(VIDEO) Howard Stern Marks 30th Anniversary of New York Debut at WNBC

Howard Stern was a personality that radio would not soon forget. But in 1982, listeners in the New York City area could only imagine what the hype was about.

And then August 30 happened.

Thirty years ago, Stern arrived in New York at WNBC Radio (clip below), complete with sidekick Robin Quivers, who first worked with Stern in Washington a year earlier. Of course, with his roots in rough and tumble Roosevelt, Long Island, this was Howard’s homecoming.

As characterized in his book and film, Private Parts, Stern dealt with internal clashes from day one at WNBC. Specifically, his verbal barrages with program director Kevin Metheny, not-so-affectionately called “Pig Vomit” in the film (“Pig Virus” in real life). Stern slightly altered the immortalized version of Metheny, changing his name to “Kenny Rushton,” played exquisitely by Paul Giamatti.

“The book and the script are fascinating, engaging, and entertaining,” Metheny tells FishbowlNY. “I think [there’s] a fair and appropriate amount of artists’ liberties taken with factual elasticity in order to make a more interesting project.”

In one memorable scene, Giamatti’s Rushton attempts to teach Stern the key to success, announcing the call letters properly (W-N-N-N-N-B-C). (See clip after the jump)

“I’m certain that I was a pain in the tush with respect to putting the emphasis on the “N” in WNBC,” Metheny says.

The movie showcases the battle between Giammati’s character and Stern. In the film, NBC brass charged Rushton with reigning in the perceived problem child.

“Howard [was] very clear on what he wanted to create, and that it defied convention.” Metheny says. “Most conventional terrestrial radio management, me included, struggled to comprehend the thing Howard did that didn’t sit with conventions we had previously experienced, and arguably mastered.”

While Metheny worked for a Cleveland radio morning show about 10 years ago, he met his “alter ego” on a phone interview.

“[Giamatti] had no idea that there was an actual character,” Metheny recalls  “He thought that was all composite and script writing.”

Separating fact from fiction, Metheny compares his WNBC role with the pop culture version.

“That character was largely clueless, simpering, and pathetic,” Metheny admits. “I would argue that I might be pathetic, but I’m probably not clueless and simpering.”

While Stern was a radio rebel giving fits to the conservative RCA suits, Metheny claims to have finally come to an understanding.

“Once he got in the chair, his footprint would be so big that all that non-compliance would just be extraneous and irrevelant,” Metheny says. “To a certain degree that was true.”

Metheny says the battles with Stern led to “great discomfort” on both sides of the show. After the struggles, Metheny opted to follow the proverb, “If you can’t beat them, join them,” becoming receptive to Stern’s on-air antics.

“I converted, and attempted to become an advocate for Howard’s work,” Metheny reflects. “He needed a great deal of advocacy inside of the bureaucracy that was RCA. But he wasn’t going to do it the way it had always been done. That was not an option.”

Metheny points out that by the time of his own firing in 1984, the working relationship with Stern was “quite cordial.”

“That, however, doesn’t make for an interesting movie,” Metheny says.

In retrospect, the delay that it took in getting on board with Stern is Metheny’s biggest regret 30 years later.

“If I could change one thing, I would hit it from the beginning, as opposed to hitting it after we’d already torn up a fair amount of interpersonal road.”

So with Metheny gone, the burden to tame Stern now fell on Dale Parsons. Long before Stern documented (or embellished) his run-ins with WNBC management in Private Parts, though, Parsons knew what to expect from his outrageous star.

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