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Hey now. Stuttering John and Crackhead Bob may have helped, along with a generous sprinkling of lesbians, rock stars and the meltdown of Kathie Lee Gifford. But credit for one of the biggest marketing success stories in radio has to go to the self-proclaimed King Of All Media himself.

Howard Stern already had a loyal listening audience, a hit cable TV show and two best-selling books when he cranked up his publicity machine for the movie "Private Parts" this spring.

Although it proved to be something of a financial disappointment-the film slid from a hot opening weekend and finished its first run with domestic box office receipts of only about $40 million-the oceans of ink it generated bolstered Mr. Stern's public image, not to mention his bank account.

The film portrayed Mr. Stern, known for his crass on-air persona, as a sympathetic character.

As the mainstream press picked up on this depiction, the real-life Mr. Stern came across as a nice guy, faithful husband and devoted father.

Glowing reports such as these certainly didn't hurt the effort to recruit stations to carry his radio show.

According to Don Buchwald, Mr. Stern's longtime agent, his radio show has cracked five new markets-including Detroit, Mem-phis, Tenn., and Char-lotte, N.C.-since the movie was released; deals for four more are in the works.

The current total is about 40, Mr. Buchwald says, up from "20-something" in June 1996.

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