Because of an editing error, a story in some editions of yesterday's Style section incorrectly said that Donnie Simpson has been a deejay at WHUR. Simpson is a top-rated deejay at WKYS.
the controversial, often outrageous deejay fired three years ago by Washington's DC-101 (WWDC-FM) -- was fired Monday by WNBC radio in New York, where he had worked since August 1982.
"I never lead a dull life," Stern, 31, said yesterday, "but I'm pretty shocked at this one. We just had our highest ratings ever. I guess it's the nature of the beast to get fired."
"I doubt this was a decision made through the NBC radio division," said his agent, Don Buchwald. "We were delivering numbers and dollars in spades. We had renegotiated his contract to pay him significantly more money than the old contract called for, with the provision that he produce a 25-54 audience age range . And he went out and did an incredible job producing that audience."
John P. Hayes Jr., WNBC's vice president and general manager, blamed the firing on "conceptual differences."
"An examination of [Stern's] programs over a period of time showed a divergence of opinion and we didn't feel we could resolve it," Hayes said. "In the best interests of the station, we thought we should try something else."
Stern had two years left on a five-year contract. Hayes said his replacement has not been named.
In both Washington and New York, Stern was known for on-the-air slurs and tirades directed at blacks, Jews, homosexuals, the handicapped and anyone else he could think of. His taste ranged from the bad (questioning Lady Di's virginity on her wedding day) to the execrable (calling Air Florida a few days after the crash of 1982 and asking about the carrier's one-way fares from National Airport to the 14th Street Bridge).
His commentary at DC-101 forced that station to install a seven-second delay. His slogan at WNBC was, "If we weren't so bad, we wouldn't be so good."
Though Stern's antics prompted some listener protest, they also brought big ratings. In the 18 months he was at DC-101, Stern tripled that station's ratings, becoming the third-ranked deejay in the area behind perennials Harden and Weaver of WMAL and Donnie Simpson (now with WKYS) of WHUR. He also scored strong ratings at WNBC, which already had outrageous personalities like morning man Don Imus.
Stern, who was reportedly earning $200,000 a year at WNBC before the recent contract renegotiation, had complained often during the last year about being underpaid. On Friday, he had lashed out over rumors that fellow deejay Soupy Sales' program was going to be nationally syndicated. Were that to be the case, Stern suggested, "I won't be here Monday."
He was right about not being on the air Monday.
Hayes, an occasional target of Stern's blasts, said calls to WNBC on Monday were 90 percent in favor of Stern, but had dropped off to 50 percent in favor yesterday.
"He's a very talented and skilled performer," Hayes said, adding that "Howard tended to be a little too concerned with his own world. We were very clear and forthright about the direction we expected from the program and it became clear there was a difference of opinion as to what that direction should be."
Asked about a reconciliation, Stern said he "would like to talk to [WNBC] about it." He said that a number of stations had already contacted him. "I'm looking to hear from everyone," he said.
Hayes said, however, that the firing is irrevocable.
Stern's longtime partner, Robin Quivers, was also fired on Monday, but producer Fred (Earth Dog) Norris will remain at WNBC, Hayes said.