A feud between radio shock jocks that began in the early 2000s is still clearly carrying some bad blood two decades later, after Mancow Muller lashed out at Howard Stern on Tuesday’s Dark Side of the 2000s.
The ViceTV docuseries, which each week focuses on different aspects of pop culture from the 2000s, took two episodes on Tuesday to explore the rise and fall of radio shock jocks, most notably Stern and his many clashes with other popular radio hosts.
After successfully going head-to-head both on the air and in the ratings with other DJs like Don Imus in New York, Mark and Brian in Los Angeles and John DeBella in Philadelphia, Stern tipped his microphone in Muller’s direction, which whipped up yet another Stern feud, this time to the windy city of Chicago.
The 57-year-old Muller, whose real name is Matthew Erich Muller, first made national headlines in the early '90s in San Francisco when he ultimately closed down the Bay Bridge with a radio stunt that was calling attention to Bill Clinton shutting down an airport while he got a haircut aboard a parked Air Force One.
“I did it to make a statement against power,” Muller said in Dark Side of the 2000s. “And that’s what I do: I punch up, I never punch down. That’s the difference between me and my competitors.”
After being convicted of a felony and costing his radio station $1.5 million in settlement money for the incident, Muller moved to Chicago to be closer to his father, who was dying of cancer. And after Muller became successful there, he started butting radio towers with Stern, who wasn't afraid of using any angle of attack.
“My father was a $ 30,000-a-year cabinetmaker, and he became the number one topic on Stern’s show for a year,” Muller said about Stern using his father as show fodder. “The countdown to his death. How he was going to have sex with my mother. How he was gonna use my mother’s saliva on himself when he raped me, how he was gonna dig up my father’s corpse — he told his listeners to go to my father’s funeral.”
At that point Muller had become a little visibly upset. He added, “You think this is some entertainer? ‘Oh he’s made amends. He’s a nice guy now.’ He can burn in hell.”
What Muller described as being “demonic evil” coming from Stern was even frowned upon by Stern’s own creative team, who reached out to Muller to say that Stern had gone too far. That included Jackie Martling, Stern’s former head writer, who also spoke in the docuseries.
“It was ruthless. He’d start saying horrible things. I didn’t want anybody to think that this is my concept,” Martling said.
Ultimately the two had it out on the air when Stern phoned into Muller’s show after their back-and-forth shenanigans had escalated to a box that had been defecated in being sent from Chicago to New York. The conversation ended with Stern eventually hanging up, which Muller considered a win, to go along with his win in the ratings as well.
“It was a battle royale. It was the greatest battle in radio history, and the people of Chicago went ‘click,’” Muller said while doing a knob-turning motion. “They turned him off. It destroyed him in Chicago. He never beat me in Chicago, he never came close. It turns out there was more people that had good in them, and good actually won for once.”
Dark Side of the 2000s airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on ViceTV.