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Mr. America Strikes Again : Howard Stern’s Racy Second Book Is a No. 1 Bestseller, and He Says a ‘Private Parts’ Film Deal Is Near

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Howard Stern seems surprised when it is suggested that the first chapter of his new, best-selling book--a graphic description of his adventures in cyberporn that reads like the letters to Penthouse-- is gross.

“Really? You thought that?” asks Stern, who is as quiet and thoughtful during an interview at his New York radio studio as he is loud and crude on the air. “The only other people who have said that are my wife and my mother.

“Maybe it shocks women, but this is how men are,” Stern maintained. “Men are peno-centric--they’re obsessed, no matter who they are.”

That theory could not be independently verified. What is certain is that, while many women are offended by Stern’s habit of asking every female guest--from New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman to Hollywood actresses--their breast size, his unbridled id has made him a hit with his largely male audience.

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Although his morning radio program is heard in only 23 markets--including on KLSX-FM (97.1) in Los Angeles, where it is No. 1--Stern is one of the best-known talk-show hosts in the country. Even many of his critics admit that he is funny on topics other than sex, such as politics and his humorous bid for the governorship of New York. His fans, prompted by Stern’s shameless on-air promotion, have made his new autobiography, “Miss America,” the fastest-selling nonfiction book in the country.

“I think people are surprised that my fans buy books,” the 41-year-old Stern said.

“I didn’t set out to make this book more outrageous than the first one,” he said, referring to his 1993 bestseller, “Private Parts.” “But I did want to tell some stories I hadn’t talked about on the air and get into some topics I might not get into on the air.”

Stern, who was complaining on the air for much of this year about the grind of doing the daily radio show, said he is currently working without a contract with Infinity Broadcasting Corp., which produces and syndicates the program.

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“I’m in negotiations now with Infinity, and another company has approached me,” he said, declining to name the other firm. “But I expect to re-sign with Infinity because they’ve backed me with the Federal Communications Commission.

“Some days I do feel like a zombie getting up at 4 a.m. to commute from Long Island,” where he lives with his wife and three daughters. “Writing is the most creatively satisfying work I’ve done, and I want to do other things in entertainment--like the movie of ‘Private Parts.’ But radio is what made my career, outside of traditional show business. I expect to stay with radio--I would just like to get on more stations.”

Stern’s radio show makes millions of dollars. But he maintains that a long-running dispute with the FCC has inhibited many stations from carrying it.

In a series of rulings, the FCC held that Stern had broadcast “indecent” material on some of his shows and fined Infinity. Without admitting any wrongdoing, Infinity ended the three-year dispute in September by agreeing to pay $1.7 million--as a “voluntary contribution” to the U.S. government--to settle the case. The payment was widely interpreted as a move by the company to get on with its plans to buy more radio stations.

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“The minute we went to No. 1 in L.A., the FCC fined Infinity $700,000,” Stern said. “They held up Infinity’s station-license applications. They fined me for saying penis and vagina on the air--but you can say on the air that Jewish people ought to be sent to ovens, and that’s not a problem. . . . We could’ve won this case in court on free-speech grounds, but the battle became too costly.”

Stern rejected the notion that he should change his act because children might be listening.

“Our show’s not for kids, and we don’t have a lot of them in the audience--you can check our demographics,” he said. (When Stern’s 12-year-old daughter asked to read the manuscript of “Miss America,” he said, “I told her, ‘This is a book for adults.’ ”)

He also said that he thought the adults in his audience knew when he was kidding. “I’ve talked to a lot of fans--I think they can make the distinction.”

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With his new fame as an author, Stern may be getting the go-ahead on other projects in entertainment. He said that the long-delayed movie of “Private Parts” is finally going to happen.

“We’ve had six scripts, and I’ve finally got one I like,” said Stern, who plans to star in the movie. “It’s bizarre and funny. We’re green-lighted to go into production with a major studio. I think we could begin in the next several months.”

Stern said the project has a studio and a director and will be announced within the next several weeks. He declined to comment on a published report that filmmaker Ivan Reitman had written the script and that Stern wanted Reitman to direct.

The “shock jock” also said that he has “four standing offers” from the broadcast networks to do a late-night show. Previous discussions with Fox and CBS have come apart over how much raunchy content a Stern TV show would contain.

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This time, “I’ve got an idea for a late-night show that I think would work and would be acceptable on broadcast TV,” Stern said, adding with characteristic modesty, “Late night could use something outrageous. It’s weird when a serious news show, ‘Nightline,’ beats Letterman and Leno.”

* “The Howard Stern Show” airs weekdays 3-10 a.m. on KLSX-FM (97.1). Excerpts from the program air on the E! Entertainment cable channel weekdays at 8 and 11 p.m.


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