By Larry McShane
The Associated Press
In the mid-'80s, Howard Stern and Robin Quivers had one major concern: Staying on the air.
"I remember one day Howard turned to me and said, 'Robin, we've got to make this work. We don't know how to do anything else!' " Quivers said, her trademark laugh filling the room.
Two decades later, they're still on the air, entertaining millions - although it's unclear for how much longer. In post-Janet Jackson America, Stern and his syndicated crew are under increased scrutiny.
"I can't believe after all this time we're still going through the same thing," said Quivers, considerably more comfortable about facing an uncertain future.
Quivers, 51, is happier than she's been in years. Even with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) targeting Stern, and Stern threatening to quit his radio gig, Quivers remains unflappable.
"You can't do anything about it, so why worry about it?" asked Quivers, who was with Stern when the shock jock's program was fined $1.7 million in the 1990s. "
The latest threat to Quivers' job security comes following the crackdown on indecent broadcasting, led by Congress and the FCC, that followed the Super Bowl show.
Quivers' interview with The Associated Press marked the first time a Stern team member talked to the media since that round of controversy began.
Already, Stern's salacious show was booted off six stations by Clear Channel Communications (although it still draws millions of listeners on more than three dozen other stations around the nation).
The shock jock has since predicted that the FCC will levy massive fines against his show. On Feb. 11, the House overwhelmingly passed legislation boosting the maximum fine for radio and TV indecency from $27,500 to $500,000 (a similar proposal was pending in the Senate). The fine for a performer would jump from $11,000 to $500,000 - a proviso that Stern took as a direct attack.
The Stern show, ordinarily home to nothing more political than the inalienable right of women to get naked, has since morphed into something different.
Stern rants daily against President Bush, bashes FCC Chairman Michael Powell and condemns the "religious right." And his advocacy of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry is already stealing time from Stern's more prurient duties.
Weight loss changes life
For Quivers, the professional crisis comes at a high point in her personal life. For nearly a decade, Quivers battled health problems that had her worrying about an early death.
The low point came two years ago during a California trip for a friend's wedding. Overweight, depressed and physically failing from a chronic but undiagnosed ailment, she wanted to bolt the wedding early - only to have another guest drag her onto the dance floor.
"It was (supermodel-actress) Rebecca Romijn-Stamos - the last person you want to see when you're feeling like this," Quivers recalled, now able to laugh at the memory. "It was all I could to stop from bursting into tears."
A 21-day fast recommended by magician David Blaine started reversing Quivers' health problems, beginning in October 2002. Within six months, Quivers said, she was on her way to recovery.
"How have things changed in the last year?" she mused. "I've got my life back."
New York and national stardom were not in the script when Quivers began broadcasting at a tiny radio station in Carlisle, Pa. The Baltimore native had earned a nursing degree and served in the Air Force before taking to the airwaves.
She worked with Stern in Washington, where he left in a dispute with management, and rejoined him at WNBC-AM in New York, where they were fired in September 1985.
The pair quickly landed at New York's WXRK-FM, building the show into a powerhouse. Despite her health woes, she wrote the best-selling memoir Quivers: A Life, and began acting. She played herself in Stern's biopic Private Parts and did guest shots on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Larry Sanders Show.
As for the future, Quivers is unsure what it holds. It could mean the demise of the current incarnation of the Stern show, but she's ready to handle whatever happens.
"I'm not saying we're going to go on doing the radio show," she said. "I'm simply saying life will go on."
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