For those who were there, it was like the Super Bowl without the bother of football.
For listeners of the Howard Stern Birthday Bash that aired live Friday on SiriusXM radio, it was like the Golden Globes without the distraction of awards, but with Stern, lots of merry-making celebs, and at least as much free-flowing booze.
Civilian Stern fans joined tribute-paying glitterati like Robert Downey, Jr., Bryan Cranston, Sarah Silverman, Lena Dunham, Ryan Phillippe, Heidi Klum, Fred Armisen, Rosie O’Donnell and Katie Couric at Manhattan’s Hammerstein Ballroom. Even New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was on hand, taking a brief respite from the political retribution scandal that has engulfed his administration to wish Stern a happy birthday. He reminded everyone who plans to be at Sunday’s Super Bowl that, to get there, they will “have to go to the right side of the (Hudson) river.” He then introduced one of the night’s many musical guests: Jon Bon Jovi. Other musical guests included John Fogerty, Jewel, The Black Keys, Dave Grohl, Adam Levine and Steven Tyler. The Bash — which lasted a Super Bowl-sized four and a half hours — started at 6 p.m., with talk show host and the night’s emcee, Jimmy Kimmel, introducing Stern as a broadcaster who “did to radio what Picasso did to visual art.”
Kimmel meant that as high praise, but other guests took the opportunity to skewer Stern. Referring to how Stern wears his years, Joan Rivers told him, “If your face were a car, if would be Paul Walker’s Porsche.” The room groaned, but Rivers fired back, “What do I care? I’m 80 years old.” And Louis C.K., noting he hadn’t bothered to wear a suit, said, “It’s a birthday party. When (Stern) dies, I’ll wear a suit.”
Stern (who, for the record, turned 60 on Jan. 12) was seated behind his microphone, beside his longtime sidekick Robin Quivers, and he grinned and laughed at every zinger. Along with Kimmel, the Birthday Bash was notable for gathering a bevy of late-night TV hosts beneath one roof. Incoming “Late Night” host Seth Meyers saluted Stern for entertaining “three generations of uncles who never got invited to family functions.” Incoming “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon dazzled with a rapid-fire display of impressions of “every comedian who couldn’t make it” to Stern’s celebration. He nailed birthday greetings from Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Cosby, Chris Rock, Robin Williams and others. Kimmel poured everyone a shot of vodka, including his soon-to-be late-night rival, when Fallon was invited over to the couch for a brief chat with Stern.
“You see what just happened?” Stern cracked. “Jimmy Kimmel just poisoned Jimmy Fallon’s drink.” Perhaps the night’s most notable attendee was David Letterman, who doesn’t make a habit of personal appearances or interviews. He sat pleasantly with Stern for a give-and-take for about 15 minutes. He suggested he had buried the hatchet with Jay Leno. Referring to the kerfuffle nearly a quarter-century ago that led to Leno scoring the “Tonight” gig, Letterman said he had put it behind him.
“How long can I carry this with me?” he said. He added that Leno’s imminent departure from the “Tonight” host chair would have no impact on how much longer he might stay as host of “Late Show.” “I would do it forever if it were up to me,” he said, before adding a wry aside: “Sometimes, it isn’t up to me.”
By the end of the evening, perhaps assisted by a couple more vodka shots, Stern waxed sentimental as he thanked everyone, including his wife, Beth, his fans (“You guys make me live”), and everyone else at the party. He recalled his early, unsuccessful days in radio when he wondered if he was ever going to make a living. He said he couldn’t have dreamed of a party like this.
“This is the most incredible night of my life,” he said.