The week before Franco was on, they had this actor Michael Kearns on. Part of what they talked about is how Hollywood in general colludes to allow closeted celebs to stay that way. They mention Oprah and Jay Leno as examples of names that know when they are interviewing closeted gays, and they always play along.
But as much as Howard might want to make fun of it, he does the exact same thing - even during this interview, and likely during the James Franco interview.
I wasn't familiar with his name, but Kearns ended up being one of the most interesting interviews he's had in a while. He says that he was the first out male Hollywood actor since he doesn't know of any that would publicly say they were gay before he did in the early 70s.
And Kearns wasn't like a scheduled guest which made it all the better because it was unexpected. He and his friend (lady) got to sit in the studio to observe for the day because they donated money to some charity.
Howard didn't even know who Kearns was, but he started asking them questions and got some good conversation going.
The guy had a hook-up with Rock Hudson after meeting him in a bathhouse that he frequented. But even juicier is his story about having a year long affair with someone he doesn't name (at Howard's insistence), but might be Barry Manilow.
But Howard makes serious efforts (including pushing the 'delay/mute' button on him) to not have him say that name, even though they both agree that whoever they are talking about is pretty much a joke to think is straight.
In fact, it's edited out of this Howard TV clip (I think), but on the radio broadcast Robin tried to guess who the mystery guy is and she asks "Are his initials B.M.?" And Howard answers 'No' even though she was right - just because of how desperate he was to not out Manilow (allegedly).
It's kind of interesting as a study of Stern as the guy that is kind of the "rebel," but he's really being no different than everyone he makes fun of for being the 'company guy.'
Stern asks most of his guests if they've had same-sex encounters, unless he knows that that question is off limits. And he doesn't ask it of James Franco - which is what made me think back to this interview from the week before.