Jerry Springer, best known as the host of a daytime television talk show that Gen-X and Millenials watched during sick days, has died after a battle with cancer. He was 79. His family says that he died peacefully in the night.
Springer began his career in politics, working as an advisor to Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign before running for office himself in Cincinnati, Ohio. In the ’70s, he was a member of the City Council but resigned after admitting to soliciting a prostitute, which might have been the end of any other politician’s career. Springer somehow won back his seat and ended up serving as mayor for a year before running for governor of Ohio, placing third.
Springer turned to broadcast television in 1991, hosting The Jerry Springer Show, which was supposed to be similar to The Phil Donahue Show — they talked about serious political and social issues. However, under pressure to increase ratings, Springer revamped the show in 1994 to make it more sensationalistic, which meant having frank conversations designed to shock, featuring adulterers, gay people, trans people, and other societal misfits at the time. There was often a lot of yelling involved, often between family members, and sometimes the audience got involved. There were frequently violent incidents, as well, although there is some debate about how staged they were. It was very popular, at one point even surpassing Oprah Winfrey in the ratings, but it also meant that Springer’s contemporaries — Jenny Jones, Maury Povich, Montel Williams, Ricki Lake, etc. — had to duplicate the tabloid nature of Springer’s show to keep up. The Jerry Springer Show continued to run until 2018. Springer hosted Judge Jerry from 2019 until 2022.
Despite the nature of his talk show — and the fact that Springer was largely responsible for introducing the lowest-common-denominator into daytime television — Springer remained beloved, if only because he was a fixture in so many of our lives for so many years, even if most of our experiences with him came during sick days, vacation days, periods of unemployment, and while we were still in school. Like The Price is Right and Days of Our Lives, Springer always seemed to be around.
Jerry Springer leaves behind a child with ex-wife, Micki Velton, to whom he was married for two decades. May his memory be a blessing.