Born on February 13, 1944, in London, UK, Jerry Springer, whose full name is Gerald Norman Springer, is best remembered for his popular show The Jerry Springer Show. The controversial show featured family members and lovers who would confront each other often violently, about crazy things as the audience watched and cheered on. His show was so popular that he recorded 4,000 episodes of it over a span of 30 years. In addition, his show was at one time more popular than the celebrated Oprah Show. That is why perhaps, some of his other achievements are not as well-known as they were overshadowed by his popular show.
Early life and family
Raised in Queens, New York, Mr. Springer had one child, Katie Springer, who was born in 1976 from his union with Micki Velton whom he married in 1973. The two of them remained married for around 20 years until their divorce in 1994, according to CBS News.
Mr. Springer was also a politician besides being a producer and host of The Jerry Springer Show. This love for politics seems to have come from his first degree in political science which he got in 1965. He got the degree from Tulane University. A testament to his love for academia and/or politics, he went back to school and graduated from Northwestern University’s school of Law in Chicago three years later this time with a law degree.
He started practicing law and rose in the profession to be a partner at Grinker, Sudman and Springer from 1973 to 1985. Not much is spoken or known about his days as a member of the bar. But he would use his legal knowledge many years later in a court television show. At the same time, his debut in politics came as he worked on the presidential campaign of Robert Kennedy. He then went on to work on his own political ambitions which saw him serve as a Cincinnati city council member from 1971-1974. He would lose his seat due to a sexual scandal but regained his seat in the council as a Cincinnati city council member from 1976 to 1981. It was during this stint that he was briefly elected Mayor of Cincinnati where he served from 1977 to 1978.
Mr. Springer was the subject of a sexual scandal. It was so serious that he had to resign from his council member position in April 1974. News of his payment for sex in a brothel using checks became public, and his position at the time was no longer tenable. He is quoted as saying “When I resigned yesterday, I did so because I believed then as I believe now that there are some problems which are better faced as a private citizen”. Despite his initial disappointment with his fellow council members voting unanimously to accept his resignation, he bounced back to a job he said he loved and was his way of life. He never faced trial and instead testified in the ensuing trial. He never hid from what he had done and he later regained his council seat. In a commercial for his mayoral campaign, he even admitted to what he had done.
More than anything, his sexual scandal is credited with giving him the desire to start his controversial show. People Magazine quotes him as saying “Be it as an anchor, a mayor or a commentator… I was determined to have you know that I was more than a check and a hooker on a one-night stand”.
Mr. Springer, who died of pancreatic cancer on April 27th, 2023, in Evanston Illinois, tried his hand at running for governor of Ohio but he narrowly lost the primaries. It was after this that he ventured into journalism and specifically television journalism. As a local journalist, where he was first a reporter and then an anchor, Mr. Springer achieved success as evidenced by the 7 Emmy awards he received during that time.
As fate would have it, he branched on to talk shows in 1991 and initially, he followed the beaten path of a political talk show. Being a politician himself, it was easy for him. But it did not work out as well as he had hoped for and that led him to change the format of the show into what it came to be known for, which was controversial and taboo topics such as adultery and incest among others and the attendant fights that followed.
This would earn him both praise and condemnation in equal measure and even curtail his political ambitions. All his energy was focused on the show. This was evidenced by how popular his show had become. However, politicians and other social commentators condemned him and accused him of eroding American values by the things that were broadcast on his show. Mr. Springer would famously answer this criticism by telling them “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,”. He went on to say that “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.” This, as noted by Aljazeera, was made when his show neared 7 million viewers in the 1990s.
As for how his show’s controversy affected his political ambitions, Britannica notes that his show was condemned by political and community leaders as trash TV and there were allegations that parts of it were staged to make for good television. And when he ran for the US Senate in 2004, it was the fact that he was behind The Jerry Springer Show that made political operatives uncomfortable with his bid, and he eventually had to bow out of the race.
He also defended his show against claims of it being trash TV. US Magazine quotes him defending it by saying “I often heard the word ‘trash’ [used to describe the show] and I would argue that the criticism is elitist,” he said at the time. “When someone’s not wealthy, not good looking and doesn’t speak the queen’s English, we call them trash. That’s elitist.”
At the height of his success, Mr. Springer tried his hand in acting and he starred in a movie called RingMaster. He was also featured in Citizen Verdict as well as The Defender, where he acted as the President of the US. He acted in several television sitcoms as well. He went ahead to host shows such as America’s Got Talent in 2007-08 and the Miss Universe pageant in 2008.
In 2018, his show The Jerry Springer show came to an end and as noted by US Magazine, he hinted at retirement saying “When you reach this age, it’s almost on a year-to-year basis,”. He went on to talk of his busy schedule as well as his desire to spend more time with his grandchild.
The allure of television seemed too much for him to resist though, as he seemed to come out of his retirement a year later and put his legal skills into use when he starred in Judge Jerry, a courtroom show. The series ran for 3 seasons until 2022.
It is interesting to note that Mr. Springer’s various qualities and qualifications helped him at various stages of his life. His political degree was put to good use when he ran as a councilman and mayor. His legal degree helped him with his sexual scandal as he never faced any charges resulting out of his payment for sex in a brothel. His journalistic and production skills and prowess saw him host a variety of television shows for more than 30 years and win awards while at it. In short, Mr. Springer lived a full and rich life in his 79 years. He tried his hand at many things and he excelled at many of them. As the curtains come down on his illustrious life and career, he will be remembered as one of the kings of reality television drama besides being a budding politician, journalist, lawyer and army reservist.
Aljazeera News. (2023, April 27). Jerry Springer, US talk show host and former mayor, dies at 79. Retrieved from aljazeera.com: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/4/27/jerry-springer-us-talk-show-host-former-mayor-dies-at-79
Britannica. (2023, April 27). Jerry Springer American Television Host. Retrieved from Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jerry-Springer
CZACHOR, E. M. (2023, April 27). Jerry Springer, iconic TV show host and former mayor of Cincinnati, dead at 79. Retrieved from cbsnews.com: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/jerry-springer-dead-tv-show-host-cincinnati-mayor-age-79/
Donnellan, S. (2023, April 27). Jerry Springer Through the Years: Political Career, Family, Talk Show and More. Retrieved from usmagazine,com: https://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/pictures/jerry-springer-through-the-years-political-career-tv-gigs-more/