Howard Stern eulogizes stylist Ralph Cirella on air: ‘I was not ready for Ralph to go’
Ralph Cirella, a longtime stylist and close friend to shock-jock radio host Howard Stern, died Tuesday. He was 58.
Stern, 69, confirmed Cirella’s death on his self-titled radio program Wednesday, saying that Cirella’s heart gave out after he suffered complications from a treatable illness.
“It’s going to be difficult for me to get through this eulogy, this obituary if you will,” the broadcaster began.
“My dear friend, Ralph, who calls into the show all the time and, Ralph, who has been at my side for so many years, has died,” Stern said. “This is the toughest part of loving someone — when you lose them — and Lord knows I love Ralph.”
Cirella, born on April 20, 1965, first met the famed radio personality four decades ago when Stern was on the radio at WNBC. Cirella, who was in high school at the time, would call into the show with his mom. Stern eventually hired the freshly graduated Cirella as a personal assistant, but Cirella ultimately cemented his role as Stern’s wardrobe stylist, set designer and a frequent personality of the show.
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Stern said the two had a natural chemistry that evolved into a “secret language” and that the main component of their relationship was their similar sense of humor.
The former “America’s Got Talent” judge also credited his late friend with introducing him to his wife, model and animal activist Beth Ostrosky Stern. Apparently Stern didn’t want to go to a party being hosted by a mutual friend, but Cirella called him up and insisted he get over there.
“Howard, there’s hot chicks, and lots of good food — free food!” Stern recalled Cirella saying, joking that Cirella loved free food.
“Ralph worked for me, and so we would either be in my home, or on a TV set or a movie set, or the set of ‘America’s Got Talent.’ Wherever we’d be ... I always love to have Ralph around me because we would giggle,” Stern recalled.
Stern said that he “was not ready for Ralph to go” and that his death was unexpected. However, he noted that Cirella’s “kryptonite” was that “he wouldn’t take care of himself.”
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Stern described his longtime friend as tremendously talented, a MacGyver and a jack-of-all-trades.
“When I met Ralph, we had no budget, and I needed to look like Larry King or something like that, or Michael Jackson. And Ralph would make these elaborate prosthetics, like in the movies. Or like ‘Saturday Night Live,’ and he’d do them for zero money. And in fact, over the years he got offered jobs to apprentice and learn how to become a guy who does these kinds of effects, but he didn’t want to do it. He just wanted to work for me. He wanted to be my stylist. And so Ralph was my guy.”
The night before Cirella died, he spoke with Stern from the hospital where he’d been admitted. The radio host revealed that Cirella had a condition that was treatable but he’d waited too long to address the health issues and he’d been given a “tough diagnosis.”
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“He was in a very emotional state,” Stern said. “And he told me he was embarrassed that he was emotional in front of me and I said, ‘Ralph, I’m your buddy. You go ahead and you cry. Because you’re in a tough situation. We’re gonna get through this.’”
Stern said he had been in touch with doctors about Cirella’s medical predicament, “but unfortunately, yesterday morning, they had to do a procedure, a very common procedure on him, but his heart gave out. So he’s gone and I’m gonna miss Ralph terribly.”
“Full House” star John Stamos, who was also a close friend of Cirella, memorialized the stylist on Instagram, writing that he “was, without a doubt, a one-of-a-kind soul ... Ralph wasn’t just a friend; he was family.”
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“When [we] met in the old days where he worked his magic as a makeup artist for Howard Stern’s Channel 9 show,” Stamos continued, “I can vividly recall how he transformed Howard into a perfect replica of Larry King, showcasing his exceptional talent and creativity. From the day forward, we were life-long friends, I just wished he lived longer.”
Stamos added that his heart aches at the thought of Cirella “departing this world alone.”
“In our final exchange, I shared a story about someone who called me lucky. When I asked why, their response was simple and profound: ‘Because you’re friends with Ralph from “The Howard Stern Show.”’ And they were absolutely right. My dear friend, I will miss you so much. I love you, Ralphie boy. Rest in peace.”
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