Thursday, June 16, 2011

College InSternship

I was a Howard Stern Intern.  Inevitably, the first question I get asked is, did I have to take my top off; and, the second one, did I win the Howard Stern Intern Beauty Contest and get a boob job?  Unfortunately – for the level of drama for this post –neither happened. My role on The Stern Show was not high-profile, but it was über-professional.  Now that is not to say I didn’t get to meet awesome people – a few celebrities – and take advantage of some perks all while having fun.

During my senior year of college, I had to perform a Journalism internship for my senior work study program.  I sent out a ton of cover letters and resumes and had three takers: Tennis Magazine; The Columbia Journalism Review (WTF! I was only even considered because Columbia was my Journalism professor’s Alma Mater); and The Howard Stern Show. 

Just in case you have been locked in a closet for the past 36 years; Howard Stern is an American radio personality, TV host, author and actor who is best known as the “King of all Media.”

Since I was commuting almost two hours each way to my university twice a week, Stern and the Wack Pack were my entertainment during those long car rides.  When I heard it mentioned on the air that they were looking for interns, I felt that I just had to apply.

When I received the phone call to come in for my interview, I was tickled pink and even happier when I found out that the job was mine if I wanted it. As if I would choose the internship that afforded me the best opportunity to advance my Journalism career, I chose The Stern Show. 

These were Sterns pre-satellite radio days, so I was officially interviewed by the Stern Show’s office manager and then WXRK or Infinity Radio located in New York City.  It was not an easy interview process and my duties were to consist of transcribing each day’s show as well as general office duties.  Not rocket science, but they wanted to make sure I could handle being in that environment as well.

The year was 1994 and Howard Stern had just launched his first book, “Private Parts” earlier that year.

My first day was in January and I was asked to work Stern’s 40th birthday party at Tavern on the Green Restaurant where they were broadcasting the show live.  I arrived – with my new supervisor Cathy –around 4am.  I didn’t do 4am then like I do now, so I had crashed on Cathy’s couch so I wouldn’t have to commute into the city.

I was totally blown away by all that went into putting on a radio show.  Even though my major was Journalism, my focus was print and not broadcast media.  It was the first time I had ever seen such a production.  One of the main dining rooms had been converted into a make-shift radio studio.  Then there were banquet tables encircling Stern and his sidekicks – who were celebrities in their own right.

But I was absolutely star struck that day: Donald Trump and Marla Maples (hell yeah that was a long time ago) were in attendance; as well as Lawrence Taylor, Joey Ramone, Joan Rivers, Pamela Anderson, Sandra Bernhard, and a lot of porn stars, among many others.

It was a great way to start my new job; although, it was not necessarily a pre-cursor of the job itself which was in a hard working environment rather than a party atmosphere.

My shift, which was two days a week, would not begin until The Stern Show went off the air.  So I wasn’t there while the radio show was broadcasting live; although, you can imagine my chagrin when I would be locked in my car – driving up to school – and they would mention my name on the air; or ask for me to come into the studio. This was before it was commonplace to have a cell phone, so I couldn’t even phone in.  ARRGGHHH!

But part of me was relieved I was never there during one of those inquisitions.  I didn't know what would come out of that interview and I was always a little nervous.  But the good news is that I never got put on the spot or embarrassed.

The behind the scenes of the show and office were very interesting as well.  Technically, radio producer Gary Dell ‘Abate – aka Baba Booey – was my boss.  How many people can say that and have it be the reality?  But speaking truthfully, I didn’t really interact with him too much and, didn’t really mind, as I thought he was a chauvinistic ass.  

But the rest of the team were super nice to me: Jackie Martling, former head-writer; Fred Norris, who provided sound effects, organize and direct commercials and live reads, and occasionally performed writing duties; and John Melendez (aka Stuttering John), a field reporter who conducted outrageous interviews and appearances because of his speech impediment.

I would see Stern on a regular basis, but usually he was rushing out of the studio to another appointment.  But one day, he needed someone help him to carry his things down to his town car, and I was the only one available.

His off-air personality was so completely different than the shocking on-air personality.  Maybe that was because the self-proclaimed “Shock Jock” only said what he was thinking when the red light was on, but he was a very amiable guy in person.

He asked me about my career aspirations and, when I told him that I was a Journalism major, he asked why I was working for him.  I replied that he was the hottest thing going on right then and I thought it would help me to figure out which area of the communications industry I wanted to pursue.  I have always wanted to be a TV personality and, other than my husband, Stern was the only person I ever told about that dream.  His advice was to take every opportunity that comes my way. So, if I’m offered a weather girl position in small town USA, take the job.  He said you never know when a door will open.

I was so stoked to get one-on-one advice from the King of All Media, but it was nothing compared to actually walking down a NYC street with him.  Ronnie the Limo Driver (yes, can you believe I actually interacted with those characters from the radio show) couldn’t get a close enough spot, so he was parked a few blocks away and I had the privilege of escorting Stern to his car. It was like having a date with the most popular guy in your circle, but times 1 million. The paparazzi were out there taking photos, while fans were asking for photographs – all the while, he was patient and nice.

The one member of the show that I did not really get to meet or know was Robin Quivers.  The only woman on the show was extremely private and in the midst of writing her own book.  I was a bit disappointed, but I did get a Christmas card from her – even before the internship started – and this was a highlight for me.

Working at a radio station, one of the perks is that we occasionally scored concert tickets at the hottest venues in New York City. I remember one night; all the interns went to see David Lee Roth in concert.  I was a big VH fan, so I had a blast.  The bummer was that I had to take the train all the way home to New Jersey afterward.  Of course, I had had a few beers and successfully passed out on the train.  I was out so cold that the conductor – walking the train – had to actually violently shake me awake to get me off the train. 

This was probably the craziest thing that happened to me while working on The Stern Show.

So, in retrospect, my internship didn’t open any career doors for me; It wasn't raunchy and seedy, but a normal job.  As you all know, I did move to Los Angeles and worked as a Journalist for a decade.  Unfortunately, when I was looking for jobs, I did take The Stern Show off my resume. I soon found out -- especially on the West Coast -- not everyone was a fan and I often felt that it caused prospective bosses to have a preconceived negative notions about me.  However, I don’t have any regrets: How many people can say, "I was a Howard Stern Intern."

1 comment:

  1. Tracy, you never fail to amaze me as you reveal these life experiences.
    Keep 'em coming. I'm hooked.