|By the summer of 1979 I was still making leather items for the gay S&M crowd, but was also doing more mainstream leather. Late summer, 1979, I got a call from the manager of the Romantics. The group signed a record deal a few months earlier, and wanted some red leather suits made for their album cover photo. In January of 1980 their album was released. This was a big deal in Detroit. Hometown boys make good type of thing.
The Romantics did an interview on W4 and Jimmy talked about me wearing all leather clothes and spiked heel boots, and how strange my apartment was with whips and chains and weird sexual devices hanging on the walls (a woman's work is never done). They got a lot of publicity in Detroit, and in late March I went to the offices of City Magazine to pick up a magazine with a Romantics interview in it. When I met the owner, Derek Girdwood, he asked if he could interview me. With my last publicity still fresh in my mind, I agreed only on the condition that I got final approval. He said that he wasn't out to make anyone look bad, and he'd let me see the article before it went to print.
The City Magazine article came out on April 10, 1980. The following Monday W4 got a shitload of these magazines to be distributed to the air staff, promotion people and office personnel. I knew those magazines were in the control room because my friend Greg St. James was doing the all night shift there and told me that everybody was jacking off to my article (thanks).
Midway through that week, the girl across the street came over to tell me that some jerk on W4 in the morning was making some reference to the Romantics red leather suits, but she had only caught the tail end of it. I didn't pay too much attention. She suggested that I get up early in the morning to listen to him, but I worked at night and slept during the day and didn't think that this was worth losing sleep over.
The following Monday evening, the neighbor girl came over to tell me that the new morning guy on W4, Howard Stern, had done a live broadcast in front of the station that morning. She was listening to him on her way into work downtown, and she heard him say that he had just met the girl who made the Romantics red leather outfits. Allegedly he went on to say that that was the third girl he had talked to in the past week who claimed to have made those red suits, and he was wondering how many more he was going to meet. I was starting to get pissed off. I would get up early the following morning and have a little talk with this guy.
I set the alarm clock for 8:00 A.M. so I could catch this guy at the station.
I had never heard this guy on the air, so I turned on the radio to see what he was all about. When I first heard Howard on the air, I thought he was a big pussy. He had this Alan Alda type of voice and I assumed the demeanor to go with it. Who the fuck did this Howard Stern think he was anyway? I knew this guy had seen that article and knew who made the Romantics clothes. Why was this guy talking shit on the air? Because he was a big fucking asshole! I listened a little longer and discovered that he was funny and smart. But he was still pissing me off! I was ready to call the mother fucker. I had a friend on the air so I had the hot line number. The conversation went like this:
Howard: Hot line
Irene: Is this Howard Stern?
Howard: Yeah. Who is this?
Irene: This is Irene DeCook you little mealy mouth.
Howard: Wait a minute. Why are you talking to me like this? Do I know you? How do you have the Hot line number?
Irene: That's none of your business you little maggot! And yeah, you know who I am. Don't pretend that you don't.
Howard: No really. I don't know who you are or why you're talking to me like this.
Irene: I made the red leather suits for the Romantics, and I'm the only girl who makes their clothes. And I better not hear about you talking about this again.
Howard: Okay. Okay. But can I put you on the air?
Irene: No. No way.
Howard: C'mon, let me put you on the air.
Irene: Don't try it Scumbag.
Howard: What will you do to me if I do?
Irene: I'll come down there and step on your face!
Howard told me to hold for a minute and I could hear tape rewinding. He got back on the phone and told me that he had recorded our conversation and wanted to play it on the air. He was really pissing me off, but I was starting to warm up to him at the same time. I was still resisting, but he asked me real nice not to hang up, and to let him play the tape for me and then make a decision. He played it back for me and told me that it was good and thought everybody else would think so too. What the fuck. I finally agreed, and also agreed to call him again in a few days.
When I called a few days later, he said he had gotten a good response from airing my phone call, and asked me to come to a promo and introduce myself. The promo was Saturday afternoon at a Peaches record store where people were paying $1.06 to pick up a sledge hammer and take a whack at a Toyota. Afterwards, Howard and I met face to face. I was dressed in skin tight black leather, and Howard was a tall, goofy guy with short bushy hair, and a bushy mustache. He said he had an idea, and asked what I thought about Leather Weather. I told him that I didn't know anything about the fucking weather. He said that it didn't matter, that I could just make up the weather. That it was just an excuse to have me on the air, and I could say whatever I wanted, just go on and talk about my life. I was reluctant. I didn't mind making a fool out of myself in
front of a few people, but in front of thousands was a different story. He got my number and said he would call the next day to discuss it.
When Howard called, I told him I didn't want to get up that early in the morning and drive downtown. He said we could do it right over the telephone, that I wouldn't even have to leave my house. He was wearing me down. I agreed to give it a shot. We'd make it a regular feature on Monday's and Friday's at 8:50 A.M.. I did the first Leather Weather on May 5, 1980In my 6th week on the air I started going down to the station to do the weather live. Then I would hang around and just comment on whatever was going on. I was just being myself and telling stories, and Howard was shocked and appalled and would say that I was terrible. He always said that he was afraid of me, but I'm not sure why.
I did my first Leather Weather dial a date in that 6th week. I was asking for cute, young guys with tight jeans and black leather jackets. The guy I chose claimed to fit the bill, but when we went to pick him up I discovered that he had misrepresented himself. And his mother came out to the limo to take pictures. What the fuck. I had the station limo, driver, and an expense account for the night, so we dumped my date early and picked up some of my friends for the rest of the night.
One day a woman called Howard and told him that he was an idiot and not at all funny. He asked me what I thought about the woman calling. I said that she sounded like a severely constipated bitch, that there was nothing wrong with her that a good Drano enema wouldn't cure. The program director hit the fucking roof. He said that I could say bitch and constipated, but never together, and never in reference to a listener. And they had received some complaints about me from irate parents saying that their young children could hear me on the air and that I was obscene. I was told that my show would have to be taped for a while since I obviously couldn't control myself enough for them to allow me to be live. Their panties were in a big knot and this was my punishment. We only taped for a week and a half and then things were back to normal.
This station was relentless with the promo's, but it got us a lot of recognition. We entered Howard in an Alfred E. Numan Look-alike contest, and in a Dolly Parton Look-alike contest that another station was sponsoring. The other station was really pissed off, but we were on the local news that night. We did a promo at the Waterford Raceway, and I brought my little daughter (she had her very own little black leather outfit and little whip). We did a Burn Your Bra for E.R.A. promo in front of the station and Howard did the whole thing wearing a stupid little white bra. We did the fucking State Fair!
We did a promo at Hart Plaza and I brought my pet 7 foot boa constrictor (named Bondage). A neighbor drove me so that I could hold onto him, and on the way home he got away from me and slithered under her back seat. I could not get the fucker out! And the girl who owned the car was not too fond of snakes. My snake ate rats, so after a few days I put a rat in a box in the back seat to try to lure him out. A few days later we could smell the all too familiar aroma of dead rodent. I threw the rat away and pulled the whole seat out. Bondage was a little scared and hungry, but all right otherwise. I quit taking him out in public after that.
Howard was doing dial-a-dates quite often after a while. I was scheduled to do another Leather Weather dial-a-date when we were told that a convicted sex offender had went on the dial-a-date from the previous week. We were told not to do any more until this blew over. I decided to do it anyway and just reject all of the guys. After I interviewed the guys, I said that I couldn't choose because they were a pack of losers and should do us all a big favor and off themselves.
One day some guy threw a brick through one of the windows in the double plate glass windows in the control room. He called Howard 10 minutes later to say that he had done it because Howard wouldn't let him talk to me. Getting a little over-excited over nothing.
On Friday, January 16, 1981, I went to W4 to do the weather. Everything was the same as usual, but there was a special meeting planned for Sunday. When I turned on the radio Sunday, country music was playing. I fucked around with the radio knob thinking that it must not be in the right spot. It was. I talked to Howard and he asked me if I wanted to do Denim Weather.
On Monday, January 19, Howard and I went to the Michigan Rock Awards show. Voting was by industry people only, and we were both nominated for Announcer of the Year. Howard won, I didn't. We left as soon as it was over. We were both a little sad. Howard was off looking for a new job, and I was still doing leather. The economy was really fucked up at this time, but rock bands always had to have their stage clothes. Howard and I talked on the phone a few times, but I wouldn't see him again for 15 years.