MEDIA: Hey now! Get your client off - uh, on - with Howard - The Howard Stern Show may not seem like the typical venue for serious PR pros to place clients. But, as Claire Atkinson reports, the executive producer wants you to know it’s not all sex

Gary Dell’Abate, executive producer of the Howard Stern Show, rarely gives interviews. But he wants to correct some misconceptions about one of radio’s most successful and controversial morning talk programs: the show doesn’t go out of its way to give guests a hard time he says - provided they arrive with the right attitude.

Gary Dell’Abate, executive producer of the Howard Stern Show, rarely gives interviews. But he wants to correct some misconceptions about one of radio’s most successful and controversial morning talk programs: the show doesn’t go out of its way to give guests a hard time he says - provided they arrive with the right attitude.

Gary Dell’Abate, executive producer of the Howard Stern Show,

rarely gives interviews. But he wants to correct some misconceptions

about one of radio’s most successful and controversial morning talk

programs: the show doesn’t go out of its way to give guests a hard time

he says - provided they arrive with the right attitude.



’Publicists don’t fully understand Howard Stern, they think the show is

all scantily clad women,’ Dell’Abate explains. ’There are a lot of

intelligent things going on. People don’t understand the impact.’



In addition to all those intelligent things, there’s a constant stream

of off-the-wall guests, from women willing to strip for free breast

implants to a Hasidic rabbi discussing his book on sex. The show feeds

many a gossip columnist by getting celebrities to talk about the kind of

things they probably wouldn’t even discuss with their own significant

others.



The suggestive subject matters have certainly done little to deter some

of the country’s biggest celebrity publicity firms - PMK, Rogers &

Cowan, Baker Winokur Ryder - and the main Hollywood studios from booking

their stars. Recent guests have included Julia Roberts, Chris Rock and

Mia Farrow.



On the other hand, it’s easy to see why some publicists might be

reticent about subjecting their clients to Stern’s razor-sharp interview

skills.



But Dell’Abate argues that no one is forced to answer Stern’s often

risque line of questioning. And he adds that - surprisingly - no one has

ever complained (to him anyway) about being treated badly.



Amy Thomases, a senior publicist at Universal Pictures who placed Arnold

Swarzenegger on the show this month, admits she would never

complain.



’Everyone is too afraid,’ she says. ’You have to just go with it.’



Thomases says the show’s heavily-male demos made it a perfect place to

promote Arnie’s latest movie, End of Days. When Swarzenegger did ABC’s

The View later that day, he said that his Stern appearance was all about

’penises and vaginas.’



’You have to just have fun with it,’ Thomases says. ’The moment Howard

knows there’s something you don’t want to discuss, that’s what he’ll

want to know about. There are no boundaries.’ Stern did in fact coax

Swarzenegger into talking about his sex life with wife Maria

Shriver.



Stern’s radio show reaches around nine million listeners nationally,

according to radio industry magazine Talkers, making it the

third-highest rated syndicated program, behind Rush Limbaugh and Dr.

Laura Schlessinger.



The Stern show airs weekdays from 6 am to 10 am in 19 of the top 20

markets (Atlanta is the exception).



The show is broadcast in New York by K-Rock (WXRK) and in Los Angeles by

KLFX. In NY at least, the Howard Stern Show remains number one, though

ratings have wavered: it had an 8.5 share this spring; 7.6 this summer ;

and 8.8 this winter.



But add to Stern’s radio ratings a TV audience - two shows are recorded

during his a.m. broadcast. Cable channel E!Entertainment and the CBS

television network air versions of the show, though which guests make

the cut is a matter for the individual editors rather than

Dell’Abate.



The producer’s day starts around 5:30 am when he opens the mail and

compiles the list of commercials. During the first break on the show,

he’ll pass Stern background on guests. Dell’Abate (aka ’Baba Booey’) is

often heard on the show alongside other characters such as Jackie ’the

Joke Man’ Martling, Stuttering John and, of course, co-host Robin

Quivers.



Dell’Abate, who has worked with Stern for 15 years, spends at least half

his day booking guests, but adds that Stern can carry the show for a day

or two without one, so there’s no pressure to take just anyone. In order

to find out who’ll be in town, he combs the Celebrity Bulletin

newsletter.



He talks to a lot of movie publicists from the main studios to learn

about upcoming films and interview candidates. Book authors are also

appearing on the show more often.



Dell’Abate is most proud of getting on the air two particular

personalities.



The late John F. Kennedy, Jr. came on to plug George magazine even after

Stern had taken some shots at him. The producer also spent years wooing

supermodel Cindy Crawford with phone calls to her office every few

months.



The effort eventually paid off. (He is still trying to convince Madonna

and Tom Hanks.)



Even politicos such as New Jersey governor Christie Todd Whitman have

appeared before the microphone at West 57th Street. ’The governor finds

the show humorous,’ says her press secretary, Jayne O’Connor. ’We can’t

speak for other people, but we feel confident putting the governor on

the show. We haven’t had any bad experiences.’



Given Stern’s support for much of what Mayor Rudy Giuliani has

accomplished in New York, it will be interesting to see which side he

takes in the Senate race between the mayor and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Stern’s influence on voters cannot be overestimated. ’We’d take anyone

who’s running,’ offers Dell’Abate, who suggests that the Giuliani press

camp has signaled it will make an appearance later in the campaign.



As for those who need to approach the show (rather than those it is

courting), Dell’Abate encourages all manner of pitches. ’I’ll listen to

anything and if it isn’t right, pitch me again on something else,’ he

says. He advises to mail or fax and avoid e-mail.



PR pros might be tempted to try to set interview guidelines, given

Stern’s penchant for making the headlines. Fuhgeddaboudit! Dell’Abate

says: ’If something is out there, we have to talk about it.’ In an

interview earlier this month, Stern asked baseball star Pete Rose about

allegations that he had gambled on the game. Rose’s response, according

to New York Post gossip column Page Six, was to ask why the

self-proclaimed King of all Media didn’t own up to being ’a fag.’



Stern, whose personal fortune is estimated at dollars 20 million,

recently split with his wife, Alison, but Dell’Abate says this has just

reinforced his connection with listeners: ’He talks about his life on

air and so many people have been affected by it (the separation), that

they identify with him.’



Matt Labov, vice president at Baker Winokur Ryder in Los Angeles, says

he thinks Stern has ’lightened up’ over the past few years. ’He used to

be this sarcastic, zany, New York DJ. Now he’s much more accessible to

clients I’ve had.’



Labov represents comedians like Chris Rock and Jon Stewart and says the

show is perfect for his needs. Though celebrity publicists are by nature

overprotective, he says clients don’t always appreciate taking the safe

route. ’It’s not as much fun.’



However Labov adds a word of warning for appearances on the show: ’You

have to be quick on your feet. It isn’t for everybody, it’s not for

clients with skeletons in their closets.’





CONTACT LIST



The Howard Stern Show



WXRK (K-Rock Radio)



40 West 57th St. 14th floor



New York, NY 10019-4001



Tel: (212) 314 9322



Fax: (212) 314 9339



Web:www.krockradio.com



Host: Howard Stern



Co-host: Robin Quivers



Executive producer: Gary Dell’Abate



Associate producer: KC Armstrong.



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