RED BANK: MEDICATED PETE GOES BIG TIME

‘Medicated Pete’ McHeffey, below, shows off a frame from the remake of ‘D.O.A.,’ in which he stars as a doomed man. Above, three trailers for the film.  (Click to enlarge)

By JOE FISHER

For some celebrities, it’s hard to get out of the house without being mobbed by overzealous fans and tailed by paparazzi. Simple activities like shopping and dining out can turn into a media circus.

But others – in a tacit pact with their fans – find it easy to walk their hometown streets or saddle up at a favorite bar, left with some breathing room. Think Bruce Springsteen in Asbury Park.

In Red Bank, it’s Pete McHeffey, known better to the world as Medicated Pete, a prime cog among “The Howard Stern Show’s” notorious Wack Pack.

McHeffey’s four-year run with Stern’s TV and radio shows and related promotional appearances have brought the 37-year-old Red Bank native national fame. Now, “Dead On Arrival,” a remake of a classic 1950 film noir “D.O.A.,” is scheduled for online release March 1, with McHeffey in the starring role of a man investigating his own murder. Plans for a TV show are in the works, McHeffey said.
Working 18-hour days, McHeffey spent close to a month in Los Angeles last summer making “Dead On Arrival.” In a B-movie milieu filled with sharp suits, guns and women, McHeffey plays Frank Bigelow, a doomed man on a quest to find out who has poisoned him, and why.

Like other members of the extended Stern clan, McHeffey has a disability – in his case, Tourette syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, involuntary movements and vocalizations. On the show, McHeffey’s eye-blinking, facial grimacing, repetitive throat-clearing, sniffing and grunting are the butt of jokes and set-ups. Among his many assignments, McHeffey has submitted to post-date critiques; attended the “porn Oscars;” hung at in Sea Bright at Donovan’s Reef – before and after Hurricane Sandy; and gotten been goosed by a female dominatrix with a cattle prod in the studio.

Living with Tourette can be frustrating, McHeffey said, but he doesn’t let it get him down.

“Sometimes yeah, it’s tough… I mean, I uh, I have relationship problems because of it. And uh, I’ve uh, never really had a girlfriend, and I think that plays a big part in that, uh, the understanding part.

“It kind of gets in the way. But, you know…I’m still hoping to get in a relationship, to be in one. I think that I’m a nice guy, you know. I’m sure there’s a girl out there for me.”

McHeffey considers himself “very fortunate” to have landed on planet Stern, and said the ribbing he takes on-air doesn’t make him a target outside the studio. Asked if people ever say hurtful things, he said: “No, I never really come across that.”

With eight uncles and two aunts, McHeffey comes from a big family in the area. After working an assortment of odd jobs for 10 years and taking classes at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, the Red Bank Regional grad got his break with Stern in 2009. And it might not have come about had McHeffey not gone to the Red Bank Public Library in his hunt for an internship.

There, he met Kathy Tobin, the library’s senior assistant. Before her library job, Tobin had worked with Stern at the KROCK radio station in New York City. A call she put in to her Stern contacts led to McHeffey’s internship with the Stern show, which had since moved to SiriusXM satellite radio.

“I was helping to record the show for archives,’’ he said of the internship. “Originally, I wasn’t supposed to come in contact with Howard. I wasn’t supposed to meet him. It just happened by chance that I got on…

“One day (Howard) noticed me when he was walking out of the show. He wanted to know what my deal was I told him, ‘I’m here for an internship.’ That’s when he got me on the show.”

Sipping a soda last week at the Dublin House, the slim redhead described Stern as a paternalistic guy who takes care of the people close to him. “It’s working out well. I mean… he likes me, actually.”

It was Stern who coined the nickname Medicated Pete, but that’s a misnomer. “I don’t take any medication, actually,” McHeffey said. And the running joke on the show is that he spends a lot of time at the library.

Stardom has its benefits, he acknowledged. Though his role with Stern is unpaid, the gig yields numerous promotional opportunities. But McHeffey doesn’t let it go to his head – not even the Medicated Pete 3-D Talking Bobblehead app you can get for your smartphone, or his Twitter account‘s 10,000 followers.

“I kind of take it all in stride,” he said with a grin.

McHeffey often stops in local pubs for a cold one or two, but it’s mostly soda. “I don’t drink that much,’’ he said. His favorite haunts in town include the Dub – where he’ll be dressed up as a leprechaun for St. Patrick’s Day – the Globe, Brannigan’s and the Downtown Café.

According to Anton Pictures’ web site, “Dead on Arrival” was picked up for theatrical release by Stern’s Howard TV production company. The film is set to be released on Anton Pictures’ YouTube channel on March 1.