Brush with Greatness


Barbara's Visit To The Final Howard Stern Show Rally - December 16, 2005

December 16

I couldn't sleep. This must have been what Howard was going through. My mind was racing. What was this rally going to be like? What was the last show going to be like? Why was I so sad about the whole thing? I am all ready for the Sirius show, I bought my S50 and am excited to use it, but still these final K-Rock shows really made me sad. At 3:00 am I switched on the TV for a second just to see whether or not the transit strike had started because I was living in fear that Howard's rally would be cancelled. Even if it had been officially cancelled, I still would have made my way there just to see if we even got a wave or a glance, or even just to talk to the other fans who would no doubt have accumulated there. I felt the need to listen to this final show in the company of a group. Ideally, I would have liked to have a friend or two with me, but no luck there. Maybe that was adding to my misery that I was the only person I knew who was so driven that NOT showing up at this thing was just not an option.

Barbara's View of the stage I had a yellow cab driver pick me up at 5:30 am and wound up at the entry point, 56th Street and 5th Avenue, around 5:45. It was drizzling when I left my house, but it was full-on downpour by the time I got there. I just sucked it up and joined the steady steam of fans who were packing in. The street was blocked off by barricades so you couldn't get onto the sidewalk, you had to stand in the middle of the street. Even at 5:45 am I was still about a good city block back from the stage they had set up. I realized immediately that I wouldn't see shit, but there was no way I was turning around at that point. People had these big foam-core black Howard fist logos, and there were a ton of Sirius and home-made signs around. Banner The best sign I saw was Howard, Robin, Fred and Artie sitting on top of a spaceship fleeing the FCC, with Gary as a monkey dangling from the nose of the rocket ship. The guy in front of me had a big umbrella so I kinda hunched myself under that and listened to the tail end of Dead Air Dave as I took in the scene. The vibe was really pretty quiet and almost reverential when I first got there. On the air Dave was telling a story about how he got into radio, and he played bits from the very first show that Howard did on K-Rock, Howard and Robin doing the DJ Snatchy Snatch bit. I gained newfound respect for Dead Air Dave.

One of the big shocks to me was how normal looking the crowd was. Beetlejuice Mask I didn't really know what to expect, but these people who had gathered looked like regular working people who had taken the time out of their lives to commemorate this event. I think I expected a freakier group. However, females were definitely in the minority. There were definitely other women there, several of whom I would later see take their tops off, but the male-female ratio, I would guess, was about 5 to 1.

Around 6:00 am the rain tapered off, and I noticed that a guy about two people in front of me was drinking from what appeared to be pint of Night Train, and I began to fear this crowd was going to degenerate into a complete mess. Then Howard opened the show with "Imagine" and all the emotion which had been building up in me for this whole week hit me hard and I just started to cry, I could not believe I was listening to this final FM broadcast.

They had speakers set up so you could hear the show out in the street and it was not on a delay like the radio broadcast on my walkman. I listened on my headphones anyway just because it was so much clearer. The street really began to fill up as the rain kinda started up again. I got into a brief conversation with the guy behind me who was drinking from a Coke bottle. He told me that he's such an Artie fan that he was drinking jack and coke in his honor for this final show. What a moving tribute to this great comic.

I had positioned myself along the barricade on the right-hand side of the street and I got to see at different points Jason and The Widow Goodstein walking by with microphones and cameras. But at one point I realized I would have a better view from the left hand side so I bolted over there when I saw an opening in the crowd. By " better view" it meant I could see approximately another 3 inches of the canopy over the stage. But the fans were a little friendlier on this side, and I got into a conversation with a guy named Jack who was from Massachusetts but had scheduled a business trip to coincide with this last show, and also with Gary, a gigantically tall guy from Columbus who had flown in that morning just for the rally.

An enterprising deli on 56th Street sent a waitress up and down the sidewalk taking breakfast and orders from the crowd, which I thought was a great idea. They must have made a bundle. And having food and coffee around just added to the congenial atmosphere. At some point, Jack and Coke from this morning reappeared, barely able to stand upright, and asked me if I wanted to weasel my way through the crowd with him to make it to the front. As tempting as this offer sounded, to push and shove my way through a mass of cold wet people who had waited for hours, I had to decline. I figured I would probably slip in the vomit, which looked like it was about to come out of him at any second. But this guy was the notable exception, most of the fans I saw managed to keep their act together pretty well.

From time to time these people from Sirius I guess would appear and hand out these badges, which had a scratch-off field, where you might win a place at the concert at the Hard Rock. I didn't luck out there, but I was psyched to have a keepsake from the event.

Howard kept saying on the show that the crowd sounded quiet, but from where I was standing, it was really pretty raucous. People were really into being there, and they were cheering, booing, yelling, and screaming with a lot of energy.

It was very moving to be in the company of fans to listen to the show, and especially once the speeches started. To sing the Beetlejuice song at the top of my lungs in public was the height of fun. And what is better than yelling with a huge crowd, "I told you not to be stupid, you moron," shouting "I-I-I-I-I" at poor John the Stutterer, and chanting 'ARTIE! ARTIE! ARTIE!!' This must be what a gay person feels like at the Pride parade. It's an incredible feeling to be among this huge group that shares this one major part of your life with you. It was amazing.

By this time, the crowd was positively massive. It stretched from avenue to avenue, and in some places the people were really packed in. It made me think that not many artists (yes, I consider Howard an artist) could bring out such a huge crowd to wait in the cold and the rain for an event like this. When the sun finally came out, I joked with Gary from Columbus, "See? Howard's so powerful, he can even get the sun to come out," and Gary said, "no, he got Bababooey to do it."

All the major speeches were just fantastic. How do you not love Gary referring to himself as "Ra-ra-retard"? They each seemed so genuine and heartfelt, which is what you'd expect from these people, and they didn't disappoint. I'll spare you the content of the speeches, because Mark will have them in his recap. But I loved how each of them thanked the fans so much for their success over the years. As someone who eats a lot of shit for being a big Howard fan, and who has been insanely loyal to show sponsors and other friends of the show, that really meant a lot to me. Fred's speech, to me, was almost the high point even more than Howard's, simply because you almost never hear him speak at any length, and because it's so refreshing to hear such a straightforward, no-bullshit point of view. And to hear him sounding so emotional and excited about the future was really thrilling to me. I surprised and amused to hear him end his speech with an F Jackie after he had admitted on the show the day before that they had been out to lunch recently, and things were good between them.

Howard's speech was just brilliant. It didn't sound rehearsed at all, which is what I loved most about it. He gave so much credit to the fans and the people he works with. I'd love to hear any of these other shithead celebrities be that honest. At least in the part of the crowd where I was, it was like being at a Hitler rally. Everyone was so totally psyched up to hear every word he had to say. It was incredible. I loved the fact that Robin had to keep running back and forth to give Howard reminders of who to thank. Nothing in this world seems spontaneous anymore, everything is so planned and premeditated and phony and fake. But there was none of that at this rally, especially not during Howard's speech. When Howard let out an F Jackie, I was cracking up because they had had such a love fest up in the studio. I felt very proud to be part of his "last of a dying breed."

The walk leading away from the rally was almost as good as the rally itself. Fan Sign Some crazed fan came out on a roof on 56th Street and lifted up her top for the huge crowd filtering by, to a chorus of "SHOW YOUR TITS, SHOW YOUR TITS!" I gave her a lot of credit, because it had gotten pretty f*ing cold at that point. I was in a massive pack of Stern fans all the way from 56th Street down to 48th Street where I had to turn off to get to my office. I got back to my office soaked to the skin and frozen hands, feet and face. Did I regret it? Now, that's ridiculous. I was finally able to shake off some of the sadness that I had for the past week. I felt like blowin' my mind up.

A note from Mark... Barbara was one of the few people who responded to my request for a 'Field Reporter' to write about Howard's final show rally since I wasn't able to make it down there myself. Her report was a few days later than expected but I really appreciate the fact that she took the time to write it even though she was having a ''weekend and week from hell'' with personal issues at home and work. Thanks Barbara!

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