The Notorious Bijou Voicemail & The Bitter Rivalry of Howard Stern and Steve Dahl

The Notorious Bijou Voicemail &  The Bitter Rivalry of Howard Stern and Steve Dahl


From its inception in 1970 all the way to the present, one way to find out information about The Bijou Theater, including the movie schedule and showtimes has been to call and listen to a pre-recorded voicemail message.


In the late 1980s and early 1990s,   the voicemail became well known to a much wider audience than just potential Bijou customers after being featured on radio shows hosted by Steve Dahl and Howard Stern, respectively. It was a staple on Steve Dahl’s Chicago morning show that he co-hosted along with his partner Garry Meier from 1981 to 1993.








Coincidentally or not, around the same time frame, it also became a recurring segment on Howard Stern’s own show. In the book Howard Stern A-Z, author Paul D. Colford, a former writer for Long Island Newsday, claims Stern was sent tapes of Steve and Garry’s show which he studiously listened to.


The rivalry between Steve Dahl and Howard Stern, first developed when Stern was hired at WWWW Detroit, filling a position that was vacated when Dahl moved to Chicago. Stern would later go on to Washington D.C. and New York, where his show became nationally syndicated in 1986, while Dahl’s never expanded beyond Chicago. The Bijou voicemail segments are a prime example of the competition between two radio personalities that continues to this day. Dahl (who left terrestrial radio in 2008 when CBS bought out the remainder of his contract, currently hosts, The Steve Dahl Show, a for pay, subscriber based podcast) addressed the issue of whether he believes Stern copied his on-air style and specific ideas on the May 24, 2012 edition of his podcast. He said:



That was a bit that Howard Stern started doing. And then he would like, (Dahl imperonsating Stern) ‘How dare they rip...’ (end of Stern impersonation) I'd be like, ‘Dude we live in Chicago. At least give us that one. How would you even know about the Bijou if you didn’t like steal it from us?’ (impersonating Stern) How dare they call an adult theater in Chicago.' (end of Stern impersonation) It's like, 'Really Dude?'





In 1979, Dahl, while a DJ at the Chicago station The Loop, was the man behind Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park, in which he blew up a crate of disco records between games at a White Sox double header, which led to an on field riot. Today, the stunt, which started the “Disco Sucks!” movement is largely seen as a homophobic and harmful event that further polarized straight and gay relations. To be fair, Dahl's own personal grudge against the music genre may have had less to do with homophobia and more to do with the fact that he had been fired from a DJ job at the Chicago station WDAI on Christmas eve 1978, when it abruptly changed formats from rock to disco.



No audio archives featuring Dahl’s old shows exist online, but there are several clips of Stern’s segments. They sound especially dated today, due to the fact that today's media landscape has become politically correct to the point that it's hard to imagine they would even be allowed to air at all. A typical feature of the segments, was Howard mocking the lisping voice of the man featured in the voicemail while the sound of staff member’s tittering and giggling is heard in the background.


Times have changed and so has Stern's attitude toward homosexuality. The formerly insensitive shock jock is now an outspoken supporter and advocate of gay rights, including marriage. He frequently uses his show to express his views on the equality and rights of gay people and long ago dropped the tone and attitude he uses toward gay men in the Bijou voicemail segments.


The openly gay actor George Takei is currently a beloved guest of his Sirius XM Satellite Radio Show. In the following clip, Stern thanks Takei for guest hosting the show and they express their views about an anti-homosexual pastor.


While Stern's perspective has changed significantly in the intervening years, Dahl's view of Disco seems to have remained firmly in place. In a video posted on YouTube earlier this year, he attempts to break a clasic Bee Gee’s record over his head and then proclaims, “Disco Still Sucks!”



It also appears that Dahl’s rivalry with Stern still stands. On the May 24, 2012 edition of his podcast, Dahl talked about it after calling in to the Bijou for old time's sake. He said:


Somebody sent me an email. I think it was an email or a tweet, or, I don’t know, some form of communication, about last week’s descent into the archives. And I guess it featured me talking some DJ in Detroit who was ripping me off or whatever. Cause he came to Detroit after I left. And turns out that was Howard Stern. I don’t really care. That’s not a theme that I was going for Even though he’s a multi-billionaire and I just have like a little condo in New Buffalo and he has a $20 million house in the Hamptons. I’m not on America’s Got Talent trying to act like I’m cool. Not that I wouldn’t take the gig right now either, but, I haven’t really set myself up to the kind of guy who doesn’t take that gig. He kind of did. That should be beneath him. There’s nothing beneath me. I’m in my basement.


Check out Bijou Video's YouTube channel for more clips of Howard Stern calling the theater and much more!



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