THE HAPPY HOWARD & THE HAPPY HUSTLER
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Guest Post by By Michael Kearns
Magically, I found myself on the Howard Stern Show—like Alice in that psychedelic looking glass, like Dorothy in glittery Oz—there I was, merely inches (a recurring theme during the show, by the way) away from the Man. Now some wags might define my appearance more like Eve Harrington on stage with her idol, Margo Channing, but the truth is bad enough: this was as innocent as it was accidental.
My friend of more than forty years, Carole Preston, has a dreamboat of a husband who knows that her infatuation with Howard Stern is not going to break up their marriage of thirtysomething years. Dave is a generous and altruistic human being; because he knows his wife’s boundless love of Howard, he bid in a charity auction that promised the winner a visit to sit in on Howard’s show.
Carole and I went to Acting School (capital A, capital S) together so Dave has been aware of my—shall we say? theatricalities—for decades. He thought I might be a more suitable presence on the show, escorting his lovely wife—even though there are no guarantees that the “charity guests” would say a word.
Think again, partner.
I found an opening, so to speak, at the top of the segment; referring to the relationship between Carole and me, I said, “I’m the gay friend.” Howard was immediately responsive: “Gay people are a gift from God to this world.” He said that all of his gay friends have “something special” about them.
He asked me if he could be gay and sleep with women but not men. I explained that he could be a “straight fruit. Hollywood is filled with them.”
When asked if I had sex with women when I was younger, I told him that I’d occasionally have a three way with a couple in order to fuck the guy. Howard (correctly, I concurred) said that any guy who’d have a three-way with another guy is probably gay.
There was the inevitable talk about penis sizes: Howard’s (self-admittedly “small”), mine (self-aggrandizingly “large”), Rock Hudson’s (“ginormous,” first-hand knowledge) and Carole’s husband’s (“huge,” because he-told-Carole-to-tell-me-to-tell-Howard that).
At some point, Howard’s computer screen lit up with my Wiki entry and he asked if I was the Michael Kearns who is the “first openly gay actor in Hollywood.” I admitted it; guilty as charged.
This led to questions about gay actors, dead or alive, closeted or uncloseted—some that I’ve slept with and some that I haven’t. And some weren’t actors but known more for their singing-songwriting skills.
I was only bleeped twice: once for teasing the title of one of the singer-songwriter’s greatest hits and for alluding to the gymnastic behavior of a mega moviestar during a popular talk show appearance (who I’ve never laid my eyes on in person, let alone my hands.)
This was not my first “fifteen minutes” in the limelight but there was something so sweet about this duet. I realize it might seem odd to apply the word “sweet” to a conversation about dick sizes, Hollywood dish, who’s gay and who’s not, Kentucky Fried Movie, three-ways and Rock Hudson. The sweet chemistry between two grown men (one flagrantly straight, one notoriously gay) who liked each other, respected each other, and ultimately had a really good time together: that is not commonplace.
In this perilous world we live in, I believe that’s what people related to with such sincere fervor. I haven’t received so much fan mail since I appeared on The Waltons nearly forty years ago. My friends asked why I didn’t mention my book, The Truth Is Bad Enough, What Became of the Happy Hustler? I didn’t have to; the listeners were all over it. And I wasn’t there to hustle my wares.
Being with Howard gave me an opportunity to be authentic—one of those buzz words that I’ve grown to loathe but sometimes it’s the only appropriate one. And Howard is as authentic as they come. Being granted the golden fortuity to be one’s self for an audience of a million or so listeners is a pretty heady experience.
One doesn’t immediately think of Howard Stern as an activist or a human rights advocate but, in reality, he is. His persona may be brash and in-your-face but he’s also gentle and ultimately finds his way into your heart.
My friend Carole said that the show is “powerful” and she’s right. For one thing, he makes a lot of people smile, laugh, feel good. He also makes people angry and makes them think about shit they might not want to confront. That is powerful.
Near the end of the show, Howard asked me who “the hottest guy in Hollywood” is right now. I told him I liked James Franco and that Brad Pitt is still looking pretty fuckin’ good.
But the hottest man in America right now? In my opinion? Howard Stern.
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