MIAMI – In the annals of grass-roots campaigns, catchy slogans long have been invaluable for spreading the word.

Toss in a raunchy jingle, some women in bikinis and a fledgling Web site – as two Miami Beach men have done in their quest to return “The Howard Stern Show” to South Florida radio – and the effect can be explosive.

Chris Gordon and Jonny Lieberbaum say they never expected their “Free Stern” campaign to resonate with so many people so fast.

Since launching the Web site www.freestern.com on Feb. 27, the duo has garnered the attention of the New York Post and CBS MarketWatch, sold hundreds of T-shirts, thong bikinis, trucker hats and yarmulkes emblazoned with the “Free Stern” slogan, and attracted about 60,000 visitors on the Internet, Gordon says.

After Stern played their jingle, “F the FCC,” on the air and invited Lieberbaum to be a call-in guest on March 9, the Web hits and merchandise sales took off.

Sales are great, says Lieberbaum. But the attention is even better. Gordon and Lieberbaum say they have gathered about 6,000 signatures on an online petition to boycott Clear Channel Radio, and its sponsors, until it returns the Stern show to the six markets where it was axed.

“That’s the better thing,” Lieberbaum says.

Ironically, neither man could hear Lieberbaum’s spot on the Stern show. Clear Channel dropped the program from its stations on Feb. 25, leaving South Florida without Stern’s morning drive-time show on WBBM-FM.

To help spread the word locally, the pair have worn their T-shirts and handed out hats wherever they suspect Stern fans will gather.

“Everywhere that I’ve worn the shirt,” Gordon says, “the feedback is outrageous.”

Gordon says they’ve elicited support from men and women alike, from Stern fans and free-speech advocates who aren’t necessarily fans of the caustic disc jockey.

Gordon, 35, and Lieberbaum, 40, have been Stern fans most of their adult lives and agree that the show is often crass and even offensive. But they want to decide for themselves when to tune in or not.

Lieberbaum says “it wouldn’t occur to me” to listen to the show within earshot of his two children, who are 5 and 8 years old. Angry about the show’s removal, the two men concocted a protest plan.

Lieberbaum would print some T-shirts and hats at his Fort Lauderdale, Fla., clothing company, Swago Custom Apparel. And Gordon registered the domain name www.freestern.com; his son Matthew, a high school senior who recently was accepted for early admission to MIT, helped get the Web site running within days.

Lieberbaum estimates they’ve sold about 800 items on the Web site. T-shirts, which sell for $18, are the most popular, followed by the “boy beater” tank top for women, then the yarmulkes, trucker hats and thong bikinis.

They’re also hoping to collect 50,000 signatures for the online petition, which they plan to present to Clear Channel at its corporate headquarters in San Antonio, Texas.

That’s if Gordon and Lieberbaum don’t drop from fatigue first. Both men have had to juggle their regular jobs with the demands of the campaign.

Lieberbaum sorely misses Stern during his daily 40-minute commute from Miami Beach to Fort Lauderdale. Gordon runs an Internet insurance-quote company in Coral Gables, Fla., and says he often stays up late into the night replying to e-mails from fellow Stern supporters.

Yet while he’s often exhausted, Gordon says he is motivated by a hunger to participate in what he sees as a fight for free speech.

“I was wanting to get involved in things,” he says. “Someone said to me the other day, I was complaining about Bush, and they said, “Well, what are you doing about it?’

“That keeps you going. That’s what’s great about it. And that’s what’s probably going to motivate me.”


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