Member of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.
Executive Producer, “The Howard Stern Show”
Memorable Adelphi faculty: “Sal Primeggia changed my life. Following his advice, I spent five weeks in Italy the summer after graduation through an exchange program provided by Adelphi. It was the most amazing experience of my life.”
Part of Adelphi history: “When President Reagan cut student aid funding in 1982, Adelphi sent busses down to Washington D.C. to talk to Congress. I called in three live reports to WLIR; it was an exciting time.”
Proudest Adelphi memories: “Getting my film shown at Adelphi’s student film festival; receiving the Richard F. Clemo Award at the end of my senior year, which is presented to a student who has made a significant contribution to the communications department.”
Advice for Communication Majors: “You have to do internships. There is only so much you can learn from a book. This is a hands-on business; you need to do things in order to see how they are really done. Even a “bad” internship is a good lesson.”
We all remember our first job, but how many of us can say it led to the opportunity of a lifetime? Gary Dell’Abate can.
Shortly after graduating from Adelphi, he landed a job in the news department at NBC. “I was just an assistant to the traffic reporter,” he says, “but I got my foot in the door.” And he certainly did; while working at NBC, he heard of an opening at Howard Stern’s radio show. He applied and was hired at $150 a week, with the understanding that his prime responsibilities were getting Howard’s lunch and booking a few guests. Fast forward 25 years, and today he is Executive Producer of The Howard Stern Show.
What goes into making one of the most well known radio shows run as smoothly as it does? A frenetic schedule that starts at 4:15 a.m.
Mr. Dell’Abate makes his first stop the computer, to see what notes he has received since going to bed the night before. Keeping up to date with the entertainment industry and current affairs is an around-the-clock job for Mr. Dell’Abate, who continues to gather information during his commute from Connecticut to New York City, listening to the news on the radio.
By 5:25 he’s in his office pulling materials together for that morning’s show. By the time Howard Stern arrives minutes before 6:00, he has compiled articles, sound bites, and stories of interest to share with “The King of All Media.” “It’s not rigid production,” he explains. “I pitch some ideas, which Howard may or may not use in that day’s show.”
During this time, that morning’s guest arrives at the studio to be prepped for the show. Mr. Dell’Abate, who is responsible for booking all of the show’s talent, says a best day for him is when they have a guest who ends up exceeding all expectations. “When someone we had been on the fence about, who is way more interesting than we ever could have expected,” he says. “On the other hand, a worst day here is when you go to bat for a guest, and the person just ends up being really bad. We’re always taking chances here.”
While booking guests may be one of the best known responsibilities of a radio producer, Mr. Dell’Abate is in a rare situation. “Talent booking isn’t about filling the show for us,” he explains. Anyone who knows the Stern Show is familiar with the dynamic that makes it so appealing: Howard and his cohorts sit around conversing with each other as a group of friends would.
Even though the success of the show does not rely on guests, over the years Mr. Dell’Abate has drawn some of the biggest names in entertainment to the show, including Chris Rock, Donald Trump, John F. Kennedy, Jr., Rodney Dangerfield, and Sting. “Over 25 years, we’ve built great relationships,” he says. “For example, every time Arnold Schwarzenegger makes a movie, The Howard Stern Show is a stop for him.”
Once the show begins at 6:00, Mr. Dell’Abate works in the office, although he will come in and out of the recording studio if he has something to contribute. During every show break, he heads into the studio with other producers to kick around ideas with Howard. With the Stern Show’s move from terrestrial radio to satellite radio in 2006, there are fewer, shorter commercials: “As a producer, that means I need to pitch quicker,” he says.
After the show’s completion, anywhere between 10:00 and 11:00 a.m., he co-hosts The Wrap-Up Show, ”a chance for fans to call in and talk about events, topics, and discussions from that morning,” he explains. Preparation for the next day’s show begins immediately thereafter. He takes his work on the road, returning the rest of his phone calls on the mid-afternoon drive home, and as soon as he walks in the door, he heads to the computer. “I’ve already missed emails, which pile up quickly at this time of day,” he says.
When his kids come home from school, he enjoys spending time with them; however, after dinner with the family, it’s back to business. “I get emails from the West Coast; it’s not uncommon for me to book a guest via email at 8:00 at night,” he says. After a night’s sleep, he wakes up to do it all again.
At Adelphi, Mr. Dell’Abate’s passion for radio came to light quickly: “At orientation, I went to the radio station and was blown away,” he recalls. Already doing newscast on AM and FM radio, his sophomore year he learned of an internship at WLIR, the premiere radio station on Long Island at the time. “I was dying to get it, but you had to be a junior to be eligible for an internship. If it weren’t for the help of radio Professor Leslie Austin, I never would have managed to get a spot,” says Mr. Dell’Abate, who is still grateful for Professor Austin’s guidance, both in and outside the classroom.
It was the hands-on experiences he gained at Adelphi that helped him to develop the skills which inevitably enabled him to excel in all facets of his career at The Howard Stern Show: “You can learn the nuts and bolts anywhere,” he says. “Working on those projects at Adelphi is how I learned to work with people. And that’s life.”
Today Mr. Dell’Abate lives with his wife and two sons in Connecticut. He enjoys coaching his children’s baseball and football teams, as well as watching his favorite teams, the Jets and Mets. He also likes to ski, travel, read and watch television.