On September 20th, Eric “The Actor” Lynch, a member of Howard Stern’s “Wack Pack” since 2002, died at the age of 39. The 3-foot-tall fledgling actor was afflicted with tissue disorder Ehlers–Danlos syndrome among numerous other medical conditions. Lynch gained notoriety as a frequent caller to Stern’s show and upon his death, many celebrities and fans, including Jimmy Kimmel and Zach Braff, paid tribute. Peter Rosenberg, a morning show host on influential New York radio station HOT 97, remembers what made Lynch unique and memorable.
I don’t know how it plays when the average non-Howard Stern fan hears the news about the passing of famed wack-packer Eric “The Actor” Lynch. There is really no context if you have not heard him on the air before or if you’re not someone who understands the brilliance of Howard generally. For all of us that had the joy of hearing his regular call-ins, the impact was great. In many ways, Eric was the ultimate character in the Howard Stern universe.
He was dealt a tough hand physically. He was 3 feet tall and needed a motorized wheelchair thanks to a club foot. None of this seemed to affect Eric’s expectations for fame and success, though. You can’t say he never complained, because, well, he complained constantly. But not about his physical condition. Instead he complained about Howard’s rabid fans who taunted him and his manager who never got him enough work. For some reason, that complaining was arguably the most entertaining part of the Howard Stern Show in recent years.
Eric “The Actor” (who spent most of his public years known as Eric “The Midget”) defined a term that is completely overused in our business — “Radio Gold.” “Radio Gold” is supposed to be used when a completely real person or situation makes for captivating radio. Stern is the best radio personality of the modern era (and probably of all time) because of his ability to mine “Radio Gold.” His interviews have become iconic, his natural sense of humor and ability to share his own life are fantastic, but it’s really his ability to get other characters to feel comfortable being themselves that makes him the gold standard for radio.
Those characters have ranged from A-list celebrities and musicians to no-names who found stardom through being regulars on the show. Most of the Wack-Packers have some sort of unusual physical or mental ailment (often both) and most of them are in on the joke, gladly taking the trade-off of being the butt of the joke for the fame and appearance money that comes with the gig. Eric took it a step further, though.
He was in love with the idea of being in show business and obsessed with fame. By the end, he had achieved both. In death, he was treated like a true celebrity, with his death announcement appearing in numerous media outlets and his passing garnering condolences from celebrities far and wide. He received television tributes on SportsCenter and Monday Night Raw (the latter would have had special meaning to Eric considering his love for pro wrestling).
Ultimately it all worked out for Eric. He may have never gotten to be a pro wrestling manager or a guest spot on Sons of Anarchy, but he did make a handful of appearances on his favorite shows and by the end, the Stern fans who drove him crazy were undoubtedly crushed to hear of his passing.
More than any of those accomplishments, the most amazing thing about Eric’s life is that at 3 feet tall and riddled with a myriad of health issues — he was so much bigger than his body. Howard and the gang always jokingly dreamed of the day that Eric would use balloons and float through the sky. As it turned out, he did rise above everything, but he did it completely on his own. Bye for now, Eric. Ack ack.
Peter Rosenberg is the Morning Show host on Hot 97 in New York City and hosts the Cheap Heat Podcast with David Shoemaker for Grantland and Hip Hop podcast Juan Epstein with Cipha Sounds.