Howard Stern, DC-101's frequently outrageous and controversial morning disc jockey, was suspended from the air for an indefinite period immediately after his broadcast Friday, during which he criticized the rock station's management, and other radio stations. Stern has a month remaining in his contract with WWDC-AM/FM.
It was unclear yesterday whether he will ever be heard again on the station.
"I was caught completely off-guard by the whole thing," said Stern, who in his year-and-a-half tenure in Washington has become the area's third-rated morning disc jockey, behind WMAL-AM's longtime champs Harden and Weaver and WKYS-FM's number two-ranked Donnie Simpson. Stern was voted Washington's best disc jockey in a Washingtonian magazine poll released in the July issue."After Friday's show I was handed a note that said 'you are suspended.' And that was it. I don't know if I'll be on the air again in Washington. That's up to the lawyers," Stern said.
Stern will be replaced in morning drive by a Jacksonville, Fla., air personality known only as "The Grease Man," from WAPE-AM, who will begin in that slot Aug. 2. Asher Benrubi, a.k.a. "Adam Smasher" from WIKS-FM, Indianapolis, will do Stern's show starting next Monday through Aug. 1, when he will move into afternoon drive, replacing Bill Scanlon. Scanlon will either take the 7 p.m. to midnight slot or will become production director, said WWDC president and general manager Goff Lebhar.
"We got both of our first two draft choices in the country," said Lebhar, who signed contracts with the two personalities yesterday. Lebhar refused to give contract details, but said the long-term contracts "far exceed what I read in the paper about the Q-107 contracts." Those contracts, for the ABC-owned Q-107's morning team of Elliott and Woodside, promised each deejay $900,000 over five years. "We didn't hire [Grease Man] to clone Howard Stern," Lebhar added. "We're not out to play 'Can you top this?' "
Stern received a memo, signed by WWDC program director Don Davis, five minutes after his Friday show. "Howard was given directives, both verbally and in writing, and he violated those directives on the air," said Lebhar, who declined to specify the directives broken. "Howard Stern was leaving one way or the other because he signed a contract with another station in New York City," Lebhar said. Stern has signed with WNBC-AM, for nearly $1 million over five years, beginning Aug. 1.
"Over the past couple months there has been a flow of petty memos from management to Howard, saying 'don't do this, don't do that,' " said Stern's attorney Jeffrey Southmayd. "One of those memos said he was not to mention other radio stations during his show. Apparently Howard ranted and raved about a station in Detroit that had released a song similar to his "Elizabeth Taylor Thighs" song, and a Chicago station which was doing his "Dial-A-Date" thing," Southmayd said."But it was clearly nothing obscene or libelous.
"We do not know when and if Howard will be back on the air," Southmayd said. "We are waiting for the station to come to us with that information. After his long run in Washington, he certainly doesn't want to end like this, disappearing suddenly.
"As FCC licensees, it's certainly within WWDC's rights to take Howard off the air," Southmayd said. "As part of the AFTRA agreement, he has to be paid when he's not on the air."
"The only people that have been gypped are me and my audience," Stern said. "I'm still under contract till July 31st and I was going to give them all 1200 guns when I went out. We might be planning a goodbye show at the Capital Centre in July, but nothing's solid on that yet.
"As far as I'm concerned, I was thrilled to be working for WWDC and I love my audience. I'm sorry I'm not being given a chance to say goodbye to them. I'm really shocked and disappointed."
Just last week, in an unrelated action, Robin Quivers, Stern's sidekick and newscaster, left WWDC to become a general assignment reporter at Baltimore's WCBM-AM, where she would be given an opportunity to do more straight news reporting.