Partner in crime Quivers rises to the top alongside radio's most outrageous personality

December 23, 1992|By Claudia Puig | Claudia Puig,Los Angeles Times Staff writer Steve McKerrow contributed to this article.

Los Angeles --The question frequently asked of Robin Quivers is: "Why?"

Why would she choose to be partnered with a comedian who has been accused of being sexist and racist? Why does she sit there and take it while Howard Stern makes jokes about women, blacks and other minorities?

"I chose to jump on the bandwagon with someone I felt to be incredibly creative, and we do a comedy show," Ms. Quivers says.

Mr. Stern's "comedy show" has led the Federal Communications Commission to levy fines of $600,000 against his employer, Infinity Broadcasting, and $105,000 against a Los Angeles radio station that carries the show.

"It was simply that he was incredibly talented. I knew he was different from anything else I'd ever heard on radio and I wanted to be around that. He was not the run-of-the-mill disc jockey. He was definitely not the kind of guy who just played records and told you the weather."

Ms. Quivers -- who will only give her age as being close to Mr. Stern's, who is 38 -- said that she grew up in Baltimore and that many of her neighbors had been white and Jewish.

She graduated from the University of Maryland in 1974 and worked as a nurse for a few years before enlisting in the Air Force. "I went to see the world and they sent me to Ohio," she said with her signature laugh.

After that, she dabbled in sales and bummed around with actor friends in San Francisco. Then she returned to Baltimore and enrolled in broadcasting school, with an eye toward breaking into television. But she chose radio because the people "always sounded like they were having a good time."

She began her radio career in 1980 as a news anchor-reporter at a small station in Pennsylvania. She then worked for about a year in 1980 as a consumer affairs reporter at WFBR-AM (1300) in Baltimore, the same place she can be found on Baltimore radio dials today during morning drive time.

The 1300 frequency is now WJFK-AM, which simulcasts the signal of Washington's WJFK-FM (106.7), which carries "The Howard Stern Show" out of New York's WXRK-FM.

"I always thought of her as being rather intelligent, very inquisitive, a very pleasant person to work with," said Mike Golden, who worked as a newscaster at WFBR in those days.

Mr. Golden, now the public information officer for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said Ms. Quivers worked "as an adjunct to the news staff," producing a consumer-oriented series of reports titled "Coping in the '80s."

He noted that she was meticulous and took consumer reporting seriously. As a result, he said, "I was kind of surprised" when she left WFBR to become sidekick to Mr. Stern at Washington's WWDC-FM (DC 101).

"What she does now is provide a live laugh track to what Howard does," he said. "I don't listen very often, but you can't argue with success."

'Great sense of humor' "She always had a great sense of humor," recalled Rosearl Julian, another former WFBR newscaster who worked with Ms. Quivers.

SG In fact, "I can remember thinking it would be great if she could do

something in which she could use her sense of humor," said Ms. Julian, who now works in the public information office of the Baltimore County Police Department.

"I think she's doing great," she said, but added, "I'm not one of his [Mr. Stern's] biggest fans."

Ms. Quivers has been at Mr. Stern's side throughout his rise from obscurity to major media star, as the top-rated -- and most controversial -- morning radio host in both Los Angeles and New York. Now she is basking in the reflected notoriety and hoping to parlay it into something of her own.

"I have been there for the entire evolution," she says proudly. "I helped him become who he is. I'm a partner in this . . . this crime."

Ms. Quivers' role on the broadcast, heard in 10 cities across the nation, extends well beyond simply laughing at the boss' jokes. She delivers "newscasts" that provide the essential jumping-off points for Mr. Stern's provocative comments and often politically incorrect, sometimes brutally honest opinions about celebrities, public figures, criminals and the current state of society. She also joins in his merrymaking, reacting bemusedly to such trademark Stern features as "Lesbian Dial-A-Date" and "Butt Bongo" (in which women are spanked to the beat of a song), and chiming in on his tirades about detractors. And occasionally, she takes the wind out of his bluster with a good-natured rebuke.

"Oh, you're wacky," she told him recently when he was sounding off on why John McEnroe was right to split with Tatum O'Neal because she wanted to pursue her acting career instead of staying home with their three children. And when he took up the subject again the following day, calling Ms. O'Neal immature, Ms. Quivers quipped, "Here he goes again -- like he's a grown-up!"

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