Howard’s Beginning

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

Kenneth Keith Kallenbach wrote to Stern in 1990, saying he could blow smoke through his eyes. Stern had him on his syndicated TV show, and Kallenbach, holding his nose, tried mightily until he puked before the nation. That led, of course, to eight more appearances.

"This one time, I wore a cup, you know, an athletic supporter," he says in a gravely, hazy voice right out of Cheech and Chong. "And I stuck a firecracker down the bottom of my fly, and when I was blowing smoke through my eyes, I reached down there and lit it. And then I pulled out some blueberries that I bought because I thought it would be funny to smoosh them in my face and then I pulled out a piece of chicken from my pocket and started eating it."

Since then, he once got motivated enough to send out letters to entertainment agents but, so far, he’s not had the luck of Janks or Melendez. But he’s got big plans: "I could do movies or I could do stand-up," he says in the slow drawl of someone who smoked pot every day for ten years (he quit altogether four months ago — "alls I do now is drink beers"). "I’d really rather do movies or TV."

Who knows? Given the success of Janks and Melendez, Kenneth Goes to College at a theater near you might not be that farfetched. In fact, Stern has said on the air that Kallenbach is a real-life version of Beavis and Butt-head, and Kallenbach eagerly agrees: "A couple people have told me that that guy Butt-head on MTV looks like Howard Stern. And, you know, I kind of look like Beavis. So me and Howard are like Beavis and Butt-head. I’ve never told him that, man. You should write that in your article, too, just to be funny. Say that’s what I was thinking, or somethin’."

Moments later, Kallenbach is summoned on stage, where the women contestants have just finished prancing around in flimsy evening wear. He puts on dark shades and begins telling some incoherent jokes. A chant, building slowly from the back of the room, rises in pitch until it reaches a crescendo: "Asshole! Asshole!" Kallenbach pauses when the audience’s message dawns on him, throws his arms out wide, looks skyward and breaks into a beaming grin, as if he were inviting the abuse to rain down. At this moment, Kenneth Keith Kallenbach is feeling a lot of love in this room.

Meanwhile, Janks is surrounded by legions of his fans at the back of the club. "Captain!" shouts one. "The Montgomeryville Pizza Hut! Stop in for a pie!"

"Montgomeryville? I live there," Janks responds.

"I know. Stop in, man."

"Am I gonna get a freebie? I’m a cheap bastard, you know."

The Pizza Hut guy bows dramatically. "Of course — you’re the King!" he says, and the crowd of worshipful young white males behind him breaks into a cheer as if Janks were every bit as worthy of worship as tonight’s strippers.