Jerry Springer, a radio host, author, politician, journalist, actor, and lawyer who once apologized for his controversial daytime talk show by saying it “ruined the culture,” died today at the age of 79 in his suburban Chicago home, according to a statement released by his family.
Jerry Springer death
Though he held many prominent positions throughout his life, including that of the mayor of Cincinnati, Jerry Springer is best remembered as the host of The Jerry Springer Show, a controversial talk show that aired for 27 years and was known for its controversial guests and content.
In 1991, when Springer first debuted, his talk program followed the norm. Wearing a coat and tie with glasses, he resembled a younger version of talk TV legend Phil Donahue and conducted himself similarly by questioning guests as he walked through the crowd while holding a wireless microphone.
Over time, however, Springer began to feature more controversial guests and topics, such as cheating spouses, overt racists, and explicit issues that were sure to spark debate.
Having great luck on a television circus
Tabloid talk show pioneers such as Maury Povich, Sally Jessy Raphael, Jenny Jones, Montel Williams, and Morton Downey Jr. all owe a debt of gratitude to the show’s success. Likeable and personable Springer always seemed to be the more conventional counterpart to his outlandish guests because of his conventional appearance and just-asking-questions style.
Jerry Springer insisted his show was all about starting conversations when I met him in 1997 as a critic for the St. Petersburg Times newspaper at a taping in Florida about the case of a white man sentenced to jail for using threats and racial slurs to drive away his African American neighbors.
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“Great television is a mirror,” he told me. If nothing else comes from this, at least dinner tables will be full of people talking about this issue.
Even though Springer was the show’s genial, criticism-deflecting ringmaster, the show, unfortunately, fabricated scandalous arguments to boost viewership and ratings.
An early start in the political and legal spheres
He was born Gerald Norman Springer in London, England, but moved to Queens, New York, with his family when he was four years old. By the late 1960s, he had completed his education at Tulane University and the Northwest University School of Law.
He worked as an attorney in Cincinnati before being elected to the city council in 1971; he resigned in 1974 after confessing to having paid a sex worker by check but was re-elected the following year. In addition, he was the mayor of Cincinnati for a year in 1977.
In the 1980s, however, he broke out as a TV personality after being hired by the Cincinnati NBC affiliate WLWT as a political reporter and pundit.
According to an interview Springer made with WLWT when The Jerry Springer Show first premiered, he was still working as a news anchor and commuting between Cincinnati and Chicago.
Success on Jerry Springer led to other opportunities for the host, who has since appeared on Dancing with the Stars, hosted a courtroom show called Judge Jerry (which ended last year), and portrayed himself in the 1998 film Ringmaster. His bodyguard, Steve Wilkos, even received a radio show, which is being broadcast today.
Serious problems may arise from the show’s circus-like atmosphere, in which contestants appear to have occasionally stepped onstage knowing they are expected to be disruptive and fight. The son of a guest who was killed by her ex-husband after their appearance on the show aired filed a lawsuit against the show in 2002. In 2019, a man’s family sued the show after he committed suicide after watching an episode in which his fiancée admitted to cheating on him.
The host’s brazen sense of humor, though, might be enough to silence naysayers. In a second interview with him for the Tampa Bay Times in 2012, I brought up the issue of glorifying violence in front of the camera. His retort was prepared:
Every episode of our show is a morality play in which the good folks always triumph against the wicked guys. A young person may be encouraged to engage in violent behavior if they see it portrayed in media when all the characters are attractive and successful. Nobody has ever seen our show and thought, “Man, when I grow up, I want to be just like that.”
The family of Jerry Springer has released a statement in which they urge their viewers to “make a donation or commit an act of kindness to someone in need”
Video of Jerry Springer’s most memorable moment in the Talk Show Watch Now
What was the cause of Jerry Springer’s death?
The cause of Jerry Springer’s death was cancer.