Howard’s Beginning

How this most proper of cities launched Howard Stern, this most improper of celebrities

"No, I say put ’em out at the same time," says the frizzy-haired Cantor, dressed in a grungy flannel shirt. "Then you can promote them both at the same time in the stores. So, Janks, is your album gonna be like the Jerky Boys?"

Janks frowns. The Jerky Boys, a couple of New York-based crank callers, released an album last year that went gold, and they have recently inked a movie deal. Their success riles Janks. Now, as the crowd outside begins to whoop and holler as one of the professional strippers winds up her bumping and grinding, Janks takes on a stern countenance. "Man, the Jerky Boys, they call people at gas stations and call them jerk-offs," he says, as Melendez shakes his head in dour agreement. "There’s got to be some ingenuity to any kind of art you do, you know?"

As Janks pauses in his soliloquy on artistic integrity, the doors to the kitchen fly open and a naked woman, dripping wet paint, is being herded through the crowded room by a hefty bouncer, who is yelling "Got to get to the shower! Got to get to the shower!"

"What I do is vent my creativity. It’s a different kind of art," Janks continues, unfazed. The stripper has made it to the shower as word is passed that Kenneth Keith Kallenbach — the Beavis and Butthead clone from Boothwyn who blows cigarette smoke through his eyes — is waiting for the other judges by the stage. It’s time to make some young woman’s night by granting her a New Year’s Eve audience with their common king, Howard Stern.

Hello, Philadelphia. Welcome to your worst nightmare." When Howard Stern uttered those words at 6 a.m. on August 18, 1986, John Melendez was sleeping in, Tom Cipriano was in the Army and Kenneth Keith Kallenbach was smoking pot every day while listening to heavy metal. It was the day WYSP began simulcasting Stern’s New York morning-drive-time show, which had catapulted WXRK-FM, or K-Rock, to number one in the a.m. ratings. Unbeknownst at the time to Stern or his would-be cronies, the Philadelphia experiment would catapult all of them to a level of fame and — in Stern’s case — fortune no one had anticipated.

But the decision to simulcast the Stern show in Philadelphia, where WMMR’s Morning Zoo starring John DeBella reigned, did a lot more than launch the singular careers of what Stern has come to call his "Wack Pack." In fact, Philadelphia gave birth to the nationwide Stern juggernaut: 16 radio markets, 20 million listeners, a record-setting pay-per-view special, one TV show that was garnering an astounding 30 share in the ratings before advertisers — fearing backlash — abandoned it, another TV show that set ratings records for the E! cable channel, a book that has outsold every other publication in the 70year history of Simon and Schuster, talks of a major motion-picture deal and, most
recently, serious negotiations with the Fox network for a late-night TV talk show.