Jerry Springer served as ringmaster for America's dark side

A life that belonged on his own show: Born during the Blitz in London, ex Cincinnati Mayor Jerry Springer served as ringmaster for America’s dark side… but his own sex scandals eclipsed even his most wild guests

  • Host of The Jerry Springer Show, a ratings hit for almost 30 years, dies aged 79
  • Springer’s show was blasted by critics but he said it merely reflected humanity
  • His political career was derailed after he paid prostitutes by personal check 

Jerry Springer, whose namesake talk show blazed a trail for confrontational, ‘crazy’ television after his political career had been marred by revelations of paying prostitutes with personal checks, has died aged 79.

As host of The Jerry Springer Show, which was a ratings sensation for almost 30 years, the man who was born in an underground bunker in London during WWII became a champion of ‘escapist entertainment’ – as he put it.

The program was blasted by critics for debasing its guests and shredding family values, but Springer defended the show, arguing that television is ‘merely a picture of all that’s out there’.

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

Springer died peacefully at home in suburban Chicago after a brief illness, the statement said.

A statement from his family confirmed that he passed away ‘peacefully’ at his home in Chicago after being diagnosed with cancer

Born on February 13, 1944, in Highgate tube station, Springer was the son of German Jews, Richard and Margot, who had fled to England during the Holocaust, in which other relatives were killed in Nazi concentration camps.

The family emigrated to the US when Springer was 5, settling in the Queens borough of New York City.

He studied political science at Tulane University and got a law degree from Northwestern University. Springer was politically active throughout his life and considered a run for governor of Ohio as recently as 2017.

His first foray was as an aide in Robert F. Kennedy’s ill-fated 1968 presidential campaign. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1970 before being elected to city council in 1971.

In 1974 — in what The Cincinnati Enquirer reported as ‘an abrupt move that shook Cincinnati’s political community’ — Springer resigned, citing ‘very personal family considerations’. 

But in a subsequent admission that could have been the basis for one of his future shows, Springer admitted there had been a vice probe over payments he made to prostitutes using personal checks.

Then 30, he had married Micki Velton the previous year. The couple had a daughter, Katie, and divorced in 1994.

Springer bounced back, winning a council seat in 1975 and served as mayor in 1977, a job he later described as ‘the greatest job I ever had’. 

In an interview with the New York Post in March last year, he said: ‘If God came to me and said, “You can do one thing and you can do it for your lifetime,” I would have chosen that.’

Springer hosted the smash hit ‘The Jerry Springer Show’ for 27 years, becoming America’s guilty pleasure for wild and raucous TV moments

Springer called it ‘escapist entertainment,’ while others saw the show as contributing to a dumbing-down decline in American social values

His audience would cheer his name, as his outrageous guests would get into crazy fights – with many expletive-filled rants being bleeped out

He often told people, tongue in cheek, that his wish for them was ‘may you never be on my show’

Some of the last episodes of the show were titled: ‘Stripper Sex Turned Me Straight,’ ‘Stop Pimpin´ My Twin Sister,’ and ‘Hooking Up With My Therapist’

He later became a local television politics reporter with popular evening commentaries. He and co-anchor Norma Rashid eventually helped build NBC affiliate WLWT-TV’s broadcast into the Cincinnati market’s top-rated news show.

The Jerry Springer show debuted on September 30, 1991. TV Guide ranked it No. 1 on a list of ‘Worst Shows in the History of Television’, but it was ratings 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 on ‘Dancing With the Stars.’

Well before Donald Trump’s rise from reality TV stardom to US President, Springer floated a Senate run in 2003 that he said would appeal to ‘nontraditional voters,’ people ‘who believe most politics are bull.’

‘I connect with a whole bunch of people who probably connect more to me right now than to a traditional politician,’ Springer told the AP at the time. He opposed the war on Iraq and favored expanding public healthcare, but ultimately did not run.

The Jerry Springer Show ended in 2018, before Springer went on to front ‘Judge Jerry’ in 2019. 

But his power to shock had dimmed in the new era of reality television and combative cable TV talk shows and it was cancelled after three seasons.

‘He was lapped not only by other programs but by real life,’ David Bianculli, a television historian and professor at Monmouth University, said in 2018.

Springer married Micki Velton in 1973 and the couple had a daughter together before splitting in 1994

Springer first entered the political arena as an aide in Robert F. Kennedy´s ill-fated 1968 presidential campaign

He became a news anchor and commentator at WLWT before taking on a new role as a talk show host in 1991 when he launched his iconic series

Before becoming an iconic TV personality, the worldwide sensation ran a failed campaign for US Congress in 1970

In his interview with the Post last year, Springer discussed his legacy.

‘If a legacy is what you’re best-known for, obviously I’m best-known for the crazy show,’ he said, alluding to ‘The Jerry Springer Show’.

‘In a sense, I’ve become an adjective in the English language when people say “I’m having a Jerry Springer moment” or when they say “Don’t go Jerry Springer on me now”. Everyone knows instantly what they’re talking about.

‘The question with “legacy” is that it’s just self-indulgent — the truth is, none of us will be remembered 20 years past our lifetime for the rest of eternity, unless we were a president or someone like that. 

‘If you ask people what was the maiden name of their great-grandmother, less than 1 percent of the population will know — and that’s your own family.

‘The important thing is to be remembered by your kids and your grandkids. If they love me and remember me and I’ve been a good role model for them, that’s all that matters.’

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