Loudmouth "shock jock" Howard Stern careened onto the airwaves Thursday morning with an innocuous-enough sounding goal: "to get people in Los Angeles to stop fighting and shooting and start smiling."
Then Stern, the self-titled Vicar of Vice, promptly proceeded to come out in favor of the Rodney King beating, ridiculed the sex lives of the disabled and defended rapists.
And with this, did he inspire the folks in Los Angeles--whom he labeled "blithering idiots"--to smile? It didn't appear that way, judging from the calls to KLSX-FM (97.1) Thursday as the station began broadcasting Stern's New York-based morning show.
"Hey, this guy Stern's got to go," said one caller. "The guy's sick. He's obnoxious. He's not funny."
"It's not shock radio, it's schlock radio," said another. "I think he should play a little music and get off everybody's case."
And so it went, with KLSX's switchboard lighting up continuously after Stern went on the air at 3 a.m. (His show originates at New York City's WXRK-FM and is heard live in Los Angeles from 3-5 a.m., then is heard on tape delay from 5 to about 10 a.m.) Nearly all the calls were negative, although a large percentage of those were less upset about Stern than about the absence of the classic rock songs that KLSX usually plays.
Over the past six years in New York, Stern has twice been cited by the Federal Communications Commission for violating decency standards and has raised the ire of homosexuals, women, media watchdog groups and various ethnic minorities.
Locally, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation expressed disgust with Stern's material and has asked to meet with KLSX executives.
"We feel it's the most insensitive, the worst purveyor on radio of bigotry and misinformation and stereotypes, not only about gays and lesbians, but about women and other minorities," said Richard Jennings, the organization's executive director.
The 37-year-old Stern, who also has a weekly late-night television show, has heard those kind of protests before. And he's got plenty of answers for the naysayers.
"Yeah, people are mellow in Los Angeles," Stern said on the air. "That's why they have gangs and people shooting each other on the freeway."
He spent the majority of his show spewing venom about Los Angeles' top-rated morning deejays, the KLOS-FM (95.5) duo of Mark Thompson and Brian Phelps, whom he claims have stolen his material.
"I hate them," Stern bellowed. "I just can't calm down. . . . You're going down. And after you lose in Los Angeles, wherever you go I will follow you for free. I'm going to make you pay me to stop broadcasting."
Thompson and Phelps said in a prepared statement Thursday: "L.A.'s a big city. He'll do his thing and we'll do ours."
Stern's ire was not limited to the KLOS morning team.
About KIIS-FM's Rick Dees: "Nobody listens to him anymore. This is the guy who just had the most embarrassing TV show on Earth." About KPWR-FM's Jay Thomas: "The guy's an imbecile." About KFI-AM's Tom Leykis: "He should kiss my feet because I make it possible for him to do what he does."
"That's his game, to bait as many other radio personalities as possible and hope they take the bait," Leykis said in a phone interview. "Howard Stern will not succeed in Los Angeles--not because he isn't talented; he is. People in Los Angeles do not like insult humor, for one thing, and for another, folks here don't really like New York or New Yorkers."
Stern does love to bait people. And not just fellow deejays.
About Rodney King's beating at the hand of several Los Angeles police officers, Stern quipped Thursday: "Sometimes a cop's gotta smack a guy around."
He railed at the disabled and the overweight: "Retards shouldn't be allowed to have kids"; "Fat people are weak. Close your mouth and you'll lose 50 pounds."
While the vast majority of calls to KLSX Thursday were negative, some congratulated the station.
"I just want to say that whoever brought Howard Stern to L.A. should get a raise, a big raise," said one man.