In the weeks leading up to his fourth appearance on our cover, Howard Stern told listeners he was nervous. Not about the interview but about the photo shoot, which he despaired about openly on the air during his SiriusXM morning show. “Man, oh, man,” he said with a sigh on April 15th. “I hate how I look.” Though still boyish at 65 — with his gawky posture, angular features and mass of curly locks — Stern is camera-shy. “I’ll talk to you for 10 hours,” he told senior writer Andy Greene. “But that fucking cover shoot, I’m petrified.”
This is where the cats come in. Kittens, actually: two tiny black siblings that had been rescued from an attic and were being fostered by Stern and his wife, Beth Ostrosky, who brought them with her to the shoot. The couple have fostered more than 1,000 cats (up to 25 at a time) and are major benefactors of New York’s North Shore Animal League. “It’s a huge part of our life,” says Stern. “We’ve been in the bushes rescuing cats that have been abandoned, and we have pregnant mamas in our home right now. When I’m stressed out, I go take care of the animals with my wife. It’s just turned into this insane, beautiful thing. It’s kind of defined my life for the last couple of years.”
Once the crassest shock jock in the land, Stern these days has mellowed into a wiser, more evolved host, whose morning show is built around empathetic rapport with stars like Paul McCartney, Jerry Seinfeld and Jay-Z. Stern credits the change to psychotherapy. “I was a fucking prick,” he tells Greene in the interview. “I’ve learned a lot in therapy. . . . The guy who says to me now, ‘Hey, man, you suck now,’ I go, ‘Well, to you, maybe. But I like the show much better now.’ This is where I’m at. That’s all you can do if you’re going to grow and evolve. Thank God I fucking changed.”
For Greene, who listened to every single Stern show from seventh grade through high school, this was a dream assignment: “Growing up, my two bibles were Howard Stern and Rolling Stone — so this was a big thing for me.
“It was nerve-wracking,” adds Greene, who possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of music and has been one of the magazine’s top writers since 2005. “But from the moment he walked in, he was so kind and gentle, none of the cranky rough edges he plays up on the radio. I even got to use some of the things he taught me — like how to butt in and change the subject when he was going on tangents. He just rolled with it. At the end, he told me I was a great interviewer, and that was the highest compliment I could imagine, because it was coming from Howard.”