Call her the world’s greatest good sport, a defiant survivor or an unintentional trailblazer. Any way you dissect her, Robin Quivers is a multi-media force to be reckoned with. Best known as the straight woman/news anchor of the groundbreaking and immensely popular Sirius XM radio program “The Howard Stern Show,” Robin parlayed her cutting intellect, deceptively sunny personality and boundless ambition to become a renowned revolutionary of radio broadcasting. As the Black female sidekick to super provocative morning shock jock Howard Stern for what will be 30 years in 2011, Robin has held her own in a boys club of bad asses to amass a legion of fans millions in numbers.
Baltimore-born Quivers dabbled in acting on the sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” the TV movie “Deadly Web” and appeared as herself in a biographical film about Stern titled “Private Parts”– all while enduring crazed fans writing lewd songs about her to the tune of Beatles classics! But there was also a dark side. She authored her biography Quivers: A Life, in which she discussed, with soul-baring honesty, being sexually abused in her pre-teens. Robin’s story is one of early struggles followed by unprecedented success…with some humbling yet transformative bumps along the way.
“In the late ‘90s, I began experiencing health challenges,” the initially athletic Quivers confesses, “but my first doctors misdiagnosed me and treated me with all these wacky drugs and surgeries. My general health became compromised. I gained a lot of weight and found myself shopping in the outer reaches of department stores – a bitter morale-buster. All I could see was spiraling into chronic disease and dying young… Then around 2001, magician David Blaine came on Howard’s show and told us before major stunts he uses The Master Cleanser. I tried it and after the first day I felt slightly better. I started using it 21 days then a week off for several months and lost 60 pounds.”
Robin was on her way again until a slip and fall accident in London sidelined her yet again…and she regained all of the weight. Once Howard’s show had successfully transitioned from terrestrial radio to Sirius Satellite, she refocused her attention on herself and discovered the book "21 Pounds in 21 Days - The Martha's Vineyard Diet/Detox" in a Daily News article. When Robin made inquiries into ordering the book, someone at the company recognized her name and offered to shadow her 24 hours a day if they would broadcast her detoxification progress to the public. Robin lost 70 pounds on this program, became a Vegan, and loves what Bikram Yoga is doing for her body. In 2009, Robin made People Magazine’s “Best Dressed List” for a beautiful retro Donna Karan ensemble she wore to “Comedy Central’s Roast of Joan Rivers,” as well as a “Most Beautiful For Her Age” list” – a complete 180 degree turnaround.
Robin is so fired about her health transformation that she is starting a movement toward a Food Bill of Rights in this country. Her ultimate goal: to instigate radical well being via full disclosure of nutritional awareness. “The government should be protecting us not the food companies,” she demands. “There should be some basic things I can expect from a label when I go into a store to buy my food. And for their part, people need to understand that food is fuel not recreation. We have become overly concerned about flavor and variety, which his why we overeat. I am a living example of the change that is possible.”
Now Robin Quivers is erecting her own “queendom.” The first step: giving back. “My work became more lucrative than I ever dreamed. There's nothing more rewarding than seeing a person progress because of some assistance you've given them. It’s a priceless irreplaceable feeling.” Robin’s charitable endeavors include rallying her girlfriends together to raise money for women in Sudanese refugee camps, as well as appearing on “Celebrity Jeopardy” on which she raised $25,000 toward scholarships for The Seeds School of Maryland – a non-profit boarding school.
Most revolutionary of all is her affiliation with the United Nations-organized program “The Girl Fund” which advocates educating and uplifting girls in countries where they are too often undervalued and exploited. “Statistics show that societies where women are not valued are more likely to have unstable governments and poor economies,” Robin explains. “We’re trying to change the world by changing the conditions for women.”
Robin is starting her own Website and blog to make people aware of all this and more as she prepares for the eminent launch of her own television program, on which she will combine art, culture and education into an explosive multi-media bundle.
“I would like to do a show that is female oriented,” she shares. “The story of my life has always been people don't realize I'm a girl because I hang out with guys so much. When I’m with my girlfriends, I have a lot of information for them. When I was growing up there were shows that made it seem fun to be a woman! Today you look at these shows and think, ‘Oh, my God, it's horrible to be a woman.’ Too often it's about victimization. I want to have fun with women in the same way that we had fun with men on Howard's show. Both women and men will want to watch my show. It will be a celebration of womanhood… and men are incredibly interested in what women want and what they have to say.”
Robin Ophelia Quivers was born August 8, 1952, in the Cherry Hill area of Baltimore, and raised in Pimlico. Her father was a steelworker and her mother was a homemaker who also helped make ends meet as a housekeeper. Robin also had an older brother named Charles. Baltimore life was so generally uneventful that young Robin found escape in a plethora of golden age television programs. “One might say I was ‘raised by TV,’” Robin declares with signature laughter that colorfully animates the ladies conversations. “I wanted to grow up and operate on people’s brains. And in some ways I do!” She continues, “Watching ‘Ben Casey,’ I learned that women could be doctors. It was rare to see working women on TV then…and being a housewife never looked like much fun to me. I wanted to be one of the people that leave the house and go somewhere to work. My plan was to be a nurse and work my way through medical school.”
After graduating from the University of Maryland, Robin’s first job was in the shock treatment facility of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services System. Desperate to get away, Robin joined the United States Air Force in July of 1975 when it was starting to recruit women to be pilots. By June of 1978, she was ranked Captain. The time in the military showed her that she was meant to do more than nursing work, but she had no idea what. On the side she took courses in criminology and got involved with a community theatre group. “In nursing school I was always animating my reports and presentations – turning them into little plays - so I got involved in theater and really liked it…props, ‘theatre people,’ everything. I even landed a role!”
After her military discharge, Robin relocated to California to find herself and get her head together. “Growing up in a working class family, show biz was a pipe dream,” she says. “So I moved to San Francisco and bummed around looking for a new profession, using my medical background to try pharmaceutical sales and as a consultant for hospitals that hired temps. I’d never worked in an office before, so that was interesting for a short time. I also took a lot of self actualization courses.” After a few cycles of making money, taking time off then blowing it all, Robin wound up calling her parents for money and hopped a bus back to Baltimore, determined to become ‘a serious person.’
Suffering under another nursing job, she cracked open the Yellow Pages and started looking up schools in other fields of interest. “In L.A., I briefly worked for a broadcast consulting firm that sold sales tools to small market radio/TV shows,” she recalls. “When I called stations, the people always seemed happy and enthusiastic to be there. I made a mental note of that.” That brought her to The Broadcasting School of Maryland where, not more than a month in, the President took a keen interest in her voice and diction. In class she learned just how few women there were in broadcasting and that the ones who were working were marginalized on TV as weather girls, or on radio as hyper-sensual overnight DJs. “I knew I didn’t want to be a disc jockey sitting there while a record played. I wanted to have something to say.”
Before she graduated, she landed her first job at daytime-only WIOO-AM in Carlisle, PA. She was there all of two days before she got an urgent call from the guy she was hired to replace from his new gig at WCMB in nearby Harrisburg. He’d had his boss listen to her on the radio and he liked what he heard. “I drove up to and met the General Manager/Program Director Lloyd Roach. He said, ‘I think you've got a great sound and can go places. I want to hire you. You start now.'”
Robin found her groove in Harrisburg. “I loved that job,” she swoons. “There were no set hours. Whenever the story was that's when I covered it. I did some anchoring but I was mostly a field reporter - calling in from a breaking story.” Describing her personality at the time, Robin elaborates, “I'm a naturally curious person. I loved covering people in situations. I got to interview some fascinating people, including George Bush, Sr. I became a local celebrity. Once I knew I was doing the right thing, I could not be stopped! All I wanted to do was to get really good and move to a larger market.”
That’s exactly what happened six months later when restless Robin started sending tapes out for a bigger and better broadcast home. One demo landed at WFBR – a major market MOR station with a very big newsroom. “When I was invited to take a tour, the news department alone had a staff of eight plus three wire services. The PD wanted to try me out in consumer reporting, then a developing trend and burgeoning niche for women. I grabbed it.” The WFBR job constituted a major homecoming back to Baltimore where Robin was intent on settling in. She developed a winning rapport with the mid-day DJ Bob Moke, continued covering the presidential election and even participated in Sunday morning round tables on local politics. “I was having the time of my life,” Robin confesses, “and then the phone rang…again!” This time it was Denise Oliver, then a newly-hired PD at rock station WWDC-FM, a.k.a. “DC-101.” Robin had met and impressed Ms. Oliver during a “Women in Radio” panel while she was still in broadcast school. When Oliver heard her on the air, a light bulb went off in her head. She was looking for the perfect partner to match with a radical jock named Howard Stern.
“I did not want to move again,” Robin recalls. “Plus I could really see my future where I was, so I tried everything to politely give her the runaround. Then she played me a tape of Howard interviewing a prostitute on the air. What really hooked me is that Howard had absolutely no judgment in his voice. He talked to her like any other newsmaker, asking, ‘So, how much do you charge? What services do you offer?' I immediately thought, “This is the most innovative thing I’ve ever heard. I must meet this man!’ Denise threw us together on the phone to see if we had any chemistry. He started talking to me like he knew me all my life, and the whole time I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my God, he's crazy!’ He already had the job and I jumped at the chance to join him.”
Howard and Robin both started on the same day: March 2, 1981 – he as the new bad boy morning jock and she as the on-air News Director reading updates every half hour. Robin’s studio hadn’t been completed for her first day, so Oliver asked her to read her report in Howard’s room. “Every time Howard came to a new market, his first show always revolved around counseling male listeners with the book ‘How to Pick Up Women,’” Robin continues. “So as he’s flipping through chapters, he turns to me and says, ‘I'm telling you, Robin, this guy has slept with 10,000 women. He says in order to pick up women you have to wear tight pants.’ I replied, ‘He slept with 10,000 women? When did he have time to put on pants?’ Howard closed the mic, went to a commercial and said, ‘You're brilliant! Come in here as often as you can, always open your mic and say whatever comes into your head.’”
Soon, large swaths within the lexicon of Washington, D.C. became compelled to wonder, "Did you hear what Howard said to Robin today?" In the beginning there were no guests, just the two of them making the most of the day. And right away, controversial Howard was under siege. “The powers that be kept trying to make him do time and temperature,” Robin cries. “I didn't understand why they couldn't see that he was the smartest person in the room - an entertainer that made people tune in for HIM, not music.”
Totally getting his appeal, Robin began strategizing on how to maximize the situation. “I’d leave his studio to go write my next half hour’s copy and think, ‘This guy is really funny but it happens in spurts. If those places could be closer together, this could be a great show.’ I thought maybe I could be a better sidekick if I really knew him. So we started studying each other. We would be together in the morning hours on the show, then on telephone the rest of the day. We'd go to lunch and dinner, even visit each other on weekends. If our show could sound like overheard conversation between friends, it would be much more compelling than two guys talking about last night’s ball game.”
“I knew we had succeeded one day when I was standing in line at a thrift store buying something to wear to a Stones concert. I heard a guy ask a girl, ‘Did you hear Howard today?’ She goes, ‘Yeah, why?" The guy says, ‘Did he ever get those Stones tix?’ And she said ‘Yeah, he's goin'!’ Then the guy asked, ‘Did Robin get tickets, too?’ I'm standing there thinking, ‘Oh, my God… These people actually care about what we're doing!’”
“The Howard Stern Show” became a top-rated radio phenomenon, outgrew the market and morphed into a syndication behemoth. Robin, Howard and their crazy cast of cohorts went on to work at New York’s WNBC-AM and WXRK-FM and eventually Sirius XM satellite radio in 2006. Their antics became fuel for a popular late night TV show and unprecedented success despite an era of diminishing returns in radio broadcasting.
Robin Quivers has been a woman of incredible luck and serendipity, but also proactive soul searching with a healthy does of daredevilry. The combination of these qualities has taken her to one pioneering career peak and to the threshold of sweeter future returns. With plans to pursue more of her own creative endeavors she’s about to take the world by both surprise and storm.
“When you go out on a limb, that's when you really know you're living,” she concludes. “Too many people don't do things for fear of falling. You'll never get good unless you fall. Experiences and new accomplishments are feelings we should never lose.”