Howard and the Stern Show Say a Heartbreaking Goodbye to Ralph Cirella

“This guy was my man and he’s like the brother I never had,” he says of longtime confidante

December 6, 2023

Ralph Cirella, Howard’s close friend and longtime stylist, has passed away after a battle with a rare lymphoma. He was 58.

On Wednesday, a distraught Howard spoke of the deep affection he has for his late confidante. “I think this is the toughest part of loving someone — when you lose them. Lord knows I loved Ralph,” he said. “My wife said to me last night, ‘You and Ralph have a secret language’ and it’s true … we had a great chemistry, and we had a great friendship, and Ralph was one of my bros. In fact, I came to think of Ralph as family.”

Ralph in 2004 Ralph in 2004

First calling into the Stern Show on WNBC in 1985 with his mother, Ralph initially collaborated with Howard on a penis puppet for a New Year’s Eve event at Madison Square Garden’s old Felt Forum. Despite some technical difficulties, he eventually was hired to do special effects on “The Channel 9 Show,” Howard’s iconic late-night variety program. “He was a tremendously talented guy,” Howard insisted. “Ralph would make these elaborate prosthetics like in the movies or like on ‘Saturday Night Live’ and he’d do them for zero money.”

When Ralph gave Howard some constructive criticism on his appearance, he then became his stylist. “Some of the most fun I’ve had with Ralph is when … we’d be going through my closet, he’d be picking out my clothing … and then he’d go, ‘Alright, take your pants off now,’” Howard recalled with a laugh. “It’s just so stupid and it’s killing me I’ll never hear that again.”

George Takei and Ralph in 2006 George Takei and Ralph in 2006 Photo: The Howard Stern Show

He also contributed to an aspect of the Stern Show that lives on to this day. “Ralph is the reason I always start the show with ‘Hey now,’” Howard admitted before explaining it was Ralph’s obsession with “The Larry Sanders Show” and constant repeating of its catchphrase that got him into it. “It became so infectious that I started.”

Most importantly, it was Ralph who helped introduce Howard to Beth. “The reason why I met my wife was Ralph,” he said before recounting the night his friend insisted he go out with him to a party that she was also at. “I met the person I love in this world the most, Beth.”

Ralph and Robin in 2008 Ralph and Robin in 2008 Photo: The Howard Stern Show

Co-host Robin Quivers cited the time Ralph consoled her after a breakup as evidence he was a “true friend.” “He just said, ‘Fuck that guy … you don’t spend a second feeling bad about this,’” she remembered. “He was just that kind of guy … Ralph was Team Robin.”

Howard and Robin weren’t the only members of the Stern Show who had grown close to Ralph over the years. “He was such a good guy. He was so nice to [my wife] Mary and so nice to my kids,” executive producer Gary Dell’Abate told listeners.

Ralph’s longtime friend Chris Wilding grew emotional while thinking of the things he’d never get to see or do. “He really wanted to try those Apple V.R. glasses … [and] I’m sad he won’t get to see another Batman movie,” Chris said. He also lamented the fact he didn’t see him at Ronnie Mund’s wedding. “I thought we’d just get together and be friendly again,” Wilding said. “I have tremendous regret I didn’t reach out to him.”

Ronnie, Ralph, and King of All Blacks on the air together in 2009 Ronnie, Ralph, and King of All Blacks on the air together in 2009

Ronnie, meanwhile, fondly recalled his and Ralph’s phone conversation about one of their favorite TV shows, “Bosch.” “They came out with another season of it just recently … and I have a feeling he never got to watch it,” Ronnie said. “It’s just so fucking sad, man.”

Staffer Memet Walker said he and Ralph had started off as bitter enemies nearly a decade ago, but they eventually found common ground and forged a close relationship. “I wanted to be like Ralph, so I thought it was really cool when we became friends later in life,” Memet said before bringing up a more practical concern. “I have his HBO password and I’m wondering: how long will that work for?” he joked.

“I will miss him terribly …rest in peace, Ralphie Boy,” Howard added. “I can’t believe we’re saying it, but this guy was my man and he’s like the brother I never had.”