May 14, 2010 | 12:14 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
First of all, welcome to LA Howard.
This blog started a year ago to examine Howard Stern’s contribution to society. At the time, everyone from my wife to my more intellectual friends to many readers thought the very idea was a joke. Howard Stern? The guy who does fart jokes and midget shtick? Mr. Lesbian Stripper? How could someone so lowbrow be so highbrow?
Well, it’s nice to know I’m not alone. Last week, on HuffingtonPost.com, a PR strategist named Mario Almonte wrote a brilliant essay that makes the argument I’ve been trying to make all along. He does it succinctly, cogently, and all those other SAT words. Here’s an excerpt:
For a man who almost single-handedly revolutionized the broadcasting industry and profoundly influenced modern American pop culture, radio personality Howard Stern continues to be spectacularly disrespected by his own colleagues and the media itself that he so radically transformed.
While personalities like Jack Benny and Edgar Bergen popularized radio as a medium for entertainment, Howard Stern transformed it into a weapon of mass destruction. He annihilated cultural taboos, relentlessly exposed the hypocrisies and double standards in society and the entertainment field. He confronted the charlatans in religion, politics, and the media—who often proved to be the worst offenders of the very things they railed against. He treated the physically and mentally disabled, the social misfits and other cast-offs from society like celebrities; while mercilessly ridiculing the rich and famous for their delusional sense of self-importance. His radio show was itself the first true, unflinchingly honest reality series long before the concept was even a glint in the eyes of television producers.
Through all the years and all the controversies—the obsessive efforts of the FCC to crush him with millions of dollars in fines for indecency; the relentless pursuit of fanatical fringe groups seeking to knock his show off the air because they thought him rude, crude and obnoxious—he not only persevered, he triumphed. He dominated the entertainment industry as one of the most popular radio personalities in North America—and in the history of broadcasting—for more than 20 years. He wrote two New York Times best sellers and starred in a number-one movie about his life. At the peak of his popularity, his radio show was syndicated in more than 60 markets in North America, with a listening audience estimated at 20 million.
When Stern moved his show from terrestrial to satellite radio in 2006, he caused a seismic shift in the dynamics of the two media. He instantly lifted the struggling satellite technology to prominence, while driving another nail in the coffin of terrestrial radio by creating a vacuum of talent that pushed it to bleed listeners faster than ever before. The company he landed on, Sirius Radio, struggling to lure memberships up to that point, saw its subscriber base skyrocket. More than 180,000 new receivers were activated on the day before he launched his show on January 8, and millions of more fans signed up in the coming months. The $500 million paycheck that Sirius gave Stern made him one of the richest persons in show business, rivaling Martha Stewart and Oprah. Time magazine voted him among its 100 “Leaders in the Limelight” and Forbes ranked him in the #7 spot on its annual celebrity power ranking.
If anyone ignored, dismissed or denied the existence or impact of Howard Stern before, they no longer could.
Stern read a portion of the essay on air last week. And he thanked Almonte. Which shows something else: Howard, along with everything else, has class.
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