Volume 90, Issue 87

Tuesday, March 11, 1997



Howard Stern's moderately funny private life

Private Parts
Directed by Betty Thomas
Starring Howard Stern, Robin Quivers, Fred Norris and Mary McCormack
At Famous Players 6, 7:15 and 9:50 p.m.

In 1987's Talk Radio, Oliver Stone explored radio as the last neighbourhood in America. The film was a dark look at the cry of freedom manipulating the world's most reachable media.

Stone's film – based on the biography of murdered DJ Alan Berg – came, ironically, during the rise of Howard Stern, the most successful disc jockey ever and the most important torch-bearer of free speech this generation has seen.

Like Barry Champlain, the DJ portrayed by Eric Bogosian in Talk Radio, Stern, played by himself in his film debut, is unwilling to compromise. Rules are not meant to be broken, they are meant to not exist. Stern's gig, like Champlain's, refuses to be censored or changed by anyone except himself. Management is held hostage by the DJ's through-the-roof ratings and is finally forced to accept the DJ on his own terms.

What separates these two personalities/characters is their disposition and goals. Where Champlain thought he was changing the world, Stern's major motive is to make cash and build a career. He also wants the chance to experience the fantasies his fame has provided for him. Only to pretend though, because he would never betray his wife Alison (Mary McCormack).

Where Talk Radio was a dramatic and cinematographic masterpiece, Private Parts tells a story – an honest, self-depreciating tale at that. It's really that simple. Private Parts is an autobiography of the classic underdog. It includes boy meets girl, boy loses girl and boy gets girl back. It tells of a rich boy making it to the top. There's a case of friend loyalty. It includes proving one's self to dear ol' dad. Basic stuff.

Does Stern's life story warrant a film? He has certainly entertained millions with his morning radio show. And his book, also titled Private Parts, is a laughable read.

While the movie isn't exactly typical Hollywood fruit punch, its ups and downs are enough to make any L.A. director smile. Much of Stern's off-beat humour is left out – the film is decidedly less controversial than his radio show.

For entertainment's sake, Private Parts is a winning motion picture. There are several radio gags, which are hilarious, to go along with touching emotional moments – ultimately making the movie Stern's love letter to his loyal wife. Some of the lesser characters, played by the real life Robin Quivers (Stern's sidekick) and Fred Norris, are comedic in their own way. Private Parts is also a love letter from Stern to Quivers and Norris – two figures who Stern gives much of the credit to for his success.

But once again – did this movie have to be made? Truth – no. Other than for the obvious money-making reasons, of course.

Stern's legion of fans were out in busloads for the film's opening weekend but once that dies out, with limited word-of-mouth appeal, Private Parts should quietly go away.

A major motion picture wasn't necessary to further glorify this superstar of the airwaves. Mr. Stern's domain is the radio, always has been, always will be.

–Dan Gladman

To Contact The Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997