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Ex-Howard Stern staffers say multi-millionaire DJ is a Scrooge
In 2018, Scott Salem, a longtime engineer for the “Howard Stern Show,” approached his bosses with a request. His wife, Robin, had been battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma since 2013. Even with insurance, treatment-related costs had drained the family’s finances.
Salem wanted to know if it would be OK if he created a GoFundMe page to raise some extra cash.
According to multiple “Stern Show” sources, Marci Turk, Stern’s chief operating officer, told Salem he could proceed — but no mention of the show or Stern was allowed. Salem complied and the GoFundMe still netted more than $73,000 from the show’s die-hards.
But Stern, insiders alleged, wasn’t happy — particularly when other employees began asking why he hadn’t ponied up the cash himself. In 2017, Stern was the seventh-highest-earning celebrity in America, hauling in $90 million, according to Forbes.
Shortly after, sources claim, Salem — who had previously been featured on-air — was banished to another floor and removed from show scripts. Stern, now 66, reportedly gave him the silent treatment. When Robin Salem died in June 2018, Stern allegedly sent his condolences via e-mail.
At the staff’s 2019 Christmas party, Salem’s new girlfriend tried to record some of Stern’s remarks, leading to an altercation with COO Turk. Salem was given the boot a few weeks later (there is no indication that the events were linked), capping a 33-year career with Stern.
Turk, Salem and a representative for SiriusXM — Stern’s employer — declined to comment, but the story was confirmed by multiple show insiders.
“This has really bothered me. It’s really sad. His wife ends up dying. Howard doesn’t even go downstairs and offer Scott his condolences,” said “Stuttering John” Melendez, an on-air personality who worked with Stern from 1988 to 2004. “Everyone falls from grace with Howard.”
Others have been more blunt.
“For the record, Scott never bad mouthed Howard to me. Prob cuz he’s afraid & classy. But I’m Unafraid & classless So I say. Shame on u Howard,” Stern’s longtime former sidekick Artie Lange tweeted in 2018. “Ask yourself why all of ur ex loyal servants hate u! Just sad.”
On Tuesday, Stern inked a new five-year deal with Sirius reportedly worth upwards of $100 million a year. One of radio’s biggest stars for decades, his 2020 net worth is estimated at more than half a billion dollars.
Yet if past is prologue, former staffers say rank-and-file employees won’t see their share of the spoils — and that, besides being a penny-pincher, Stern was often a terror to work with.
“Worse than Ellen [DeGeneres],” one industry insider told The Post.
“The hallway had to be cleared out before he walks down,” said Melendez, whose interviews with celebrities like Gennifer Flowers and the Dalai Lama briefly made him a household name.
Another comedian told The Post that, when he arrived at the studio, staffers told him “not to look” at the boss.
Steve Grillo started on the “Stern Show” in 1991 as an unpaid intern while a student at Hunter College. He got school credit but, after six months, hit the maximum number of hours.
He didn’t want to leave, so the show allowed him to keep working as an unpaid intern — which he did for six more years. Now he sees the situation for what he said it really was.
“From 1992 until 1997, I was just working for free still as an ‘intern.’ That’s what my title was. But I was definitely a producer. The amount of responsibilities I had was through the roof,” he said. “That’s slave labor. I was a slave. You can’t have people work 60 hours a week and not pay them.”
To make money, Grillo said, he hustled small-time gigs in the New York City, trading off his famous boss’ name.
“I would host a beauty contest at Hooters [for] 500 bucks,” he said.Grillo said he and Stern were close, and the host dedicated his 1995 book, “Miss America,” to his interns and gave Grillo a particular shoutout.
“For the last four years he has been my intern doing every lousy, menial task for me for free, including getting my meals and opening the door to the building every morning at five a.m. He’s never late, he never complains, and he always has a smile on his face,” the dedication reads.
Grillo said there was “no way” that Stern didn’t know he continued to work unpaid.
“Nobody gave a f–k,” he said.The situation ended when Grillo was summoned into the offices of then-WXRK-FM general manager Tom Chiusano in 1997. (The New York City station was the longtime home of Stern before his move to Sirius.) Chiusano informed Grillo he would be getting minimum wage. Grillo left a year later — after the show refused to give him health insurance, he said.
Chiusano declined to comment.
When Stern said on his show this year that DeGeneres should lean into her own allegedly jerky treatment of staff, Melendez was “livid.”
“My jaw dropped,” he said. “If anybody should own it, it should be him. All the abuse he gave us and all the bullying. You take what is given or you’re gone.”
Melendez — who also spent his first years on the show as an unpaid “intern” — said Stern’s on-air persona isn’t as much of an act as people think and that many of the harangues he received on air were deeply personal.
“When I got my wife pregnant, he told me to abort my kid because I’m not fit to be a father. He said it on the air,” Melendez recalled.
Melendez is currently suing Sirius, accusing the company of using his old material without permission.
The blurry line between on-air schtick and real life was on display during an episode in September 2013, when Stern announced that his premium pay channel, Howard TV, would be canceled. It was the first time that many Howard TV employees had heard of it; they were subsequently laid off.
“People were a little shocked that we didn’t know beforehand,” said a show insider. “[Now] Howard re-signs [with Sirius] for another five years. It stings a little more.”
Just weeks before Howard TV got the ax, Stern dropped $52 million on a 19,000-square-foot waterfront palace in Palm Beach, Fla.
“We were all just sitting there going, ‘Oh my God. For just a small piece of that we could all be still working,’ ” said the insider.
Stern’s real-estate portfolio, shared with his animal-activist wife, Beth Ostrosky Stern, also includes an eight-bedroom mansion that sits on a $20 million piece of property in Southampton; and the 53rd and 54th floors of the Millennium Tower — one of the priciest buildings in Manhattan. The three properties are worth an estimated $90 million
.Insiders say the money situation might sting less if Stern treated them better. Comic Lange, who worked with Stern from 2001 to 2009, said his old boss still carries baggage from his early radio days.
“He was a guy making 96 bucks a week in Detroit as ‘Hopalong Howie,’ ” Lange said in a 2016 interview, referring to a 1980s Stern persona during his days working Detroit radio.
“Nobody wanted to be with him,” Lange continued. “Now everybody wants to be his friend, and he has a lot of anger.”