Rushgedlife 2007-03-11 05:06:09
Earnestly Pursuing the Gentle Art of Nastiness Behind a Radio
By Virginia Heffernan – New York Times
Published: January 12, 2006
David Lee Roth’s new morning radio show has made one thing clear:
Howard Stern is one ingenious pervert.
It’s not that Diamond Dave has been knocking Howard, whom he replaced
on some several stations on Jan. 3 as Mr. Stern moved to satellite
radio. In fact, Mr. Roth has been smarmy and collegial about the King
of Difficult to Acquire New Media. But Mr. Roth makes the point about
Mr. Stern’s pervy ways by contrast with his own, since Mr. Roth’s own
efforts to come across as a dirty devil – boasting of girls girls girls
and chugging Jack Daniel’s – seem pitiful compared to even the
slightest heavy-breathing utterance of Mr. Stern’s.
Meanwhile, on Sirius Satellite Radio, where “The Howard Stern Show”
started with some tech difficulties on Monday, Mr. Stern has turned in
respectably true-to-form programs that display his maestro skills with
his nasty-geek persona. So far, he hasn’t departed much from the tone
and structure of his old Infinity radio show; though on Sirius he’s now
free to say what he wants, he has resolved to curse sparingly. He’s
still panting after lesbians, pushing the subject of genital grooming
and laughing at people like Pat O’Brien, the television host who was
said to have left obscene voice-mail messages for an acquaintance. Mr.
Stern also barrels into impolitic topics that the rest of us are afraid
to broach: Yesterday he asked a gay radio personality whether his lisp
was an affectation or a speech impediment.
Mr. Stern, as his fans know, is born for radio: his on-air character is
an unwashed basement figure, best kept out of sight – a haggard
masturbator and morbid misanthrope who must hang out with deformed and
desperate men because he can hardly perform with women. The fact that
the pinup girls who come on his show now seem to want to have s** with
him is, in his telling, evidence only of the women’s ambition and
The Stern character simply hates his guests and co-hosts as he hates
himself; he’s a mean little p**********-addicted freak whose
self-loathing reverses itself only in fits of equally grotesque
narcissism, as when he flashes his listeners with a dirty raincoat by
disclosing disgusting secrets about himself. But his relentlessly loser
style makes him seem honest, and wins him a privileged relationship
with the truth; fans believe what he says – about everything from
politics to back pain to etiquette. He has hewn his character
By contrast, Mr. Roth is a jaunty frontman – really, Mr. Stern’s
opposite. In his heyday singing with Van Halen, he was a red-blooded
dude who bounced around, yelped the high notes and handily pulled the
bikini chicks. There was nothing depressing about Diamond Dave’s
sexuality: it was happy, voracious, superficial. He postured with the
best of the hard-rock studs, strutting around with his moussey hair and
Spandex pants. Had Mr. Roth’s big-dog persona met Mr. Stern’s
gamma-male one, they would not have partied together.
But on radio, the tables are turned. A doctor’s son who worked recently
as an emergency medical technician, Mr. Roth is far too square for the
morning slot. His stories about his drunken antics of the late 1970’s –
or, worse, about the 50’s in crazy Greenwich Village, where his uncle
Murray owned the Caf Wha? – ring obsolete. And he won’t reveal much
about his life now, refusing to answer even routine questions from fans
about his love life. As a result, his sanctimony on subjects from drugs
to plastic surgery to celebrity misdeeds, is unearned. If he won’t say
anything about himself but bland boasts about his glory days, why
should he get to tell us what to do?
Finally, Mr. Roth’s tenor, which is can be poignant and otherworldly on
Van Halen songs like “Jamie’s Crying,” is surprisingly grating and
banal when he’s speaking. Listeners to regular radio will miss Mr.
Stern’s low, unerring, New York-inflected voice – and the depth of
weirdness it unfailingly conveys.