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Howard Stern Show Producer Gary Dell'Abate Shares His Thoughts on the Sweet Science

by Barry Lindenman

Fans of the nation's number one morning radio show know Gary Dell'Abate as both the behind the scenes producer and on-air personality of The Howard Stern Show. For over fifteen years now, Gary Dell'Abate has worked with Stern, coordinating the show, booking guests, watching strippers and midgets, listening to stutterers and taking constant abuse from Howard. Following his graduation from Adelphi University in 1983, Gary and Howard first met when he was working as an intern at WNBC. Years later when Stern left WNBC for WXRK (known as "K Rock"), Gary joined him as producer of Stern's successful and controversial morning radio show. An avid collector of animation cells, Gary once made the on-air mistake of referring to cartoon
cowboy "Quickdraw McGraw's sidekick "Baba Louie" as "Baba Booey." The damage was done. The goof was made and the nickname has stuck. In recent years, Gary Dell'Abate has become known to millions of movie and television fans as well with the release of Stern's autobiographical movie "Private Parts," and his television show which airs nightly on the "E" channel. Along with Stern' s other sidekicks, Robin Quivers, Fred Norris and Jackie "The Jokeman" Martling, Gary Dell'Abate is part of the ensemble cast that has made the nationally syndicated "Howard Stern Show" a success for almost twenty years.

BL: I think we're a bout the same age. I can trace the origins of my interest in boxing to when I was in the 4th grade when the entire class took sides before the first Ali - Frazier fight. When did you first become a boxing fan?

GD: We must be exactly the same age. But for me it was actually a little before that. When I was a kid, our family had a box full of all our old family films on 8mm. My dad also had a bunch of old fight films. They were on 8mm so there was no sound. These films always showed the highlights so I became very interested in boxing. It looked interesting to me. So then I started talking to me Dad who is a huge fight fan. He would tell me about guys like Jake LaMotta, Willie Pep, Rocky Marciano and Joe Louis. He would tell me how in the old days, you could go to Madison Square Garden and see a fight practically every night.

BL: I know that you are a huge sports fan in general. Where does boxing rank on your list of favorite sports?

GD: For me, baseball and football are pretty much my favorites. It depends on the quality of boxing at the time. Boxing can be way up there for me. If you get a good quality fight, boxing can be as big as the Super Bowl.

BL: Several boxers have appeared on the Howard Stern show over the years (Joe Frazier, Lennox Lewis, Vinny Pazienza, Boom Boom Mancini, Shannon Briggs, etc.) Who would you say was the most memorable boxer you've had on the show?

GD: Don't forget Leon Spinks who we just had on. That's a tough one. Joe Frazier has been the most well known boxer we've had and he's been on the most times.

BL:        Are there any boxers who you've tried to get on the show but who have refused?

GD:  Tyson.

BL: I know you wrestled when you were in school. Did you ever do any boxing yourself?

GD: Not really. Just messing around with my buddies. We'd throw on the gloves and try it. But I never pursued it any further.

BL: Who would you say is your favorite fighter of all time to watch?

GD: There are so many different ones. Ray Mancini for one. Those ten or twelve fights during the early '80's were pretty amazing. From the time a few fights prior to the Arguello fight right up to the Kim fight, those were all pretty interesting. Watching Ali was interesting for me, but it wasn't as exciting because he never lost. There was never any question about
whether he was gonna win, but what round is he gonna win in. Duran is also one of my favorite fighters. I always thought he was amazing. I used to also love watching Danny "Little Red" Lopez fight.

BL: I know Robin is a huge boxing fan, particularly of Muhammad Ali. Is Howard much of a fight fan?

GD: All of us on the show like to watch the big fights and talk about them on the air.

BL: Do you ever attend fights live at Madison Square Garden or Atlantic City or are you more of a TV fan?

GD: I recently went to the De La Hoya - Sugar Shane Mosley fight at the Staple Center. I sat ringside at the Larry Holmes - Ray Mercer fight in Atlantic City in the early '90's. That was really interesting. I also sat ringside at the James Toney - Dave Tiberi fight. It ended up being a lot more competitive than they thought. Tiberi beat him that fight but they gave it to Toney because he was the champion. I remember going to the Nassau
Coliseum back in 1972 I believe, to see the Olympic boxing trials. Actually though, one of the more interesting things I've done was being a ring announcer for a small promoter in New York. He put together a small boxing card at the Marriott hotel in Tarrytown. I remember thinking that the whole thing would be a total drag. It was a lot of no-name boxers fighting early on in the careers and it was really good. It was interesting to see good,
quality boxing in a smaller venue. It was really interesting to me because Floyd Patterson was there, since he was the head of the New York Boxing Commission at the time. I also saw "Butterbean" fight that night!

BL: What's your opinion about the current popularity of women's boxing? Do you think they should be given a legitimate chance or do you think it's just a sideshow attraction to try and sell tickets?

GD: I think everybody should be given a chance. If people want to watch it or not is another story. I just don't think that most of the women have the physical qualities yet. I think they should definitely be able to do it. Who knows, maybe given enough time, it will be as competitive as men's boxing.

BL: Who on the show (Stuttering John, Jackie "The Jokeman," etc.) would you most like to get in the ring with and mix it up with for a few rounds?

GD: I don't know. I don't really want to fight anybody on the show (laughing).

BL: Have you ever had a run in with a guest on the show that made you want to beat the crap out of them?

GD: Yeah. Sal the stockbroker (notorious for constantly referring to Gary as a "horsetooth jackass"). I actually challenged him to a fight but he didn't want to do it. He claims he has some sort of heart condition.

BL: Being in the broadcast business yourself, are you friendly with any of the current boxing commentators?

GD: I'm very friendly with Alex Wallau (ABC Sports). You know what's really interesting? Back when I was living in New York city, I used to watch this kid Max Kellerman on cable access. I remember watching him and there'd be one camera on him as he'd be taking phone calls from the audience.  For being so young, he was really knowledgeable about boxing. I feel like I've literally watched him grow up on TV. Now he's landed a gig with ESPN!

BL: What's your favorite boxing movie of all time?

PA: That's a tough one because it's really hard to make a bad boxing movie. For a movie drama that is a recreation of  live events, I have to go with "Raging Bull." But for a movie that's a documentary, I was so blown away by "When We Were Kings." That was one of those Ali fights that was on closed-circuit only so I never had really seen all that stuff. It was all put together so well. I like all the "Rocky" movies and "Somebody Up There
Likes Me." Any boxing movie is just really a lot of fun to watch. I'll even watch "The Champ," which is a pretty awful movie!

BL: Compare boxing today with the way it was when it was at its best for you as a fan.

GD:   Boxing is kind of a drag for me now because there's nobody that I really care about watching anymore. The high point of my enjoyment of watching boxing was throughout most of the '80's. Any Saturday you could turn on the TV and watch Mancini, Arguello, Leonard or Hearns. The networks
actually managed to turn boxing into a television series. Especially with "Boom Boom" Mancini. It seemed almost like a television series. They played up the whole drama about his Dad never winning the title and the son trying to win it for his Dad. And for me, growing up on Long Island, the whole intrigue with Gerry Cooney during the '80's was phenomenal. There were so many great fighters in every division back then. Even Larry Holmes, who for me at the time was sort of a drag to watch. But in retrospect, I think Holmes was right because he probably didn't get the respect he deserved at the time. But a fighter is only as good as his level of competition and I don't think the heavyweight division has been very good or competitive in a long time. For me now, some of the divisions just aren't as exciting to watch.

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