The Howard Stern Show has been an integral part of my morning ritual since I moved to New York City in 1994. I began listening upon my arrival here, when the show was on regular FM radio. Fortunately, I was already a Sirius subscriber when Howard made the transition to satellite, and the show has gotten even better in a dramatically more lenient medium. When a radio program can consistently make me laugh that heartily as I prepare myself for another soul-corroding day in the workplace, listening is more than a pleasure; it's an absolute necessity.
I'm always surprised by the reaction I get when people find this out about me, especially from my fellow gays. While most of them have never even heard the show, they insist that Howard is anti-gay. I have found the exact opposite to be true. Howard has been outspoken about his support for marriage equality and is a staunch proponent of equal rights for LGBT people. Never has this been more evident than on Stern's show the morning of Monday, Feb. 6, 2012.
Howard and his longtime sidekick, Robin Quivers, started out the show by discussing the previous day's Super Bowl broadcast. After about 15 minutes, Robin mentioned that department store chain JCPenney had recently announced that they had tapped Ellen DeGeneres to be their new spokesperson, and that it had caused somewhat of a backlash. A group calling itself "One Million Moms," which is an offshoot of the notoriously anti-gay American Family Association, demanded that JCPenney rethink its decision and fire DeGeneres because she does not represent "traditional" families. Howard spent the next 20 to 30 minutes of airtime expressing his outrage over this issue. Although he has never been a fan of DeGeneres' humor, he said that no one has a right to, in any public forum, say that DeGeneres doesn't represent them and their families. Howard insisted that everyone on the planet has a gay relative or friend, whether or not they are consciously aware of it, and that he will defend, to the end, DeGeneres' right to earn a living and not be treated like less of a person because of her sexuality.
Stern then referenced an article in the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine entitled, "One Town's War on Gay Teens." The article details how evangelicals in the town of Anoka, Minn., in Rep. Michele Bachmann's home district, have succeeded in creating an extremely anti-gay climate among residents. This has led to a rash of suicides among gay teens that have been relentlessly bullied and tormented by their classmates. Having been bullied as a teen himself, Howard expressed his dismay and recounted how it felt going to school every day, sick with worry, anticipating the inevitable confrontations. Stern said that he has been watching the Republican debates and is offended by the things Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum have said about gay people. He opined that the bigotry they promote is as outrageous as anything Hitler ever said. Stern said that it would be "glorious" if Bachmann and Santorum were booed off of the stage rather than applauded, and shunned in public. He also called them both hypocrites, reiterating that Santorum undoubtedly knows gay people, and Bachmann loves to parade around in suits that were, most likely, designed by gay men. Stern then went on to praise Newark Mayor Cory Booker for his recent statement in response to Governor Chris Christie's proposal that same-sex marriage be put to a popular vote in New Jersey. Howard posted a video of Booker's statement, entitled "Cory Booker Nails Marriage Equality in 5 Minutes" to his own Twitter feed. Stern's ranting ended with him posing the question, "What do you want, for all gay people to die -- to just go away?" Sadly, I think the answer to that question would be a solid "yes."
I know Howard Stern can be lewd, provocative, and insensitive. I don't agree with everything he says, and there are times when I cringe while listening to his show. Overall, however, I find his honesty and brilliance to be refreshingly entertaining. And, let's face it: the gay community needs all the passionate allies we can get, especially the ones whose words have the ability to impact millions of people. Thank you, Howard Stern. And, Baba Booey to all of you!