Jerry Springer, politician and TV ringmaster, dies aged 79

cincinnati • Jerry Springer, the former mayor and news anchor whose eponymous TV show featured a three-ring circus of dysfunctional families willing to show off anything on weekday afternoons, including brawls, profanity and blurry images of nudity, died Thursday of old age of 79 years.

At its peak, The Jerry Springer Show was a ratings powerhouse and a US cultural outcast synonymous with lurid drama. The daytime talk show, known for its chair-throwing and bleepy discussions, was a popular American entertainment during its 27-year run, surpassing even Oprah Winfrey’s show.

Springer called it “escapist entertainment,” while others saw the show as contributing to a stultifying decline in American social values.

“Jerry’s ability to connect with people was at the core of his success in anything he tried, whether it was politics, broadcasting, or just joking with people on the street who wanted a photo or a word.” , Jene Galvin, a spokeswoman and friend of the Springer’s family since 1970, said in a statement. “He is irreplaceable and his loss hurts immensely, but the memories of his intellect, heart and humor will live on.”

Springer died peacefully at home in a Chicago suburb after a short illness, the statement said

On his Twitter profile, Springer jokingly described himself as a “talk show host, ringmaster of the end of civilization”. He’d also often told people, with a wink, that his wish for them was, “May you never be on my show.”

After more than 4,000 episodes, the show ended in 2018 without deviating from its core of lewdness: Some of the final episodes carried titles like “Stripper Sex Turned Me Straight,” “Stop Pimpin’ My Twin Sister,” and “Hooking Up With My Therapist.”

In a “Too Hot For TV” video released when his daily show was reaching nearly 7 million viewers in the late 1990s, Springer offered a defense against disgust.

“You see, television doesn’t and isn’t allowed to create value, it’s just a picture of everything that’s out there – the good, the bad, the ugly,” Springer said, adding, “Believe that: the politicians and the corporations who seek to control what each of us may see pose a far greater threat to America and our cherished freedom than any of our guests ever were or could be.”

He also claimed that people on his show volunteered to expose themselves to whatever mockery or humiliation awaited them.

Gerald Norman Springer was born on February 13, 1944 in a London underground station that was used as an air raid shelter. His parents, Richard and Margot, were German Jews who fled to England during the Holocaust, where other relatives were killed in Nazi gas chambers. They came to the United States when their son was 5 years old and settled in the borough of Queens, New York, where Springer got his first Yankees baseball gear to become a lifelong fan.

He studied political science at Tulane University and received his law degree from Northwestern University. Active in politics for much of his adult life, he only considered running for governor of Ohio in 2017.

He entered the arena as a helper in Robert F. Kennedy’s ill-fated 1968 presidential campaign. Springer, who worked for a Cincinnati law firm, ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1970 before being elected to the city council in 1971.

In 1974, in what the Cincinnati Enquirer called “an abrupt move that rocked the Cincinnati political community,” Springer resigned. He cited “very personal family considerations,” but what he failed to mention was a vice investigation involving prostitution. In a later admission, which could have been the basis for one of his future shows, Springer said he paid prostitutes with personal checks.

The then 30-year-old had married Micki Velton the previous year. The couple had one daughter, Katie, and divorced in 1994.

Springer quickly recovered politically, winning a council seat in 1975 and becoming mayor in 1977. He later became a political reporter on local television, doing popular evening commentary. He and his co-host Norma Rashid eventually helped make NBC affiliate WLWT-TV’s show the top-rated news show in the Cincinnati market.

Springer started his talk show in 1991 with a more traditional format, but after he left WLWT in 1993, it got a dingy makeover.

TV Guide ranked it #1 on a list of the “worst shows in the history of television,” but it was rated gold. It made Springer a celebrity who would go on to host a liberal radio talk show and America’s Got Talent, star in a movie called Ringmaster, and compete in Dancing With the Stars.

“For all the banter I do with the show, I’m fully aware and I thank God every day that my life has taken this incredible turn because of this goofy show,” Springer told Cincinnati Enquirer media reporter John Kiesewetter in 2011.

Long before Donald Trump’s political rise from reality TV stardom, Springer was contemplating a 2003 Senate nomination, which he suspected might be based on “non-traditional voters,” people “who believe most politics is bull.” is”.

“I connect with a whole host of people who probably connect with me more than they would with a traditional politician right now,” Springer told the AP at the time. He opposed the war in Iraq and advocated expanding public health care, but ultimately did not run.

Springer also often spoke of the country he came to at the age of 5 as “a beacon for the rest of the world”.

“I have no motivation other than to say I love this country,” Springer told a Democratic convention in 2003.

Springer hosted a nationally syndicated “Judge Jerry” show in 2019 and continued to podcast whatever popped his mind, but his shock power had waned in the new era of reality television and combative cable TV talk shows.

“He’s been overtaken not only by other programs but also by real life,” said David Bianculli, television historian and professor at Monmouth University, in 2018.

Despite the limits Springer’s show imposed on his political ambitions, he embraced her legacy. In a 2003 fundraising infomercial ahead of a possible US Senate election the following year, Springer referenced a quote by then-National Review commentator Jonah Goldberg, who warned of new people brought to the polls by Springer, including “slack-jawed bums, hillbillies, lunatics, perverts, and so on.”

In the informal commercial, Springer referenced the quote and spoke of reaching out to “ordinary people… who weren’t born with a silver spoon in their mouth.”

Justin Scaccy

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