Private Parts: Mindfuck or Media Masturbation?

movie reviews by the Irreverend Friday Jones

Howard Stern   Yes, I have seen Howard Stern's "Private Parts." And I didn't even need a magnifying glass! This carefully tailored story of Howard Stern's rise from nerdy outcast geek to wildly popular radio host geek is rather like Stern's own hair: it appears to be a tangled disordered "natural" mess, that in reality takes endless time and patience to get groomed just right so as to look completely ungroomed. Of course, I am somewhat biased in this review: close and constant exposure to an avid Howard Stern fan meant that I head read the books, heard all the merry anecdotes on the radio, and listened to the soundtrack before I saw the film - a practice I normally foreswear. As it was, practically nothing about this film was a surprise to me. Perhaps it will not seem quite so calculating to someone who goes in to see it without foreknowledge.

   The film chronicles Stern's clawing his way to the top from a terrible DJ at sundry lousy stations, his slow evolution of more and more outrageous humor, his battles with the various Forces of Censorship that would keep him from saying "pussy" on the air - even if it's in the phrase "pussywillow" - and his eventual triumph. The film is shot very cinema-verite style, with plenty of "real-life" interviews with the characters about what's going on, plus inserts with Stern's fans holding up signs to show the transition of time and locale.

   The crafting of the film extends to giving many of the supporting characters a lot of screen time, and actually showing Stern as an idiot at times. And not a unselfconscious idiot either. When he jokes on the air about his wife's miscarriage he looks like a guy thinking "Man, maybe I shouldn't have done that" rather than a brash idiot. Of course in real life maybe he did look like a brash idiot. But reel life has neatly crowded out real life. Now women are digging Stern for being so "sensitive" to his wife *(heave puke)*.

   I'm not giving away anything when I say that the "story" of the film is presented as a story that Howard is telling the pretty lady next to him on a cross-continental airline flight. But I'm so cynical that when they show him talking to her, with his head on her headrest, I thought "Aha! He's just talking to this chick so that he can stretch out his freakishly elongated body across part of her seat and be comfortable!"

   The film is so careful to cover all its bases that it ends up covering all of them not as well as it could. Sure, Howard is vulgar and rude on the air - but really, he's just doing it for his long-suffering wife Alison. Of course he flirts with every woman who crosses his path - but he's like, you know, a faithful, sensitive guy. POE (Purity Of Essence) and all that. You end up with a film that's supposed to be about the raunchiest guy in radio that has nothing more than some tits, some naughty words (and a dramatic kielbasa) to justify its R-rating. Tits including those of porn starlet Jenna Jameson, who comes across dumb as a brick as The First Naked Woman On Radio, and a clothed cameo by Janine as the Lesbian Camp Counselor. Janine once offered to sit in my lap at a porno shop appearance (by her, not me). Nice girl that Janine.

   The melding of fact and fiction in the movie is doubly disconcerting because many of the characters are playing themselves - Stern and his sidekicks Robin Quivers, Fred Norris and Jackie Martling (with appearances by Gary Dell'Abate and "Stuttering John") traipse through their somewhat rewritten version of history as themselves - and apparently are now claiming on the air that some of the fictional bits (Robin's firing) are real! This is a job of public memory editing that Stern undoubtedly glories in - has he not been fucking with the public's head for lo these many years? And have they not offered up the hot sweaty orifices of their forebrains unto his tiny penis again and again?

   The real question for non-actor Stern (who actually does quite a capable acting job, especially when running around with a tiny prosthetic erection) is, where does the acting stop and the real Stern begin? The image of Stern as a guy who just blabs whatever comes into his mind out of his mouth on the spot is just that: an act reserved for the radio microphone and public appearances. Any guy who really acted like that could never get a movie contract signed. So you wonder: is any of it real? How many of his real-life crises and triumphs that he milks for all they're worth on the air are real - and how many are gleaned from newspaper reports and the Internet? And then you wonder - if Stern isn't real, is any of the "news" and "real-life" drama you see on TV and hear on the radio real? How much is each report sweetened, tweaked, toned-down, raunched-up and set to a soundtrack in order to present a pleasing spoonful to be swallowed right down by the empty yet eternally-overfilled American mind?


directed by Barbara Peeters

   Remember in all those old monster movies where the monster would pick up the woman and carry her off screen - and then they'd cut to the next scene? Or the monster would throw her down on the ground, loom menacingly over her while she screamed and screamed and then - cut! Man, I loved the terror in those scene but I really hated those cuts.

   So here now, reborn on laser disc, is one of the very first films that went "all the way" for me - the one in which the exquisitely sculpted (by Rob Bottin) mutant salmon-men slaughter the men in FULL COLOR, strip the women naked, chase them all over the beach with their boobies flashing, and then indulge in "tails-a-whumpin' fornication" to quote the esteemed Charles Balum. Ray Harryhausen would PUKE.

   Oh there's some plot in there too, about prejudice against Indians and fishing and beaches and other tripe. Now is it an aquaculture project that causes the salmon to mutate or is it mercury poisoning - or am I confusing this with "Prophecy"? But hey, you gotta root for the salmon-men as they go rooting for pussy and fight off the meanies who want to stop them like Doug McClure and Vic Morrow. I mean, all the fish-fellows really want to do is EVOLVE, see? They just want life to be better for their kids than it is for them. "I bet my children would be happier with toes instead of webs, and skin instead of scales. So I think I'll mate with that squealing mammalian biped over there. Gosh, I don't think I'll be able to stand it but - IT'S FOR THE CHILDREN."

   Hey, here's a sequel - salmon-men vs. Devo! Evolution vs. de-evolution! Will the salmon-men make Mark Mothersbaugh squeal like a pig? Or will he head-butt them into submission with his massive cranium? Actually I'd bet on Mothersbaugh, because the salmon-men have evolved so fast that most of their brains are on the OUTSIDE, making for many squishy shots of pulped grey matter when they are clubbed, beaten, axed, shot, and otherwise abused by humans defending their wimmin.

   You know, I just saw the Traci Lords version of "Not Of This Earth" a few weeks ago, and now realize that film re-used footage from "Humanoids From The Deep" - the dog attack and the generic blonde-in-a-red-teddy-in-peril! Now that's what I call stretching your film stock. I am impressed. Of course, I was impressed that the credits to "Not Of This Earth" were accompanied by a montage of Roger Corman Greatest Gore Hits footage that appeared nowhere in the film itself. In fact, maybe they should have just shown the credits and left it at that - the film only could go downhill from there.

   But I digress.

   On this laser disc you not only get a short interview with Roger Corman (I skipped by it and went right to the rapes to see if they were as perverse as I thought, and was rather disappointed to note, with laser disc's superior freeze-frame technology, that what I had taken for a massive monster member was actually a leaf of seaweed hanging off the beastie's flank), but also an isolated music score. Meaning that if you want to, you can listen to the film sans sound effects or dialogue, just the music. Makes it more ... artistic, y'know? James Horner now, there's a good composer.

mental hygiene 3