Working in Rockefeller Center was like working no where else. On a day to day basis you had to deal with the hoards of tourists, which seemed to increase by 10,000 fold during the lighting of the Rockefeller Christmas tree; there was also the proximity to Times Square which facilitated the time four of us, three female producers and me, piled into an peep show booth to do “research” for an upcoming show; and it was here, that I even got to meet royalty when I produced a show with Catherine Oxenberg, star of Dynasty, daughter of Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia and soon to be ex-wife of Casper Van Dien, he of Starship Troopers fame. Even with all of the above, nothing compared to the three encounters I had with the great Howard Stern.
The first “Howard” meeting came in the summer of 1996, prior to the taping of first show of In Person. It was a Sunday, and I heard they were shooting “Private Parts”, Howard’s movie, at 30 Rock. I, of course, used this as an excuse to go into work for some papers that I really didn’t need. Double parked, for a while this was a theme in my life, I ran over to the building and saw… nothing. I was duped. There wasn’t even an Internet to voice my displeasure. Dejected, I got my work, which was mostly likely something close to nothing, and left. As I exited the door, there he was, Howard Stern. I froze. I was speechless. Hell, I didn’t even notice Robin. I stopped, we chatted, posed for pictures, became friends…well at least in my mind. In reality, once I snapped out of my star stupor, I realized I had to run to my car before it got towed. Our formal meeting would have to wait, yet this tease was encounter one.
The beauty of working at 30 Rock is that television is/was everywhere. Our offices, located on the 8th floor, happened to be a couple of floors above the studios for Conan, aka the old Letterman digs. Many times we would walk down the stairs, sneak into the back of the audience and watch a live taping. We saw countless shows of a young Conan, but, the highlight of those trips was a taping in March 1997, the night Howard Stern appeared. The place was packed, the security was tight and somehow two of us managed to sneak in. I can’t remember much from that night other than the crowd was going crazy and Howard trashed the set. While I was as far away from the stage as you could possibly get, my presence in the same room, encounter two.
Besides Conan, Howard was doing many other shows promoting “Private Parts”, and somehow/someway it was pitched to our show. I’m not sure how our daytime audience was the right target group, but I didn’t care because, as fate would have it, I was to be the producer. I knew now that the last two encounters were now just a prelude to the main event, an actual meeting with Howard. I was psyched. I would meet him, we would become friends, I would appear on his radio show, his daughters would babysit Josh, everything was now in place…and then reality set in. I was so busy daydreaming that I didn’t immediately comprehend what was to come next. The studio told us the guest list for our show would include Robin and Fred and Gary and even some of the kids who portrayed Howard as a youth, everyone, but Howard himself. A movie promotion without the star. A line was drawn. Should we hold firm and demand, “no Howard no show”, telling them without Howard there wasn’t a point. Would we allow ourselves to become a shill? Was it even worth it? Of course! I committed to this show, wanted to meet the supporting cast and most importantly didn’t have anything else booked to fall back on. Long story short, I got to pre-interview and meet everyone in the cast; the show was fun and full of great clips, but of course, behind the scenes was the real action.
At the time of “Private Parts”, the feud between Howard and Rosie, my next door taping neighbor, was at its height. They hated each other and made no bones about making it known. Now, because our green rooms were so close, we had to make sure that no one from the Stern show would run into Rosie. We set up a plan that would make the CIA proud. We had people with walkie talkies staked out everywhere. We had doors and hallways blocked. I even made sure no one mentioned anything with Howard or Stern. It was overkill especially given the fact that in the months we had been taping, NOT ONCE had Rosie seen any of our guests. However, these weren’t racists or twins or Penthouse Pets or some woman who just got dumped by her fiancee, this was the arch enemy. And of course we blew it. Before the show even started when I was talking to Gary, aka Baba Booey, I saw Rosie out of the corner of my eye. She was walking straight towards us. Would they fight? Would I get fired? But most importantly, where the hell were the cameras. Somehow, someway we managed to avoid direct contact, but the slapstick insanity of achieving that goal did make for funny stories…and from what I remember some more Rosie bashing, the next day on Howard’s show. A mention, even if it didn’t include my name, and thus this show completed by Howard trifecta. And to this day, we still have never spoken.
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