His grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Poland and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Radio disc jockey, author and television talk-show host Howard Allen Stern was born on January 12, 1954, in New York, New York, the youngest of Ray and Ben Stern's two children. The self-proclaimed "King of All Media" spent the early part of his youth in the mile square town of Roosevelt, Long Island.
Stern's early taste for radio and recording seems to have been inherited from his father, the part-owner of a recording studio who frequently taped his son and daughter on the holidays. The sometimes short-fused father frequently quizzed his children on current events, an open invitation to his young boy to get sarcastic when he didn't know the answers. "So when I asked him these serious questions, he ends up being a wise guy," recalled Ben. "And so I got mad and said, 'Shut up and sit down. Don't be stupid, you moron.'"
Stern showed an early love of not only performing, but also the outrageous. In the basement of the Stern family's Roosevelt home, Howard frequently put together elaborate puppet shows for his friends. The performances had come at the urging of his mother, but Stern quickly gave them his own twist, his marionettes more than living up to his title for the performances: The Perverted Marionette Show. "I took something so innocent and beautiful and really just ruined it," Stern said. "My parents weren't privy to the dirty performances. My friends would beg me for puppet shows."
Stern's love for attention was coupled by his outsider status, an identity he's clung to for much for his career, which settled into his life at a young age. In the largely African-American community of Roosevelt, the white Stern had trouble fitting in. Over the years, Stern has referred to a rough childhood that saw him the target of periodic school fights. One of his best black friends, Stern once recalled, was beaten up for hanging out with him.
In 1969, the Sterns moved to Rockville Centre, a largely white community that seemed completely alien to the 15-year-old high school student. "It wasn't any better in Rockville Centre," Howard Stern wrote in his 1993 best-selling autobiography, Private Parts. "I couldn't adjust at all. I was totally lost in a white community. I felt like Tarzan when they got him out of Africa and brought him back to England."