Stern Adviser

updated 04/05/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/05/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

WHEN ROBIN QUIVERS, THE UNFLAPPABLE SIDEKICK TO STUNNINGLY lewd radio shock jock Howard Stern, told her boss that a neighbor across the way from her Manhattan apartment liked parading around in the nude, Stern presented her with a telescope. That amounts to rare understatement when you're dealing with a man who has indulged in detailed on-air fantasies about having sex with Michelle Pfeiffer and who once said of Los Angeles clubbing victim Rodney King: "If he doesn't want to get beaten, he should stay home." Such alleged humor, and its less printable variants, might be described as take-no-prisoners. Or how about sexist, racist and just plain stupid?

Of course, millions of listeners disagree: Stern's four-hour morning show now airs in 15 cities and has ranked No. 1 in New York, Philadelphia, and L.A. "We're like a fungus," says Quivers, 40, who has worked with Stern for more than a decade. Last year, citing indecency, the Federal Communications Commission fined Stern's employer, Infinity Broadcasting Corp., $600,000. Quivers shrugs. "The FCC does what it does," she says. "There are certain people in the country who don't understand the Constitution. Howard and I are the most misunderstood people in broadcasting."

What Quivers, who earns a salary in the high six figures, would like people to understand is that she and Howard put on "a show. My role is that of Robin Quivers—intelligent, articulate newsperson who has a completely different view of life," she says. "Think of it as being stuck on a desert island and the two people left are Gloria Steinem and Archie Bunker." Except that on this island, Gloria laughs at Archie's musings (or, at most, mildly chides, "Oh, you wacko!"). Quivers has managed to laugh through even the endless jokes Stern has made about her breasts, both before and since her 1990 reduction surgery, which took her from a size 36DD to a size 36D.

But ask Quivers why a black woman would subject herself to Howard's Stern und Drang humor morning after morning, and she groans. "Why should I be offended?" she says. "He gets to be a giddy little boy who gets to live out his fantasies, and I get to watch. Every once in a while people drum me out of the black race, but they didn't make me a member. They can't put me out. I don't care."

Quivers's defiant indifference to political correctness might be rooted in her easygoing upbringing. The only daughter of Charles Quivers Sr., a now retired steelworker, and his wife, Louise, a homemaker, she grew up with three rambunctious brothers—including one named Howard—in a house so lackadaisically disciplined, she says now, "it was every man for himself." She studied nursing at the University of Maryland, but as a nurse she found herself suffering the profession's classic complaints—"bad hours, low pay and lack of respect." After Quivers spent two years in the Air Force, a stint with a broadcast consulting firm in 1978 pushed her into a radio career.

In 1981, following a succession of small-market news-reporting jobs, Quivers heard that somebody named Howard Stern was looking for a news reader for his morning show on WWDC in Washington. When she heard a tape of Stern's shtick, she says, "it was, 'Where do I sign?' He was the most innovative person I'd ever heard doing radio. He has a wonderful ob-noxiousness." Quivers has been with him ever since. Stern gives her the highest praise: "There is no better on-air partner." However, he can't help prefacing it by saying, "Robin is physically beautiful—her breasts, her hips, her buttocks...perfect."

Being Stern's sidekick means Quivers arrives in the studio by 5 a.m., so she is usually in bed by 9 p.m. She meditates daily (as does Stern), spends time with a 17-year-old partner in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Program and likes watching movies (favorites are The Wizard of Oz and The Godfather) on video. Although she has been linked with As the World Turns star Michael Swan ("It's a friendship," she says), romance does not seem to fit the never married Quivers's schedule. For now, she shares her two-bedroom apartment with two cats, King Tut and Max. "They can come and go and don't have to be involved with me every minute," says Quivers. "If I could find a man like a cat, I would get married."

But could she ever find a man as fine as her boss? Offensive as he may be on-air, "Howard is the most wonderful, generous, honest, caring human being that I know," she says. "I would say he created me."

TOM GLIATTO
SABRINA McFARLAND in New York City

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