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Personal ideology never hampers him; his only concern is whether or not something is "great radio." Indeed, it sometimes seems as if he goes through the motions of having a life outside his D.J. booth simply to accumulate experience he can later strip-mine for his show.

Stern also demonstrates an uncanny knack for converting every aspect of his personality--his faults as well as his strengths--into media assets. Consider his homophobia, for example. Even though he tempers it with blue-balls paeans to "lesbians" and rhetorical declarations of mechanical tolerance--"I will defend to the death the right of any man to insert his penis anywhere"--it's still homophobia. And it endears him to his audience, which despite its T & A obsessions, is at heart, sexually reactionary. His xenophobia and "I'm-just-stating-facts" racism work the same way. He may not be a great humanitarian, or even passably empathetic, but he does voice opinions that many people apparently dream of voicing; in doing so, he compels both fans and detractors to tune their radios to him.

In addition to his general media savvy, Stern is an extremely effective interviewer. He asks funny, embarrassing, inventive questions. He is a remarkably intuitive wheedler, with uncommon persistance. His rapid-fire interrogations--punctuated with his own candid disclosures--create a surreal atmosphere in his studio; in its best moments, his show is like a private game of Truth or Dare played out to an audience of millions. Reluctant to be seen as party poopers, his subjects go along with him, and end up saying things they would never admit to anyone else. If anyone could get O.J. to confess, it is Stern; Fred Goldman should have retained him for the civil suit.