Psychology, Reality TV, Vanderpump Rules

#PumpRules: Preconceived Notions, Premature Judgements…or Prejudice?

Season 7 of Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules premieres next month and fans have expressed some opinions on one of the cast mates, who is slated to become more of a central character this time around. The show’s first transgender personality, Billie Lee, had minimal, yet significant story-lines during Season 6. She fascinated and inspired viewers with her candor about her courageous journey with a triumphant outcome, albeit one still filled with challenges.

During the off season while the show was not airing (but filming), some drama transpired in the complicated world of social media. Billie Lee claimed to have been excluded from a party thrown by a cast mate, while the others chimed in to say she had been invited. Others contradicted that by saying the party was for a specific set of restaurant workers. Billie used her platform and past experience to communicate that this current conundrum reflected the type of cliqueness and exclusion she had and still experienced as a trans women. Cast mates chimed in on Instagram to say she was overreacting and viewers came to the defense of the somewhat snobbish Vanderpump Rules queen bee Stassi Schroeder, who deemed Billie Lee to be an overreactive drama queen.

A lot of venom was spewed in that vortex known as the “interwebs.” Facebook groups, Twitter pages and Instagram posts began to pop up that were less than pro Billie Lee. They praised her journey and the fact that she was a trans spokeswoman but, without actually seeing the footage from season 7, deemed her to be a diva with personality issues.

Whether Billie Lee was discriminated against or not is something viewers will have to determine individually when the season airs. But one thing that we should all keep in mind is that she has an understandable reason to be extra sensitive. Stassi Schroeder makes for great television and has learned a lot during her time on the show, but she has made the news in the past and rubbed cast mates the wrong way for criticizing aspects of the #MeToo movement. She also impulsively made quips that were the opposite of “woke.” To her credit however, Stassi has acknowledged that she wants to do better. She has admitted to her faults and to the fact that she is constantly learning and evolving. We have come to see her as continually taking two steps forward, then two steps back and then a step forward again.

Given this context and the fact that Billie Lee has been through a trying ordeal – living most of her life feeling she was in the wrong body and having faced backlash and bias – we have extra information to truly consider once the season airs. Maybe fans will understand Billie Lee, and perhaps others will hate her due to her personality…with it having nothing to do with anything other than personality. Still, I think we need to try to abolish the memories of the social media drama between seasons. We (you and me, all of us) should keep in mind that Billie Lee had been through one hell of a ride before she was cast on the show. She didn’t get to the highs without incurring the unimaginable lows.

Before beginning Season 7 on Monday December 3rd (at 9PM), it might be insightful to read more about Billie Lee’s past, the ordeals she has been through, the trials and tribulations she faces daily and generally, what it is like for her to live as a trans woman in 2018: Billie Lee’s Website.

(Pictured: Lisa Vanderpump with Billie Lee, Photo Credit: Bustle.com)

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Celebrities, True Crime

The Curious Case of Casey Kasem

Casey Kasem was in his 80s when he passed away in 2014. Those not in the know would assume that the legend, famous for his weekly “Top 40 Countdown” in the 1980s and 1990s, had died of old age. But a suit and a countersuit with an ongoing contentious battle indicates otherwise.

As Peter Van Sant reports for CBS’s 48 Hours, when Kasem was diagnosed with a Parkinson’s-like condition in his late 70s, a battle over his medical care, decision making, and ultimately, his estate, ensued.

Kasem’s second wife Jean Thompson Kasem (who doesn’t do herself any favors wearing the zaniest pair of eyeglass frames for half the episode, nor when she later throws meat in an exasperated demonstration) claims his three children were after their father’s money. Furthermore, she says that for that reason, Kasem cut them off.

For their part, the Kasem kids (currently adults) claim that their stepmother is evil, crazy, a pathological liar and that she wanted complete control of their father…and of course, his money. They say that by Jean alienating them from their dad and moving him from facility to facility, his health deteriorated quickly and he died sooner than he would have under proper care.

The problem is, they were also involved in moving their father – away from Jean. Both sides, his wife of 35 years and his 2 daughters and son from his first marriage staunchly contend that they loved Kasem, and wanted the best medical care for him. Both sides allege that the other is responsible for his death.

Listen to the following episode of the 48 Hours podcast for a lot more information on this story. Then feel free to share your thoughts, as well as who you side with, in the comments’ section.

(Photo Source: CBSNews.com)

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Bravo TV, public figures, Real Housewives, Reality TV, RHOC, RHONJ, Women

#RealHousewives: The Question of When (and Why) To Walk Away

Real Housewives of Orange County‘s Kelly Dodd took to her Instagram as news of the upcoming RHOC reunion rocked social media. In the previews and articles, veteran Housewife Vicki Gunvalson makes the outlandish accusation that Kelly, 43, a divorced mother of Jolie (12) who she shares with ex husband Michael, uses cocaine.

Kelly has taken to her Instagram to deny the allegations and say that they are damaging to her daughter who is aware of what transpired.

Kelly has declared that she can no longer be around Vicki and that if the OG Housewife – of the first of the Real Housewives Bravo franchises – stays, she will not be back.

Fans are expressing their doubts because Evolution Media, the production company behind RHOC, seems to have an unspoken lifetime commitment to Vicki Gunvalson, and Kelly, now a single mom, would be walking away from some stellar pay (not that she’s hurting for cash. Her ex husband is the retired CEO of Leapfrog, the teaching tech device company that helped my toddlers learn their ABCs).

Speaking of Housewives walking away, Danielle Staub of Real Housewives of New Jersey was once the most epically notorious Housewife with a temper of Trumpian proportions (not fab for the presidency, but pretty riveting for reality television). After Danielle’s below the belt and bellicose response to Margaret agreeing to attend Dolores Catania’s hatchet throwing event, it was evident to most viewers that the demoted Danielle most likely held resentments about being a “friend of” for the second season in a row, rather than a full time cast member known as “Housewife”, her previous title. While I do NOT think Danielle’s strong-willed cast mates would ask for her to go, and she has Teresa on her side and currently as a real (off camera) friend, she seems quite disgruntled with the majority of the cast to observant RHONJ viewers.

An article on the website TooFab features new RHONJ cast member Jacqueline (“Jackie”) Goldschneider stating that she wasn’t given the warmest reception by Danielle. Jackie is also particularly close to Margaret, she states in the article, so that may have something to do with any prejudices on Danielle’s part.

Unlike with Kelly Dodd, I don’t see producers trying very hard to reason with the volatile “friend of.” Evolution Media and Bravo may very likely go out on a limb to placate Kelly, who is ratings gold and intriguing to many fans in her “full time” secured spot on RHOC. Producers will likely encourage these ladies to make up or pick up their drama next season for a storyline, but monetary offers demanding apologies will have to be a part of their strategy. Kelly Dodd has been declaring that her tween daughter is more important than any TV show and she is not one to mince words or refrain from making necessary demands. Sirens, the production company behind RHONJ, made Danielle a “friend of” for a reason, and with the new cast mates already getting into the overall drama mix, I see Danielle being phased out in a similar fashion to Kim D. (the villain who held an annual Posche boutique fashion show. Both Kim and Posche will be completely absent from the current season according to multiple reports and sources.)

It is my sense that Vicki will be doing some major backpedaling (we’ve seen her do it before), but that both she and Kelly will return next season and their terse interactions will be featured in the first few episodes.

I think Danielle is more likely to end up on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars next year. She has posted about suffering from arthritis, but being quite the determined ballroom dancer despite the aches and pains– and the petite former Housewife has some serious skills. I think she could make it far as one who inspires others dealing with chronic pain and has sashayed away from toxicity.

I predict she would make it much farther than Lisa Vanderpump did on DWTS and she’ll be happier than she would be feuding with the ladies.

Suggest it to ABC. I will too.

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Bravo TV, Psychology, Real Housewives, RHOC

#RHOC: Emily Simpson Triumphantly Claps Back at Tamra Judge on Social Media

“Where has THIS Emily been all season?!” one commenter in a Bravo-focused Facebook group wrote. His remark was in response to a social media argument that heated up between Real Housewives of Orange County cast mates Tamra Judge and Emily Simpson. The group consensus was that Emily had successfully told an aggressive Tamra off. “I’m wondering what transpired at the RHOC reunion,” another Facebook user replied, “Whatever it was had to be the catalyst for this angry back and forth.”

In many of our lines of work, we’ve learned it’s best not to address negativity. I witnessed a reporter from a top news magazine demonstrate that admirably the other day when a livid TV personality repeatedly lashed out at him on Twitter. It’s a lesson to note, but “restraint” rhymes with “saint” and many have deemed that non-coincidental. In addition, being on reality television negates many of those rules and restrictions. You’ve signed the contract and that entails speaking up for yourself.

In the interest of full disclosure, I socially met up with a small group that included Emily Simpson this past Sunday. I’ve had the opportunity to meet many other “Reality TV Personalities” over the years and I bristle at egos and get easily turned off by a lack of humility. Emily was down to earth, kind, sensitive and genuine. She was someone I clicked with, who I felt comfortable with despite badly needing a haircut and wearing my clunky glasses. She is someone to whom I wouldn’t hesitate to say: “Ok, you should really ignore your cast mates’ mean barbs.”

We sensitive folks (who the insensitive call “crazy” sometimes because of just how sensitive we can be. I’m not referring to Emily here as much as myself and others like me who are continually advised to “toughen your skin.”) consider that advice easier said than done. As an attorney, Emily has the right mix of sensitivity and no-nonsense toughness.

I think she handled Tamra properly and I hope she realizes that she effectively got the last word in their terse social media exchange (pictured above). I think she can spend today feeling content. From a production standpoint, and as one still rooting for the longevity of this franchise, Evolution Media can use the above exchanges in their opening footage sequence next season. As many viewers have opined on Twitter and Instagram, Emily has solidified that she’s earned the right to a spot as “Housewife” next season.

(Featured Photo Source: Reality Blurb)

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#RHONY, Bachelor Nation, Bravo TV, Real Housewives, Reality TV

#RHONY & #TheBachelor Crossover? The Countess Once Hit on Nick Viall

ABC’s former Bachelor Nick Viall revealed some tantalizing information on the podcast Juicy Scoop with Heather McDonald, released yesterday. Aside from tentatively dishing about some of the manipulative tactics by Bachelor production, he recounted a story of meeting Real Housewives of New York‘s Luann De Lesseps in Chicago. It was after his first stint on ABC’s The Bachelorette.

“I was out to dinner with friends…It was approximately 4 or 5 years ago. Someone in my entourage wanted to introduce me to…a duchess…or countess. I thought ‘Oh cool, a royal. I’ve never met a princess.’ She proceeded to enjoy the evening with some drinks. At some point, I had to get out of there. I had plans to go meet friends at a divey bar and I thought…for a moment…it would be really funny if I brought her. I don’t think she would have enjoyed that place. She leaned over and said ‘Where are you going? I do have a hotel and this hotel room.'”

Alas, there was no hookup because Viall went to meet his friends, and he hasn’t seen Luann De Lesseps since that evening. From the conversation with McDonald, it doesn’t sound like Viall follows any of Bravo’s Real Housewives franchises, but regarding the Countess, he added: “She was very nice, but it was before rehab and she was about 12 beers deep.”

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#politics, Bravo TV, Reality TV, Vanderpump Rules

#PumpRules: Yes, We Care About Politics

Exactly two years ago to this date, November 8th 2016, the site Jezebel posted an article titled Why Couldn’t We Interview the Cast of Vanderpump Rules About the Election? The author Ellie Shechet stated her desire to ask cast mates of the show their thoughts on the former reality star who would eventually go on to become president.

“I mean, don’t you want to know what Lala thinks?” she wrote.

She continued: “But when I reached out to Bravo to request interviews with the cast on the 2016 election, I was politely rebuffed. We were later told that Jezebel could only attend a ‘pub crawl’ event with the cast if we refrained from asking political questions.”

Bravo’s communications department may have the same stance today, keeping politics off the table in press interviews, but some cast members of various shows on the network are outspoken anyway.

When I asked Shep Rose his thoughts on Donald Trump several years ago, the PR rep interrupted and then Shep very assertively interrupted her: “No, I want to take this one.” As one can see from Shep’s recent tweets, he’s no fan of the president’s but on the phone, I got the sense he was Libertarian (and of course, there was no Trump love there as he explained an otherwise moderate position).

But back to Vanderpump Rules. In the past, we had gotten to know that Stassi Schroeder was the offspring of a gun-loving Republican dad and she would sometimes put her foot in her mouth, getting flack for criticizing some of the #MeToo stories. She was quickly schooled by her cast mates (in particular, Ariana Madix) and angry listeners of her podcast. She became terribly remorseful and some wondered if it was because advertisers had pulled out of her show, while others noted growth and maturation.

On the show, she showed her support for LGBTQ rights. Off air and in social media land (a place my 12 year old has vowed to never go and has deemed evil), Stassi incurred the wrath of many, including her very “woke” and liberal cast mate Ariana Madix, who was always outspoken about politics.

Ariana’s longtime boyfriend Tom Sandoval said in a very nonchalant way in 2016 that he would probably vote Democratic. This casualness reflected a collective mindset of these kids two years ago, who many viewers feel, have grown up on camera (never mind that they’re in their 30s. I do contend that political growth can spurt as part of one’s quarter life crisis).

Vanderpump cast member Kristen Doute now has a pinned tweet that reads “We voted. Did you? Get out and make your voice heard” and an earlier Twitter exchange she had with Ariana shows the latter teasing that she was an influence of this new outspokenness. Perhaps 2016’s Jezebel piece was making the rounds again before this year’s Election Day.

Another “Vapid Rules” (what I used to affectionately call the show) cast member, Tom Schwartz, who I had the occasion to interview multiple times for Huffington Post, tweeted out “I voted my balls off” on Election Day.

Today, his wife Katie Maloney, another integral member of the VPR clique, tweeted: “It’s fantastic that the Trump administration is standing up for a woman after she was ‘struck’ apparently being ‘grabbed by the pussy’ is AIGHT but Acosta trying to block the crazy chick grabbing at his mic is ASSAULT? I need a walk….This can’t be real life.”

Jax Taylor has made statements in the past that have reflected liberalism, not without his own share of faux pas, and the Grand Dame Lisa Vanderpump is a known LGBTQ advocate who has officiated gay weddings.

There are of course, numerous Bravo fans who are conservative and will hop on Instagram and Twitter to argue and defend President Trump to these Bravolebrities, or ask them to refrain from discussing politics. Katie was recently met with this response: “It’s cute when reality tv girls comment on politics.” To which another fan responded:

“It’s cute when tv personas become president too. Like super, SUPER cute. 🙄”

Touché.

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Books, Celebrities, Psychology, public figures, Uncategorized

“Stuttering John” Melendez Wrote a Memoir and True to Form, He Doesn’t Hold Back (An Interview)

I’ve always wondered how people roasting one another truly feel when they are the butt of the joke. So the Howard Stern Show was sort of an enigma to me while I was growing up. About 20 years ago, I briefly hung out with a guy who was one of the show’s writers and on-air personalities. In my limited time in his presence, he seemed as sweet as can be. As soon as he told me he was part of Stern’s crew, I was on high alert for some shrewd, blunt and embarrassingly brash observations. I’m sensitive, but somehow he really took it easy on me. The “persona” I later heard (and saw on the E! show) was far different from the one I had gotten to know.

This was during the 1990s and one of this man’s colleagues was “Stuttering John” Melendez. All I knew about him at the time was that he was one of Howard Stern’s whacky in-studio crew – not to be confused with “the whack pack.” I knew that he began as an intern, intent on working with the legendary Howard Stern and that he went on to acquire a minimum wage salary as an employee of The Howard Stern Show. Successively, yet meagerly, his salary increased and he remained there for 15 years, becoming notorious for his oddball interviews with celebrities. In those, he asked the most impertinent, rude and outrageous questions – sometimes with a stutter. I have to say that the questions he asked would make a non-stutterer stutter.

As a child, one of Melendez’s teacher noted that he had an inclination – and the chutzpah – to ask brazen questions and a tendency to stutter when excited. As Melendez explains in his new book Easy For You To Say, he never imagined that the teacher was somewhat of a clairvoyant. When he began working for Stern, he was determined to keep the OCD that greatly challenged him a secret. Little did he know that the “King of all Media” also struggled with OCD, and to some extent, so did his boss later on at The Tonight Show, Jay Leno.

Easy For You To Say is the story of a boy scarred by the abuse in his home at the hands of his father, how he developed a stutter as a result, but was determined to never acquiesce to the mindset of “I can’t.” From an intern at The Howard Stern Show overly eager to please, to a comedian doing field segments and writing hilarious and ballsy material for show segments, to an announcer and writer for The Tonight Show, John’s story proves that with the mindset to overcome hurdles, there are incredible things one can achieve…..

(Even getting through to the president of the United States by phone – while he’s on Air Force One!)

Following is my interview with the man widely known as “Stuttering John.” If you are a Howard Stern fan, bear in mind that the opinions expressed are John Melendez’s. The perspective shared reflects anecdotes in his new memoir. The answers to my questions are in his own words:

You start out by talking about your OCD. You discuss making Howard’s “potato sandwiches,” how it was a whole complicated ritual of preparing the potatoes from the early morning and later placing slices of turkey between the two potato halves. Then you discuss how certain tasks took a lot of effort and redoing because of your OCD. The origins of your OCD can be traced to when you were a child living with an abusive father. I was curious if your father lived to witness your success.

Oh Yeah! He just passed away two years ago. He would listen to every Howard show and later on, he would tape every Tonight Show. Every time I would wave, he said he would wave back. You see, that was the problem: He could be a really nice guy, but then unpredictably fly off the handle. As a kid, that gives you no security. You don’t know which dad you’re going to get. Coincidentally, I experienced the same with Howard.

When you’re at Howard’s show, you don’t get any accolades. I remember hooking (fellow Stern writer) Benjy Bronk up with my accountant and he was scared to ask for a raise because Howard would get pissed off at him. It was the exact opposite with Jay Leno. There are so many different things about Howard and Jay that indicate they’re almost complete opposites.

I know that you began as an intern, so at what point did Howard start paying you a salary?

In 1988, I was still in NYU and didn’t finish until 1989, so I didn’t get paid for over a year. I didn’t make a dime and I came to Howard and said that I’d have to leave. I just couldn’t afford to be there anymore.  That’s when he said that there was the channel 9 show coming up, so then I worked on that show making $750 a week. Shortly after that, I got my first paycheck from K-Rock that Tom Chiusano called a ‘stipend’ and it was 10k per year. The second season of the Channel 9 show, Don the douchebag Buchwald got me 15k. Then Mel Karmazin doubled my salary to 20k. From there, there were normal raise increments. I remember standing behind Gary Dell’Abate at a ‘Best Breast’ contest where there was an appearance fee. I was thinking ‘wow, this is the producer of the biggest radio show and he’s got to do this!’

In the book, you detail some negative experiences with Gary and refer to him (he was known as ‘Baba Booey’) as ‘Baba Backstabber.’ Is there any chance of a reconciliation for the two of you?

I say in the beginning of my book that I love all the guys there. I don’t hate the guy. I don’t hate anybody, but the problem with Gary is that he’s too stupid to understand that a lot of people there, even now, are disgruntled. People would tell me not to trust Gary, that he would be nice to my face, but then bad mouth me when I had my back turned. He was two-faced and God knows, with that face you only need one!

In the book, I give an example of how we were going to do some plugs and we mutually agreed that we would email Howard together about it and say it came from both of us. Then Gary ended up saying that the email was just from me. That was wrong. I had to hear about it from KC…that they were talking about me in the studio.

In the book, it really sounds like an awfully hostile work environment over at The Howard Stern Show.

Comedian Tammy Pescatelli witnessed the dynamics between me and Artie Lange (Artie and I were together at Stern) when I did Artie’s podcast and she said it was like watching two survivors of Auschwitz. We lived through such a toxic environment that it’s like we both have PTSD. It seeps over to the rest of your life.

I’ve been enjoying your podcast (aptly titled The Stuttering John Podcast) since reading the book. I love how you had AJ Benza on because I remember that the two of you had really bad blood. He slapped you and was banned from the studio. How did you two overcome your negative history?

After that incident, he emailed me a long apology letter and I was OK with him. When I was out in LA, I thought it would be cool to have him on my podcast as a guest. He made me slap him back so we would be even.

I saw some of the cringe-worthy interviews that you did. Some made me laugh, but others made me want to hide even though I wasn’t the interview subject! I remember when you asked Raquel Welch about her sagging boobs and she punched you. You talk about that interview in the book and you discuss the interview with Liz Smith and feeling remorseful about that one. Were those questions that were written for you, or did you write those yourself?

Let me address the Liz Smith thing. I never felt so bad after conducting an interview than I did with that one. It was Andrew Dice Clay’s idea to ask “Why are you such a fat cow?” because she had given him a bad review. Howard was like ‘Yeah, ask her that.’ She played along, but I regretted it. The next time we were at an event and she was there, I asked Howard if I could apologize to her. I did and we recorded that. I look back at that and think: it wasn’t a joke, it was an insult. I don’t mind asking Chevy Chase how he picks movie scripts – Does he go ‘eenie meenie mieni moe?’ It’s clever. Or when I asked baseball great Ted Williams ‘Did you ever accidentally fart in the catcher’s face?’ That was crude, but there was a sense of humor to it, whereas the Liz Smith one was mean.

In the beginning, Jackie and Fred were writing the questions and Howard would contribute some too. Then, I started writing some and then it was a pool of a lot of people on the show – Benjy Bronk and everybody. In the beginning, it was Jackie and Fred and I really thank them because they had great questions! They wrote the question for Ringo Starr: ‘What did you do with the money?’ He responded: ‘What money?’ and I answered: ‘The money for singing lessons.’ He said ‘I bought fish and chips.’

I never had a problem asking people questions from a very young age, so this was the perfect job for me!

We learn in this book that you’re a sensitive guy at heart, so is there anyone that you would want to apologize to now for your questions?

I felt bad after asking someone how many times he had seen Haley’s Comet because that was picking on the fact that he was old. Let’s see…I went to an SNL thing that Charles Barkley was hosting. He was doing a Q and A and it was right after Michael Jordan’s dad died tragically in a car accident. There was a ‘joke’ written for me ‘Are you going to ask your dad to stay out of a car?’ I used my discretion and I did NOT ask that!  There were times when I would have to make that call.

Other than that, I didn’t ask anybody anything that I would feel bad about. To me, it was like an SNL skit. The celebrities I goofed on would suffer the same way at the hands of other comedians. I always felt it was a comedy bit.

Then after me, as you know, there was Ali G.

Yeah, I was actually thinking about how you were doing your bits before Sacha Baron Cohen came along. Did he ever acknowledge you as some sort of inspiration or talk to you? 

That actually pissed me off. He was on The Tonight Show and didn’t even acknowledge me. To be quite honest, he seemed very arrogant when he was on the show. I also feel like Triumph the insult dog is my whole gig with a puppet and I never got acknowledgement for that. I am not expecting a thank you, but it would have been nice with Sacha if he had come over to acknowledge me.

Some of the stories of what you endured at The Howard Stern Show were pretty shocking. One incident you detailed was about how coworkers brought in your bottle of Prozac from your house – Then you were grilled about it on air. The other story was about Howard saying you weren’t fit to be a father and that your (now ex) wife should abort the baby. Then later, he said it to her while she was very pregnant!

The Prozac one embarrassed the hell out of me. I was so caught off guard that I used the excuse that it helped me to play guitar better. I was too afraid to say that it was because I had OCD. Who knew Howard was also suffering from OCD at the time?!  I felt betrayed by the guys I was renting my place to, but that was the nature of the show.

Aborting the kid – That’s the definition of a bully and in any normal circumstance, I would have beaten the shit out of the person who said that. But it was Howard and he was my boss. I had to just take it unless I had another job lined up. It’s like when I was a kid – I couldn’t leave the house because of what my dad did. I was stuck there.

When I met my wife, I said ‘I have to get out of the show. I can’t relive these bad memories of my childhood.’ Who knew it would take another 10 years after that?

One of my biggest triumphs, when people ask me, is not the Crazy Cabbie fight they’re expecting me to tell, but walking into Tom Chiusano’s office and giving my 2 weeks’ notice. I told him I was going to be the announcer on The Tonight Show and with me being a stutterer, he looked at me, paused and said ‘no way.’

The exhilaration I felt is unexplainable. As you see in the book, management thought that Howard had made me and that I wouldn’t be able to do anything outside of the show. Here I was, a known stutterer, going off to become the announcer at the most popular late night show.

The impression I got from the book is that Howard is stingy, petty and against his employees having outside work projects. Do you think there is any chance of him reading your book and extending an olive branch, wanting to bury the hatchet?  

He won’t read it! He’ll have Gary read it and he might have his lawyers read it. The problem is two tiered though when it comes to legal: Everything in there is the truth and there is not one lie. I have an incredible memory that is spot on, so there’s not a chance anything is made up. The other thing is that if he sues me, there’s not much to take! What is he going to get from me?

Quite honestly, if he did, it would only promote the book because…think of all the people who would then want to read it and see what he was mad about. He’s smart enough to know that too, which is why he ignored Artie’s book and Jackie’s book. KC’s book is out now and he won’t want to inadvertently promote that either.

With mine, I didn’t hold back and that’s the thing that Jay Leno wrote in his review. I’m unfiltered, much like the old Howard. I tell it like it is. The format of Howard’s show now is totally different – I know because of the many people I’m in touch with. There’s a red flag list of things and people they cannot mention.

I just wish Howard, like Jay, would look out for his employees more. There was an engineer whose wife had cancer and Howard really could have helped out there – Jay has helped out numerous employees with health or family health expenses – and Howard really did not treat this engineer who had been his loyal servant for 30 years well. I have so many sources that I feel like Carl Bernstein. I’ve spoken about this more in depth on my podcast.

I mention in the book that when Howard walks down the hallway, no staffer is allowed to talk to him and when this engineer did and it was about his wife’s health and the expense of treatments, Howard said ‘You know you’re not allowed to talk to me.’

You used to drive to work with Jackie Martling and you had great times with him, but you also describe him as moody. Then you talk about the intense mood swings of Artie Lange.  

It was wild. I could show you some of the texts from Artie. There would be one ‘I love you. You’re like a brother.’ Then 2 days later: ‘I’m a better comedian than you.’ He would suddenly go off on me and I’d be stunned and then a week later, it was ‘Hey man, I love you. Don’t listen to the last text.’ I’ll only pray for him because he’s got a big heart, but drugs were really a big problem.

You also describe how you and your ex-wife Suzanna used to hang out with Bruce Jenner and Kris, and that it was Suzanna who suggested the family do a reality show after witnessing how they all hung out. Has she ever been credited for what is now Keeping Up With the Kardashians?  

I have to apologize to everyone out there that we came up with the idea.

My wife would drive out there and write the treatments of the shows with Kris. Then Kris wouldn’t give her a producer credit or a salary. I mean, they’re living in mansions and I’m doing the Chuckle Hut in Indiana. Suzanna finally confronted Kris, but she responded that Kim had the same idea. It’s a load of horse shit!

Despicable people are despicable. She would put down Bruce and really be abusive to him. He wanted to come out as being transgender years prior, but Kris wouldn’t let him. She’s just a horrible person and that’s what you’ll get in this book. I call people out.

You do that with Chelsea Handler as well. You mention how you first met her on a plane ride and she saw you pop a Xanax. She asked you what it was and if she could have one and you gave it to her. Then when she became famous she acted like she didn’t know you.

She had met me and my wife and ignored us at a party. She also ignored a man who had kick-started her career. She turned her back and it was really despicable behavior. I call out Jimmy Kimmel in my book because Jay was so nice to him and promoted him despite them having competing time slots. Then Jimmy Kimmel went on to stab Jay in the back.

The original title of the Chelsea Handler chapter was going to be ‘Bitch from Beyond.’ I changed it to ‘Nice is a Four Letter Word.’

People frequently ask if you regret leaving Howard. In the book it’s pretty clear that you wanted to leave for a really long time and you were offered a major salary increase and promotion from Tonight. You couldn’t have envisioned what would happen to Jay’s show at that time. What is your best answer to that question that you keep getting?

I can only say that people who say that don’t know that most of us at Howard’s show couldn’t wait to get out. I also was making a very small amount of money and Tonight quadrupled that. I went to NYU for film and television because I wanted to produce and write. To write for the number one late night talk show in the world was an honor. Jay would tell me what a good job I was doing. I had so many great opportunities there and got a chance to make Barack Obama laugh.

On top of all that, what people don’t understand is that I have two pensions because of that career move. When you write for Howard, you’re not in the writer’s guild and you’re not getting any pensions.

I’m sure that taught you what type of boss you aspire to be. I know you do the podcast and you do standup comedy, but what other things put you in a ‘boss’ position? How does your work background affect how you are as a boss and a mentor?

I was in charge of writing the Kareem Abdul Jabbar roast and I’m still friends with all of the people I managed during that time. Any time I’m given the opportunity to be a boss, like when I was an EP on the Stephanie Miller Show, I’m always nice and I say ‘thank you.’ I let people know when they’re doing a good job. I always try to be more of a Jay Leno boss than a Howard Stern boss.

I have to ask you about the epic Donald Trump prank, when you were put through to the president while he was on Air Force One. You got through by pretending to be Senator Bob Menendez. Are you experiencing any current legal or other repercussions currently from that? You write in your book that you were visited by Secret Service agents the next day. Then you add that you ended up hiring Michael Avenatti as your attorney.  I know you mentioned you were slapped with a huge IRS tax bill right after that too.

Avenatti initially told me to stop doing my shows and said ‘You don’t want to poke the bear.’ That’s how I came up with this TV show I’m shopping around called Poke the Bear.  The idea is that if you have a problem with someone, say a politician, I’ll go and confront them and ask them those questions that you have. That’s what I was actually trying to do with Trump. It may have seemed like a goof and a prank but when I got on the phone with him, I asked questions that reflected real concerns I had and that was my goal. After that call, I laid low and then the Omarosa thing happened and the press shifted their focus from that.

My call to Trump is now long forgotten. It did point out how disorganized this administration is that this stuttering idiot gets on the phone and within minutes, he’s given the location of the president. I’m surprised they didn’t give me longitude and latitude coordinates. As part of their ‘security,’ they called me back to ask how I could be calling from an 818 area code and not the New Jersey number they had. I said I was on vacation and that totally cleared me!

Then Jared Kushner called within an hour to see what I wanted to discuss with Donald, and then I get the call from Donald. He’s giving me the date he’s going to release the Supreme Court Justice information. On that call, I don’t sound senatorial. I sound janitorial.

I’m pissed because I’ve had numerous conversations with Bob Menendez’s assistant. He could at least be a guest on my podcast and he hasn’t done it. The Trump phone call, with the exception of me getting in a ‘Babooey to you all’ at the end, is completely straight questions. I really wanted answers because I want there to be an end to putting children in cages. I wanted a more moderate Supreme Court Justice pick. From the start, my goal was to have a conversation with the president about issues that mattered to me.

In your book, you talk about how kids are off limits for goofs and I totally agree with that, especially considering how far certain radio personalities can go.

Anthony Cumia (of Opie and Anthony fame) – I did his show 10 times and each time, they told me that I was the best guest and got the best critique of any guest. As soon as he hired Artie though, it got bad. It got to this point that Anthony would post pictures of my kids and goof on my kids. My oldest is transgender and Anthony wrote something about how bad of a parent I must be that my kid needs attention by cutting off boobs. Then he posted a picture of my really sweet daughter Lily, said something about her having big teeth and that Bababooey must be her father.

His followers started tweeting pictures of my kids and then changing my daughter’s picture to make her look uglier. It got to this point that my kids were getting picked on and my ex-wife called me. We had to have an attorney send Anthony a Cease and Desist letter. Even the mob knows: You don’t go after kids.

When I listened to your podcast, you mentioned that people hate when you bash Trump, but since I’m on the same side as you politically, I am cool with it.

It’s so strange to see that it seems as if 90 percent of Howard’s old listeners are white supremacists! (Laughs) Whenever I tweet about Trump, I lose about 10 followers. It’s so weird to me that Howard has such a right wing base.

I loved the story about the boy Conroy who took your advice about stuttering and grew up to be so confident. Tell me about the work you do now to help kids who stutter.

I mentored several kids. I occasionally send out a tweet to all my followers and say ‘if you have a kid who stutters, I will gladly help.’ One time, these parents sent me a bottle of Dom after I helped their kid. I also was a keynote speaker at a national convention in Chicago. I will do anything I can. I tell kids who stutter that it’s not about who you are, but what you do. Getting to be the announcer at The Tonight Show is inspirational to stutterers everywhere. That’s why it really hurt when Howard was a judge on America’s Got Talent and he told a stuttering comic ‘You’re an inspiration.’  My oldest son called me and said ‘I can’t believe that Howard just said that.’ Then Artie Lange called and said the same thing.

Instead of telling me I was an inspiration when I became an announcer, he chose to bash me. I truly believe – and therapists would agree – that Howard got so mad when I was on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here not because I missed work, but because I got critical acclaim from all the media outlets. The response was ‘hey, John is actually a nice guy!’ Even Gary emailed me because I came across so well. I think that bothered Howard who always wanted that national acceptance. I think my theory was proven correct by him doing America’s Got Talent.

Now that Howard’s show is on Sirius and we’re in the ultra PC age of 2018, the show has changed a lot. Do you ever listen?

When it switched over to Sirius, I wasn’t going to pay to hear myself bashed. I do know that now he has a list of celebrities he can’t bash – There’s Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow. That’s part of the ‘red flag list’ I talk about in my book.

There are people who are banned from the show because they went on to do other things and that’s another complete hypocrisy. Howard would always talk about how it was ridiculous that Johnny Carson banned Joan Rivers because she wanted to do another show. Howard has done the same thing.

Today, he’s gone down in listeners by becoming someone he and the listeners once hated.

I’m wondering if they will try to dispute points in your book on Howard’s show or argue about it.

Howard is going to want this book to go away. He’s not going to talk about it because that would result in people buying it. All of the stories in the book have been corroborated and there are witnesses to almost everything.

I am in touch with people from there and I was told that every staff member was instructed to create 10 fake Twitter accounts to solicit guests. A photo of that slide was sent to me. It’s so sad and so not who the old Howard was!

I will say that when I first heard Howard was mad at me, I called him and he said ‘I’m not mad. I should have made you an offer to be in the studio in Jackie’s chair.’ Then I was bashed on the air again. However, if THAT Howard – the one who said those kind words on the phone – had been the Howard I worked with for all those years, maybe I wouldn’t have left.

 

 

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