Over the past few weeks, Howard Stern has joked that he would follow Mel Karmazin out the door if he ever left Viacom. After Karmazin's sudden resignation this morning, the ball is now in his court.
Stern signed on this morning saying today's show would be an infamous one, knowing that the news of Karmazin's departure had yet to fully break into the mainstream press and having been informed by a phone call from newly named Viacom Co-President/Co-COO Les Moonves. Not letting out the news to begin the show, Stern began by talking about how he started his radio career "against all odds" and with parents that treated his dream to be "this crazy nut" on the radio by saying, "Why not you? Someone's got to be on the radio." He talked a bit about his love/hate relationship with radio and the daily aggravation of trying to get his vision for The Howard Stern Show on the air.
Stern then drifted to his embattled days at NBC. "When NBC fired me, I thought that my career was over. I really thought it was. I was in a panic," he admitted. It was at this point that listeners first got an idea where Stern was going with his career recap, when he bluntly stated: "If NBC was a concentration camp, then Mel was my Schindler." Stern recalled their first meeting, where Karmazin pitched him on coming to WXRK (K-Rock)/New York, before recounting his career under Mel's watch. "When I think back on it all, I couldn't have done it without Mel," he said. "Because when I was fired from NBC, Mel was the guy who rescued me. I am forever grateful. I praise Mel all the time on the air and I will continue to praise him until I die, because the guy is the consummate broadcaster."
It was at that point that Stern let loose with the news from the phone call he received from Moonves the previous night, calling it a "definite nail in my coffin. With Mel gone, I am seeing the darkness at the end of the tunnel. I don't know what this means to the show, but it can't be good. He's the guy who had my back."
For over 18 years, Stern and Robin Quivers have worked for Karmazin. He gave them life after the NBC debacle. He syndicated their show. He gave them the freedom to push the boundaries of radio content, and defended them when the FCC came knocking. But now, they face the prospect of business life without him. "It must be time [to go]," said Quivers, pondering their radio future and adding that Karmazin's departure has "a direct relationship" to The Howard Stern's Show survival. "All the other players could change and it wouldn't make a difference, but Mel makes a difference," she said. "The face of radio has changed completely."
The lament for Mel continued throughout the morning at various points, with plenty of speculation onthe Stern show's future. While satellite radio is the popular pick for Stern's next stop, he alluded to other options available to him. "XM, Sirius, there's all kind of companies out there," said Stern, intimating that a larger foray into television might not be out of the question.