According to a statement released by his family, Jerry Springer, the iconic talk show presenter and former mayor of Cincinnati, has passed away. He was 79.
Springer, who had been battling illness, reportedly passed away quietly at his suburban Chicago home on Thursday.
Like Geraldo Rivera, Springer joined a show because it seemed like the next logical step in his journalism career; a show like “Donahue” that would examine a wide range of serious topics. As with “Geraldo,” Springer and his new producer, Richard Dominick, were under intense pressure to increase viewership numbers quickly, so they made significant changes to the show in an effort to stand out in a time slot where the content of daytime television had become increasingly provocative and coarse.
In contrast to “Geraldo,” whose defining scene included a violent confrontation between neo-Nazis and Jews that ended with chairs being thrown and Rivera breaking his nose, “Springer,” if not Springer himself, focused more on sex than politics. The most divisive “Springer” episode was on a man who got “married” to a horse.
Geraldo passed his condolences via Twitter.
Shocked & saddened by passing at age of 79 of my old colleague & talk show rival Jerry Springer. Jerry was a Renaissance Man. Formerly mayor of Cincinnati, he moved effortlessly from politics & the local news business, into hosting his flamboyant fun-filled talk show. RIP buddy.
— Geraldo Rivera (@GeraldoRivera) April 27, 2023
Jerry born to Jewish families
Gerald Norman “Jerry” Springer was born to Jewish refugees from Germany (in what is now Poland) in Highgate, London, England. His grandmothers were both victims of the Nazi death camps.
Springer and his family moved to Kew Gardens, Queens, New York, in January 1949, when he was barely four years old. His sister, Evelyn, and he shared a tiny apartment as children. To become “a full-fledged member of the civil rights and antiwar generation,” as a 1989 profile of him in People magazine put it, Springer received his B.A. in political science from Tulane University in 1965 and his J.D. from Northwestern University in 1968.
A 1998 article on Springer by David Plotz in Slate states that he became Robert F. Kennedy’s political campaign adviser. Following Kennedy’s murder, he began working for the Cincinnati office of Frost & Jacobs, which later became Frost Brown Todd.
Springer was a leader in the movement to lower Ohio’s voting age, and she spoke in favor of the 26th Amendment before the Senate Judiciary Committee. At the age of 25, he ran for Congress as a Democrat and won 45 percent of the vote in a district that had previously been held by the Republicans. Springer, an Army reservist, was called to active duty and deployed to Fort Knox just three days after announcing his candidacy; he maintained his campaign after being discharged.
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When Springer admitted at a press conference that he had hired a prostitute, he resigned from his position as a member of the Cincinnati City Council, which he had been elected to hold in 1971. In 1975, Springer was successful in regaining his seat. When Springer campaigned for council again in 1977, he won more votes than any other candidate, making him mayor by default. While he was mayor, he pushed for reform in the local prison system. Springer was torn when neo-Nazis sought to march because he had lost family in the concentration camps. However, he was a First Amendment supporter and let them march.
Springer ran for governor of Ohio as a Democrat in 1982 and came in third place.
Both in 2000 and 2004, Springer thought about running for the United States Senate but ultimately decided against it.
While still a student at Tulane, Springer got his start in radio at the progressive-format college station WTUL-FM New Orleans, which is run by the university. While mayor of Cincinnati, his commentary was broadcast on the album-focused rock station WEBN-FM under the moniker “The Springer Memorandum.” Springer’s observations were so well received that the NBC affiliate WLWT, which had the lowest-rated news show in the Cincinnati market at the time, hired him full-time as a political reporter and commentator.
Transition to News media
Eventually, once he’d become the network’s chief news anchor and managing editor, he started looking for a catchphrase worthy of the great television newsmen before him. Together with some of his coworkers at the station, he came up with the slogan “Take care of yourself, and each other.” Within two years, he and his co-anchor Norma Rashid had become the most watched news program in Cincinnati. According to Plotz’s 1998 Slate piece, he was the most watched anchor in the market for five years and won 10 regional Emmys for his nightly remarks, which later became his “Final Thought” on “Springer.”
Sixteen months after the premiere of “The Jerry Springer Show,” in January 1993, Springer was still working as a commentator for WLWT.
Longtime Chicago news anchors Ron Magers and Carol Marin quit after NBC-owned station WMAQ-TV hired Springer to serve as a news analyst in 1997, well after “Springer” had had ample time to become what we think of today. Springer resigned as commentator after only two appearances due to viewer discontent with the resignations of other cast members.
Springer has played himself in several films and TV shows, and he also portrayed the president of the United States in “The Defender,” a film directed by Dolph Lundgren and released in 2004.
His character, Jerry Farrelly, was based on Springer in the 1998 film “Ringmaster,” which showed how a “Springer”-like show is run and featured interviews with prospective guests.
He replaced Regis Philbin as host of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” for two seasons, and he also presented “Baggage” on GSN from 2010 to 2013.
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Springer had two Broadway appearances, the first as a replacement for the Narrator in “The Rocky Horror Show” for a short run in late 2001, and the second as a replacement for Billy Flynn in the musical revival “Chicago” for a short run in late 2009.
Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee’s “Jerry Springer: The Opera,” based on the TV show, featured many shocking moments, including a scene in hell where Springer hosts a talk show and attempts to “referee a quarrel among Satan, a diaper-clad Jesus (who confesses to being partly gay), a Mary who is a teenage unwed mother, Adam, Eve, and God the Father, wearing a white Elvis suit, who belts out one of Being me sure as hell ain’t easy. After a successful run in London from April 2003 to February 2005, the musical toured the United Kingdom in 2006. When it broadcast on BBC in January 2005, however, “it generated so many complaints that some BBC executives asked for police protection,” the Times reported.
After productions in Chicago, Memphis, Minneapolis, and Las Vegas, the musical was performed at Carnegie Hall in January 2008 in a concert version with Harvey Keitel in the title role, the only non-singing part in the show, likely due to the controversy in Britain and financial conflict among the producers.
In May of 2008, Springer gave the commencement address at Northwestern University’s School of Law, where he had previously earned his law degree. Although many students voiced their displeasure with the speaker’s selection, one-400.com reported that he received a standing ovation from roughly half of the audience and that reviews of his speech were generally positive. It was during this address that he made the following declaration: “I am not superior to the folks on my show, and you are not superior to the people you will represent. It’s not meant as an offense. Simply said, it’s wisdom gained from years of experience in the trenches of social interaction.
In 1998, Springer’s autobiography, titled “Ringmaster,” was released.
Jerry Springer was a pioneer in the television industry, but he was so much more than a talk show host. A statement from NBCUniversal states, “He was a savvy politician, pop culture icon, and devout and loyal friend who was most proud when he spoke up for the marginalized and unrepresented.” He was able to strike up conversations with both the wealthy and the common man. He enjoyed nothing more than being the person who could help an unknown person express their feelings. We are saddened by his passing and feel blessed to have shared in his truly remarkable career and the exemplary life he led.
His wife of 45 years, Micki Velton, and their daughter Katie are among many who will miss him greatly.
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