Howard Stern, who routinely accuses others of trying to censor the spoken word on his nationally syndicated radio show, has received similar heat over his written words from a West Coast book distributor.
Sapak Inc., a Huntington Beach company that supplies books to such Southern California retail chains as Fedco, Gemco and Pace, has canceled an order for 20,000 copies of Stern's raw autobiography, "Private Parts," which is due in stores Friday.
Terry Millar, a buyer at Sapak, said she turned the order away after receiving sample pages of the book. "I don't believe that it would be appropriate for family-oriented stores, which is the type we supply," she said.
Millar added that she was most concerned that unattended children in the book departments of the retail stores she supplies could pick up "Private Parts," which is laced with graphic language and sexual illustrations.
Millar would not confirm reports that she ordered 20,000 copies, which is equal to the first printing of many smaller books, only that she placed a "sizable order."
Sapak is the only distributor known to have canceled an order for the book so far, sources close to Stern said. Publisher Simon & Schuster has ordered a first printing of 250,000 copies of the book, which will retail for $23, in anticipation of it becoming a bestseller.
Neither Stern nor executives at Simon & Schuster could be reached for comment Wednesday. But this is not the first time they have had to deal with retailers' concerns about the book.
Simon & Schuster substituted the cover shot that was to be used for "Private Parts"--a nude photo of Stern being straddled by two naked blondes holding his crotch--because booksellers in the Midwest refused to display it.
Now the lanky Stern stands alone holding his own crotch on the cover, with the title of the book superimposed over his midsection.
Stern, whose New York-based morning show airs locally on KLSX-FM (97.1), has been repeatedly fined for allegedly indecent broadcasts by the Federal Communications Commission. The fines have totaled more than $1.2 million.
For months he has claimed that he is a victim of censorship. But Millar said that is not the case this time.
"We are a wholesaler, and it's my responsibility to protect our customers," she said. "While Howard Stern has his freedom of expression, and I definitely do not believe in censorship, I do believe that anyone has the right to present and-or expose what they think is not appropriate. I don't feel that this is appropriate for our market."
Stern has repeatedly expressed his desire on the radio to outsell conservative national radio host Rush Limbaugh. Ironically, Limbaugh's next book, "See, I Told You So," will be published in November by a division of Simon & Schuster.