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Howard Goes Hollywood: The Life of a Modern Radio Legend
on April 2, 2006
This film is not for everyone. As much as it does, at times, candy-coat the raunchy nature of Howard Stern's radio show, PRIVATE PARTS will never convert adamant Howard-haters.
Still if you sit back and enjoy the story, this is a fun movie about the rise of a famous (and to some infamous) radio personality who invented a genre of talk show that's been copied relentlessly over the last 20 years.
Directed by "Hill Street Blues" actress Betty Thomas and loosely based on a best selling book by the same title, PRIVATE PARTS stars all the characters Howard made famous since the early 80s on DC and New York City radio shows.
As a result, this cast is mostly comprised of non-actors playing themselves, at various stages of their lives so you have to "suspend belief," as Howard himself urges viewers at the beginning of this film. (A 40 year old Howard Stern doesn't look like the geeky teenager he once was, though trust me he still looks geeky).
Since every Howard fan has already seen this film many times over, I would recommend PRIVATE PARTS to open-minded people who are unfamiliar with him but up for a great tale about the life (complete with its struggles and successes) of one of the most controversial characters of the late 20th century.
Because I love his actual radio show, but found his old TV show, lacking dimensions of Howard that do not involve sex workers, I appreciated director Betty Thomas's approach to telling the Howard story. Rather than exclusively focusing on lesbians and pornography, Thomas also reveals the conflicting nature of Howard Stern, complete with an overbearing, critical father, an off-kilter mother and Howard's disturbingly normal and loving relationship with his wife.
What I loved best about PRIVATE PARTS were the scenes that depicted random people hearing Howard Stern's radio and literally looking shocked by what they were hearing. I remember the first time I heard Howard during the summer of 1985 when he was still on WNBC. What I heard that afternoon startled me and that is precisely what has kept me tuning in ever since.
It's not that I agree with Howard (though more often than not I do) it is just that I never hear people say the things that come out of his mouth. And that in a nutshell is precisely what makes Howard great. Rather than a foul-mouthed shockmeister, Howard is really the voice of a silenced group of people most of us interact with every day. It is not the voice of left-leaning Hollywood with its politically correct poster children.
Instead Howard is the vocal mouthpiece of the random Joe, who secretly thinks about sex 24 hours a day while straddling the fence between liberal and conservative opinions. Because ultimately he is obsessively concerned with himself, his weight, his body functions and the world around him as it relates to him, Stern offers a stream of conscious window into the inner minds of those complicated middle Americans who voted for Bush, made Bay Watch must-see TV and who to this day continue to baffle exit-pollers.
-- Regina McMenamin