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The Send-Off

A sallacious send-off for Stern

BY STEPHEN WILLIAMS AND ROBERT KAHN
STAFF WRITERS

It wasn’t exactly “good night and good luck.”

After 20 years as New York’s premier radio personality, Howard Stern signed off WXRK-FM permanently yesterday morning, where the atmosphere inside the studio and on the sidewalk outside was more like a circus than a memorial.

Speechifying before a crowd of about 10,000 gathered under a steady drizzle, the King of All Media thanked his fan base of strippers, various garbage men, his loyal and long-serving K-rock crew, plus High Pitch Eric, Hook Nose Mike, and Jeff the Drunk. Then he shouted from the top of a double-decker bus, “Long live the Howard Stern Show!”

Posed like a conquering Roman tribune, Stern waved to the screaming throngs after the broadcast ended,andthe bus wound its way through midtown to an invites-only, post-show party at the Hard Rock Cafe, headlined by singer Sheryl Crow and hosted by Martha Stewart.

Stern will next be heard publicly Jan. 9 on Sirius satellite radio, beginning a five-year, $500 million gig. Stern, who essentially has been saying goodbye to terrestrial radio since he signed with Sirius 15 month ago, opened his show with a version of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” “Good morning, and welcome to the last show on terrestrial radio,” he said.

The sound of “Taps” played in the background.

For the first couple of hours the show was Usual Howard — at one point producer Gary Dell’Abate, who was chatting with fans on the street, told Howard that one woman in the crowd was wearing a trench coat and nothing else, and had been there since the previous night.

Various guests, including ex-stripper Amy Linn and the “King of All Blacks”,showed up in the studio, as did Stern’s family and his mother and father, Rae and Ben. The parents later appeared outside to huge cheers.

“We’ve had this glorious history together, all of us,” Stern said on the air at one point, before leaving the small studio on the 14th floor for the last time. “I’m thinking all the way back, moving around the country, Detroit, Washington D.C… .we’ve influenced an entire generation of broadcasters.”

Arriving after 9:30 a.m. on an elevated stage under a white tent set up on 56th Street, Stern spent about 20 minutes thanking the fans and others. He also targeted radio giant Clear Channel Communciations and the FCC, with whom he’s battled over indecency violations through the years, and the “religious right.”

Undeterred by the prospect of dismal weather and a possible transit strike, many well-wishers came from far away to mark the occasion.

“I had to be here for this,” said Scott Land, who was the head puppeteer on last year’s “Team America:World Police” movie. Land came from Los Angeles carrying a Howard marionette he had crafted for the event. “When this is over,” he said, “it’s over.”

Some not-so-well wishers were there too, including a contigent of about 100 people from XM, Sirius’ satellite rival.They chanted “Howard Stern’s a bozo.”

Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.

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