Cover Story

Hangin' With Howard

Interview: Forget the bitter lawsuit and the FCC -- Stern's got a new empire to conquer

Image credit: HOWARD STERN PHOTOGRAPH BY MATTHIAS CLAMER

Howard Stern has been huge news since the January launch of his heavily hyped Sirius satellite radio show — and judging from the two reporters waiting eagerly outside his midtown Manhattan studio one recent March morning, something headline-worthy is happening again. Finally, it's time for a commercial break. The door swings open, and Stern's bearish sidekick Artie Lange pushes through, sucking cakey residue out of his teeth. A delivery man, knowing Artie's weakness for junk food, has just surprised him with a free case of Devil Dogs, and these intrepid journalists are hot on the story. The questions start flying: How long will it take you to finish the case? Is this the best gift you've ever gotten? Are you gonna take the guy to a Yankee game to thank him?

If Artie's Devil Dog score doesn't sound like a Watergate-worthy scoop, you're obviously not a Howard Stern fan. These reporters aren't from CNN or The New York Times; they're working for a brand-new all-Stern cable channel, Howard TV On Demand (which fully launched on March 16), and for Sirius' Howard 100 News, a radio show devoted to All Things Stern. Lange, who just wants to thank the delivery guy and maybe take a leak, looks confused by the media glare. He answers a few questions, and finally wheezes a laugh. ''This is like a press conference about nothin'!''

Nothing? To Stern fans, there is no such thing as nothing. This is a guy who can — and often does — keep listeners mesmerized with a dissertation on his own bowel movement. That's why Stern believes his fans will tune in to his new TV network, a pay service available in 20 million homes that offers hour after hour of taped radio shows, behind-the-scenes footage, Stern-centric documentaries, and depixelated, re-nudied episodes of his old E! shows. An HTVOD cameraman constantly roams the Sirius hallways, making sure no drinking binge, screaming argument, practical joke, or waved prosthetic penis goes undocumented.

HTVOD is the latest entry in Stern's new empire, which also includes a pair of radio channels devoted exclusively to 24-hour-a-day Stern-related content. The 52-year-old shock jock is in the process of creating a self-absorbed Empire of Outrageousness — one that's totally unregulated and uncensored. After years of being told what he couldn't say, the most outspoken man in media is finally saying exactly what he feels, on the air and off. (And he's gotten even louder lately with his scorched-earth response to CBS Radio's lawsuit against him.) This interview is no exception, even without any in-depth questions about snack cakes.

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