Although Jerry Springer died on April 27, 2023, at age 79 after fighting cancer for most of this year, his body of work is a legacy that will long outlive his mortal body. The mere mention of his name brings to mind cheating spouses, strippers and on-air fights. So many fights.
Springer died in his Chicago home when his condition took a turn for the worse. He was diagnosed with cancer a few months prior, according to his family. He hosted his famous (or infamous, depending on how you feel about it) show for 27 seasons, between 1991 and 2018.
The fighting on his show was so common, "The Jerry Springer Show" was one of the few shows (if not the only show) on television that required its own bouncer. Audiences even saw his security chief, Steve Wilkos, so often that Wilkos got his own Springer-style daytime talk show.
Springer influenced daytime television so much that you probably forgot daytime TV talk shows began by addressing important social issues. Host Phil Donahue came to prominence discussing civil rights, abortion and global conflicts. Even Springer's own show began as a serious political debate.
Political debate got slaughtered in daytime ratings, so Springer took on a new producer and changed things up a bit, which is what led daytime talk to where it is today. If that surprises you, here are a few other facts that might surprise you just as much:
1. Jerry Springer was born during a German bombing raid.
Although we would later chant his short name, "Jerry!" anytime we see a fight, he was born Gerald Norman Springer in a London Underground station. While Hitler's Luftwaffe pounded the city on Feb. 13, 1944, Margot Springer was giving birth to the future television icon.
His family had fled from an area of Landsburg, Prussia (which is today in Poland), to escape the rampant anti-Semitism of the 1930s. They first came to Berlin but fled to London shortly after. At least two members of his family died in Nazi concentration camps.
2. He was an Army Reservist.
Within six months of arriving in Cincinnati in 1969, he ran for Congress at age 25. Jerry was curiously called to active duty during the campaign. His opponent was a Republican incumbent who happened to sit on the House Armed Services Committee.
Springer did his duty despite the danger to his election and reported to Fort Knox, Kentucky. After four months, he received a discharge and returned to the campaign trail in Cincinnati. He lost but gained 45% of the vote.
3. Jerry Springer survived political suicide.
An anti-war and pro-civil rights candidate, Springer's showing in the congressional race spurred him to run for city council in 1971. This time, he won.
"He was absolutely the most natural, gifted politician I ever saw," Patricia Garry, a Cincinnati political veteran, told This American Life. "There was always a glamour around him; he was clearly a golden boy."
In 1974, he was forced to resign after it was discovered that he'd paid local prostitutes with bad checks. He admitted to the claim at a public press conference, which won him respect and a reputation for honesty among voters. When he ran again in 1975, he won his seat back.
4. He had higher political aspirations.
Springer was appointed the 56th mayor of Cincinnati in 1977 (at the time, the city did not directly elect its chief executive) and served in the role for a year. But Jerry wanted to make some real changes in Ohio, and he'd come a long way since his first run for office. He decided to run for governor in 1982.
His campaign focused on the honesty that won him the hearts of the people of Cincinnati, and he actually made commercials admitting to his incident with the prostitute, saying he wasn't "afraid of the truth, even if it hurts." He didn't win the nomination, and his show pretty much ended his political career.
5. He used to speak with a Harvard accent.
When he first came to Cincinnati as a young lawyer, he had spent 1968 as a campaign adviser to former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. In his campaign commercials for Congress, he can be heard speaking with a distinct Harvard-like accent and diction akin to Bobby Kennedy's.
In later years, that accent slipped away, and by the time he was broadcasting his Cincinnati-based television show, it was gone completely.
6. He never watched his own show.
When "The Jerry Springer Show" made its way across the Atlantic for a more toned-down version to air on BBC television, Springer told the BBC he didn't watch his own show because it wasn't aimed at him and it didn't interest him. He added that he actually liked the people who appeared on it.
"My show is about outrageous behavior, so by definition, everyone on the show has to be outrageous," he said. "Most of them are not wealthy and they're not well-educated, but I like them. I find them very refreshing. They don't put on airs."
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