you lose to do that buff cover shot for the book?
I was about 215, and I got down to 190. And I was training with weights and stuff.

How's your self-esteem?
I will never have a lot of self-esteem. I don't feel very good about myself. I don't think I'm an attractive man, No. 1. And looks play an important part in how I feel about myself. I still have an inferiority complex. The way I was raised and my father always telling me I was a piece of shit, I think I'll go to my grave not feeling very positive about myself or that I'm very, very special. My mother used to tell me every day how special I was. Every time I hear my mother's voice going, "You are the most special little boy in the whole world," I hear my father going, "You fucking asshole, you are a piece of shit."

You said that you think the real Howard is the one on the air, not the one at home watching TV.
Oh, I know it.

That's who you are?
Oh, I know that's who I am. When I'm on the radio, I can be exactly what I am and say exactly what I feel. I really feel I'm role playing in real life. But I can get on the radio and be who I feel I am inside. In real life, I sit and hold back all the time. I hate that. But you can't function in real life if you go around telling people what you think.

Are you happy?
I don't think I'm ever happy. People say, "Gee, you wrote a best-selling book. Are you happy?" I don't appear to be a very happy person. That's just the way I am. See, crowds out there at the book signings and all that is very fulfilling, but at the same time I look at it, and I don't even think that's me they're talking about. I don't sit there and go, "Ooh, man, now I'm famous." I never feel famous, and I never feel successful.

But you are.
Yeah, but I don't feel it.

Why not?
I don't know. Maybe I just don't allow it. I don't feel any great sense of joy.

Is it because it's never enough? You still feel underappreciated?
Yeah, I do have that problem of feeling underappreciated. I'm still very much in touch with that emotion. I still feel like I gotta prove something.

You will be 40 when this story comes out. What do you want to be at 50? Still making fart jokes and spanking lesbians?
See, that's just a little too fucking close. I see articles on Steve Tyler, and he's like 19, even though he's about the same age as me. How did that happen? I don't know, I can't imagine still doing this. But what the hell else am I qualified to do?

This story is from the February 10, 1944 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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