CINCINNATI (AP) — Jerry Springer, the onetime mayor and news anchor whose namesake TV show featured a three-ring circus of dysfunctional families willing to bare all on weekday afternoons including brawls, obscenities and blurred images of nudity, died Thursday at 79.
At its peak, “The Jerry Springer Show” was a ratings powerhouse and a U.S. cultural pariah, synonymous with lurid drama. Known for chair-throwing and bleep-filled arguments, the daytime talk show was a favorite American guilty pleasure over its 27-year run, at one point topping Oprah Winfrey’s show.
Springer called it “escapist entertainment,” while others saw the show as contributing to a dumbing-down decline in American social values.
“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
On his Twitter profile, Springer jokingly declared himself as “Talk show host, ringmaster of civilization’s end.” He also often had told people, tongue in cheek, that his wish for them was “may you never be on my show.”
After more than 4,000 episodes, the show ended in 2018, never straying from its core salaciousness: Some of its last episodes had such titles as “Stripper Sex Turned Me Straight,” “Stop Pimpin’ My Twin Sister,” and “Hooking Up With My Therapist.”
In a “Too Hot For TV” video released as his daily show neared 7 million viewers in the late 1990s, Springer offered a defense against disgust.
“Look, television does not and must not create values, it’s merely a picture of all that’s out there — the good, the bad, the ugly,” Springer said, adding: “Believe this: The politicians and companies that seek to control what each of us may watch are a far greater danger to America and our treasured freedom than any of our guests ever were or could be.”
He also contended that the people on his show volunteered to be subjected to whatever ridicule or humiliation awaited them.
Gerald Norman Springer was born Feb. 13, 1944, in a London underground railway station being used as a bomb shelter. His parents, Richard and Margot, were German Jews who fled to England during the Holocaust, in which other relatives were killed in Nazi gas chambers. They arrived in the United States when their son was 5 and settled in the Queens borough of New York City, where Springer got his first Yankees baseball gear on his way to becoming a lifelong fan.
He studied political science at Tulane University and got a law degree from Northwestern University. He was active in politics much of his adult life, mulling a run for governor of Ohio as recently as 2017.