Classic QB! Up Close with Robin Quivers
December 13, 2005
Originally Published February 26, 1993

Growing up in a middle-class Baltimore neighborhood, Robin Quivers graduated from the University of Maryland in 1974 and worked as a nurse before signing on for a stint in the Air Force. After her tour of duty, Robin tried her hand at sales and spent some time in San Francisco with a few friends. Returning to Baltimore, she enrolled in a broadcasting school, thinking she might take a stab at television. Ultimately she chose radio and began her career in 1980 at a small Carlisle, Pennsylvania station as a news anchor/reporter, and then moved back to Baltimore and spent a short time as a consumer affairs reporter. After some prodding (which youíll read about below) Robin was convinced to join WWDC in Washington, D.C. and work with their new hire, Howard Stern. And the rest they say, is historyÖ.

Before you got into radio you were in nursing. What was your motivation to leave nursing, and what was your specialty?

My specialty was Intensive Care, Shock Trauma, and Surgery. I always worked in Intensive Care units and shock units and Emergency Room kind-of settings. As far as motivation, I just didnít see myself doing that for the rest of my life. It was fun for a little while, but it really wasnít something that I saw myself in for the duration of my working career.

Tell us the story about how you and Howard hooked up.

I was working at WFBR-AM in Baltimore, and Howard was working at WWWW in Detroit. His station went Country overnight without his knowledge, and when he woke up on Sunday morning, someone called him and said, "turn on the radio." He heard this Country music coming out of his radio station. As it turned out, the station offered him the opportunity to stay, and said he could be "Hop-A-Long-Howard" or something like that. He obviously didnít think that was a good idea, so he started immediately looking for another job. At the time WWDC in Washington, D.C. had just been sold, and they brought in Goff Lebhar as the new General Manager, plus Denise Oliver as the new Program Director, and they were looking for some high profile morning talent from out of town to come into the market. They settled on Howard, and they asked him if he had anybody in mind that he wanted to work with in terms of a news person. He said, "No, Iíd like a news person, but I donít have anybody in mind."

Robin Quivers

It just so happened I had met Denise when I was in broadcasting school, and had stayed in touch with her over the months of my career. So, when she got this guy coming in from Detroit, she decided she wanted him to hear me. She kept calling me and asking me for tapes. I had been moving around the country for about two years at a clip of about every six months, and I was tired of it. I had a good job; I liked it and I thought I could see myself growing in that station and in that position, and it was a good market. Iíd always hang up the phone from her and say, "Well, that was very flattering, but I just donít want to go anywhere." Finally, after two or three tries of getting me to send in a tape, she had one of her friends at another station in Baltimore tape me on the air, and she played that tape for Howard. He listened to it and said, "Yeah, she sounds okay, get her." Then they started wooing me and I really didnít want to go anywhere. Finally, after three or four lunches, dinners, whatever she could think of, she said, "Come visit me at the station in Washington." I came, and I said, "Nice building; itís very nice, but I really donít feel like changing my situation right now." She then said, "Let me play you a tape of this guy I want you to work with." I said, "Okay, fine. Do whatever you want, itís really not going to work," and she put on a tape of Howard and he was interviewing prostitutes. I had never heard anything like it, and I lost my mind at that point. I just said, "Where do I sign? Iíll do anything just to meet this guy!"

How would you describe your role on the show?

Itís very hard to talk about the mechanics of a thing that comes so naturally and automatically; itís been years that Iíve been doing this. I would say I perform several different functions on the show. At any given time I can be a listener, a co-host, a newsperson. It really isnít any one thing.

As the show continues to evolve, how much daily input do you personally have in the showís direction?

Well, we donít have a direction! (Laughs) Itís just one of those things where we get on the air and we see where it goes. Thatís part of the fun. Thatís why weíve been doing it for so long.

Are you involved in the writing process as far as the bits and the recorded parodies?

It depends on whether thatís something I want to do. On the "Alive" bit that we just did recently, I was the one who gave them the concept, and then I just happened to be around at the writing session. Usually Iím not in the bits. Thatís when I take on the role of a listener; he (Howard) wants to see my reaction. So, I donít really sit in on writing sessions. I might sometimes be there at the start of something, and then theyíll go away and write it because they want to try it out on me. Iím the only one they can actually see a response from. A lot of times thatís what happens with bits. I donít even sit in on the writing sessions, I might propose them or I might come up with the idea. Then again, when itís something like questions for Stuttering John, if Iím around Iíll do something. Iím always there for background information when theyíre trying to decide what to do with a particular guest whoís coming in, and things of that nature.

Do you see yourself taking more issue with some of Howardís opinions than maybe you did early on in your relationship?

No, I donít see that happening at all. In fact, sometimes I agree with him 100 percent; he just doesnít say anything to rile me. And other times, Iíve heard him say something so many times and itís so ridiculous that it doesnít even require a comment anymore.

I think what a lot of people appreciate about your role on the show is the fact that you do stand up to Howard when it comes to certain things that you believe in and say, "Yo, Howard, youíve gone too far."

Sometimes people will say, "You let him say that?" and I say, "Last week when he said that I called him to task." Then after a while Iíll say, "You know what, I havenít addressed this in a long time. Iím going to address this right now, thatís ridiculous, Howard." Itís a feeling-out kind of a thing. I do it when I feel like it, when I feel itís appropriate or necessary or I just want to do it that day.

When you get on each otherís collective cases on the show, itís for showmanship, we understand that. Whatís your relationship like away from the microphone?

Theyíre the same! (Laughs) Iím the worst culprit, and I usually get accused of not realizing the showís over!

Iím not sure how detailed youíre going to be able to answer this question and I understand why, but how do you feel about all the FCC hassles?

I donít feel good about it. Nobody wants to be hassled. I basically feel that we are entertainers; weíre not people who are trying to destroy our society or corrupt radio or the minds of little children. I donít understand it, quite frankly, that someone gets so concerned with what weíre doing that the government starts to come down on us. That has always shocked me because I think, well, these are intelligent people. They should realize that weíre just kidding around and having fun and that weíre here to make people laugh, and that, quite frankly, this is rather adult entertainment. Kids arenít particularly interested in it. This is the time of the day that kids are more supervised by their parents than any other time of the day. If they are listening, itís because their parents want them to and have consented to their listening. I donít think there are that many kids who are interested in what weíre saying or who get what weíre saying. So, I donít really think itís an issue at all.

In your heart, what do you think the final outcome will be?

In my heart I have faith in the Constitution and the actual branches of government, and I really think that in the end, weíll win.

The Howard Stern network continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Youíre adding new markets, it seems, every month. Is world domination your ultimate goal?

Absolutely! (Laughs)

The huge success of Howardís network has come companies scrambling to sign big name talent to their own "network."

What would that be?

Well, like Greaseman.

You said big name talent; Iím very upset. I thought you meant like Madonna or Al Pacino, those are big names!

Okay, weíll do it your wayÖ So these companies are putting some of these "no-talents" together for simulcasting to other cities. Do you feel this is the new wave in radio broadcasting, something that you and Howard have pioneered, and would you have any cautions for those wanting to take that plunge?

I donít have any cautions for them, and I donít know whether this is a new wave in radio. I do know weíve been able to do it. Thatís not to say this is what people expect from radio, itís just that weíve been able to do it because of the performers we are. If you just take some guy, put him on the radio and let him talk, people will tune in, and it has nothing to do specifically with Howard Stern or Robin Quivers or who they are as performers. So, to say this is a new wave in radio, I canít say until somebody else manages to achieve the same thing.

Iíve always felt that you were the link that held the show together. Youíre the one who brings it back to the center when itís drifted too far left or too far right. Do you find that to be a constant struggle every day?

Itís not a struggle, why would I be struggling? People are always asking me about the difficulties of my job. If my job was difficult, I donít think Iíd still be doing it for this long, at these hours. Iíd get a better job! Iíve worked hard, why would I stay somewhere that was a struggle all the time?

What kind of show preparation do you go through?

I watch all the newscasts. I watch tons of talk show. I read tons of magazines and I try to read four or five newspapers every day.

Movies seem to be a real hobby of yours.

Itís a personal hobby and something I do for the show as well.

You and Howard especially seem to always be up on all the current movie releasesÖ

Yeah, because thatís our major form of entertainment. We donít get to go out.

Do the movie studios set up screenings so you can talk about them?

Yeah, and thatís quite fun for us. Itís one of the perks we actually get to take advantage of that go with the job. A lot of people would want to go to the parties or the openings, or that sort of thing, but weíre dedicated to our jobs. We donít stay up and tire ourselves out because we have to perform the next day, and we think we have a certain responsibility to be there. So, these screenings have been the one thing that weíve been able to get out of being in the business.

Speaking of responsibilities, how involved are you in client meetings and sales ideas?

Ideas, when weíre doing the live commercials and so forth, ideas are a great part of my responsibility. Itís very hard to do live commercials day-in and day-out for the same product all the time and expect one person to come up with a new slant on them every time you come out-of-the-box, so I think that is a great part of my responsibility. Iím always looking for the angle or the new thing or something else to highlight in the copy. I donít have any copy in front of me, but I listen to these commercials so much that I know whatís in the copy. So obviously, I know what a struggle it is to make them fresh every morning.

A lot of people may not know that youíve done some national voice-over work. What are some of the things that youíve done?

Iíve done some regional stuff, but I donít think Iíve ever had a major national commercial. I did a lot of local stuff.

Youíve done some work for VH-1, right?

Well that was national, wasnít it? I forgot! Yes, I was the disembodied female voice for VH-1 for about a year or two.

Do you miss doing the weekly TV show with Howard?

No, I donít miss it, because it was grueling. It was fun; the final product always turned out to be fun. The idea of having a TV show on the air every weekend was fun. The reaction on the street from people was really very rewarding. But in terms of the impact on our lives, it was very difficult to do, and incredibly time consuming. It was always a love/hate kind of situation with the TV show, and I enjoyed having the experience of it, but Iím not especially sorry that weíre not doing that particular TV show any more.

Could you see yourself going through the grind in the future?

Not that grind; I donít want that grind! I would love to do another TV project, but I donít want to have to do what we did at Channel 9 ever again.

Who is your all-time favorite guest on the show and why?

Quite frankly, when you say favorite guest of all time, I would have to say Sam Kinison. I was just talking about him the other day, and weíre all constantly remembering moments with Sam which are absolutely priceless and wonderful. No one else will ever duplicate them.

Has Howard ever embarrassed you with the way heís grilled a guest? I understand itís in fun and jest, but have you ever wanted to crawl underneath the table?

No. I understand what youíre saying, but I donít get embarrassed. Sometimes I feel for the person involved, because they get embarrassed. They can get a lot of sympathy from me simply for that reason, that theyíre so uncomfortable, but Iím not embarrassed.

Has all of your increased notoriety affected your personal life at all?

Sure it affects me. Iím more visible, and people recognize me on the street. But, Iím not Madonna or Elvis. Thatís why I got into this business.

A funny story that you told on the air the other days was the incident in the cab. Do you mind relating that story? It seemed like a wild experience.

I call that my Isadora Duncan story. I was meeting a friend at the theater and I got into this cab. Taking cabs in New York is always an adventure. If you do it two or three times a day, you get two or three different stories. But anyway, this particular day I think it was an Oriental cab driver and he was driving along and we needed to stop at 59th and 5th. Thereís this big street right in front of the plaza there, and this black guy messenger was on a bike. The cab driver was just driving wildly, and he had his car headed right for the guyís front wheel. So the guy had to hop out of the way and drag his bike back, and he starts screaming at the top of his lungs and calling this guy names, but it was right at the corner where we were supposed to stop. It wasnít like the cabbie could just scare this guy to death and then keep driving, he now had to stop where this man was screaming. So I got out of the cab and slammed the door. The cabbie was so anxious because of this screaming that was going on behind him that he took off immediately, and I realized at that point that my scarf was still in the door of the cab and now it was tightening around my neck. I kept my wits about me and said "get this scarf off your neck immediately." I started to unwind it, and got it off and let the cab drive my scarf down the street Ė and then I started to scream. The driver heard me, he stopped, and I went and got my scarf. I was sitting there thinking "this could be the end." I could see the headlines in the Post.

Are there other mountains that you want to climb in this industry, or are you very comfortable in this role?

Iím comfortable in this role, and this is a fun job to do, but Iím always looking to grow. I would hope that even if Iím in this role, it becomes something else. So, even if weíre still on radio, weíll be on national radio, or weíll be on international radio, or Iíll also be contributing to other media. Iím never looking to just stop and just do this. No, that doesnít appeal to me at all. I mean, I love to do this and I could do this forever, but I also want to do other things too.

** QB Content originally printed in February 26, 1993 issue of FMQB **

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