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BABA BOOEY on BOXING:
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?
BL: I know you wrestled when you were in school. Did you ever do any boxing
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
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
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
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.