Wednesday, February 10, 2010

On Howard Stern Vs. Oprah

We love Howard Stern. The Stern radio show has been on our radar since high school (and, as our mother often cautions, "you might have left it at that"). Every once in a while, though, I am compelled to call bullshit on the King of all Media's maneuvers. Stern once asked -- while he was making over $20 million at K-Rock's flagship in New York -- that he would be happy if wealthy listeners included him, by the by, in their last will and testament. That, he said with an air suffused with a cloying sleaze, would be nice.

Sure it would. Howard had read some story in some tabloid that another celebrity had been included in the will of an appreciative fan and he thought, bizarrely, that this might be a nice existential gesture. Stern made it sound romantic -- French even -- as he slimily dropped hints that it would be lovely if a trustee would one day call him up in the summer twilight and relate as crickets buzzed in the background that some rich listener left him a fortune and an estate to boot! It was really fucking disgusting stuff. It was, quite frankly, manipulative of fans. Further, it was done, heavy-handedly, around the time of Howard Stern's divorce, where he had just surrendered half his fortune due to personal failings. Is it the job of his fans to pay for his own divorce?

Oftentimes the raw excesiveness of Howard Stern's personality (He once promoted the noxious "bum fights" video where homeless people were videotaped fighting, making, via Stetrn's plugs, the tape's *producers* instant millionaires), that which makes this proto-reality show such compelling content, goes too far. Way too far.

Another instance, one far more recent, involves Howard Stern's *moral outrage* at Oprah Winfrey. They have tangled before, but this time Howard Stern versus Oprah is in earnest. Winfrey, in Howard's defense, makes a wholly undeserved $50 million a year to essentially call in to the Sirius-XM show that bears her name. Easy money; a sweet gig. Are the Sirius-XM shareholders, we cannot fail to ask, okay with CEO Mel Karmazin's expenses? From HowardStern:

Howard learned that Oprah had heeded his warnings and agreed to host a live call-in show (if only just once and on the topic of 'child molestation') on her SiriusXM channel: "I'm calling in. And I'm gonna say, 'Oprah, let me ask you something. Forget about this child molestation because it's a drag and you're bumming everyone out. How is it you get $50 million a year and you don't do a show? And you don't mention SiriusXM anywhere?'"

Sal came in to say he and Richard could orchestrate quite the prank-call blitz--if Howard would get management to temporarily lift the don't-ever-prank-other-SiriusXM-shows policy: "You want me to back door the screener first and say I was a victim of child molestation?” Howard laughed: "Of course!"

Here's the thing, though: Howard has been dangling the fact that Fox wants him to replace Simon Cowell as a negotiating tactic to renew his contract at Sirius-XM. He denies this, of course, but how could it be otherwise? With the present state of the auto industry, Sirius-XM is really in no place to give Howard Stern another $80 million a year in cash. And while Stern began strongly as a defender of satellite radio and his program, he has devolved, of late, into what can only properly be construed as laziness. To wit: Howard Stern unbelievably refused to be one of Conan Obrien's last guests -- a move that would have been worth millions in free advertising for Sirius-XM -- because he doesn't like to fly to L.A. Rosie O'Donnell even offered a private jet. Unbelievably, he still refused. There really is no excuse. In fact, this blog -- The Corsair -- has done more to promote Howard Stern's daily radio show -- which is off the radar of the media class -- that probably any other online source other than the blogs that are devoted to covering his every utterance.

It is not inconceivable that Howard's "moral outrage" at Oprah's lack of being a team player could have something to do with his consciousness that pressing for a 9-figure contract in this economic climate might be perceived as ... excessive (Averted Gaze).

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