The Howard Stern Show has divided and conquered the country in every media format. Over every steep hill and behind every corner, Robin Quivers is the considerate constant.
It’s 9:30 a.m. on a Wednesday in New York. Most Manhattan office workers have just settled down at their desks for another ho-hum workday. Some have undoubtedly turned on a radio to help pass the time.
Thirty-six floors above Sixth Avenue, between 48th and 49th streets, Robin Quivers isn’t listening to the radio. She’s on the radio – well, not this very second, as they’re still in a commercial break. She’s sitting in a glass booth about the size of a walk-in closet, poring over printouts of news stories she might want to mention in the next segment. The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated” starts streaming through her headphones, signaling she’s about to go back on the air, and her head bobs along with the music.
When she finally lifts her head up, she looks out beyond the glass at an office that’s almost a caricature of itself. Once your eyes get past the large, fully stocked bar in the back-left corner of the room, they focus in on the man sitting directly across from her – radio’s most famous shock jock, Howard Stern.
But there’s nothing here that’s shocking to Quivers.
Because this is home sweet home.
Quivers, 58, didn’t plan on spending almost 30 years of her life in a glass booth. In fact, she didn’t plan on working in radio at all. When she was growing up in Baltimore, her dream was to become a doctor. But she couldn’t afford medical school, so she completed an undergraduate degree in nursing from the University of Maryland in 1974 and began working in that field, figuring she’d eventually make her way to med school.
A year into her nursing career, Quivers started feeling restless – she hadn’t had the opportunity to travel much in her life. So she ended up joining the Air Force as a nurse, having been promised her choice of several exotic locales as her home base. Things didn’t work out quite as she had hoped. “I said I wanted to see the world, and I got to go to Ohio,” Quivers says, followed by her trademarked high-pitched giggle. “Apparently that’s where the world is."
After two and a half years in the Air Force, Quivers had had enough of Ohio and of military life. In fact, she’d had enough of the medical field, too, deciding it wasn’t the kind of work she wanted to do after all. After spending a year in California soul-searching and working temp jobs to stay afloat, she moved back in with her parents in Baltimore and decided to start fresh at the age of 27. “I just flipped open the Yellow Pages and I said, ‘Look for some schools,’ ” Quivers says. “I figured I’d pick three and go talk to them, and whichever sounded the best, that’s what I was going to do.”
Quivers selected a broadcasting school, a fashion school and a business school. At her first appointment, at the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland, she was instantly drawn to radio. She never even bothered to visit the other two places.
Quivers rapidly ascended the ranks of the radio industry. She was offered a news-anchor position at a small station in Pennsylvania before she even graduated from broadcasting school. In just her first year in radio, she jumped to a larger station in Harrisburg, Pa., and then to an even bigger one back home in Baltimore. And less than six months into her stint in Baltimore, in early 1981, she heard Howard Stern for the very first time.
Denise Oliver, the program director at a rock ’n’ roll station in Washington, D.C., had worked with Quivers in broadcasting school and desperately wanted to hire her to be the news anchor for Stern, the station’s new morning-drive host. But Quivers did not want to work in the mornings, nor did she want to work for a rock station.