Well-known TV personality and talk show host Jerry Springer, who played a significant role in establishing the confrontational daytime television genre, passed away Thursday, April 27, due to cancer, according to his representatives. He was 79 years old.
Formerly the mayor of Cincinnati, Springer died in Chicago from pancreatic cancer, as confirmed by his family spokesperson. The “Jerry Springer Show,” which aired from 1991 to 2018, gained immense popularity due to its profanity-laden guests, who often required on-set security to restrain them while the audience cheered, “Jerry, Jerry, Jerry!” Despite being the polar opposite of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in terms of content, the show’s success in the 1990s led to ratings competition. Springer had no qualms about airing low-brow, high-energy content on daytime TV.
In a 2010 interview, Springer stated, “I don’t watch the show, but it’s not aimed at 66-year-old men. If I were in college, I would watch. I enjoy doing it. It’s a lot of fun.” In fact, the success of the show “Springer” led to the phrase “Jerry Springer” being associated with anything outrageous or ridiculous on TV. After the 2022 Oscars incident where Will Smith slapped Chris Rock, Alec Baldwin lamented how the show had “turned into the Jerry Springer show.”
Springer was born on February 13, 1944, in a London subway station that was used as a bomb shelter during German air raids. His parents, Margo and Richard Springer, who were Jewish, had fled Nazi Germany prior to the start of World War II. Springer grew up in New York City and graduated from Forrest Hills High School in Queens.
After obtaining his bachelor’s degree from Tulane University and a law degree from Northwestern, Springer participated in the ill-fated campaign of Robert Kennedy in 1968 and joined the massive anti-war protests at that year’s Democratic National Convention in Chicago. He settled in Cincinnati and became actively involved in Queen City politics, eventually serving as mayor in a career that could have easily been the topic of a “Springer Show.”
Although Springer resigned from the city council in 1974 after admitting to using the services of prostitutes, some of whom he paid with checks, the scandal did not ruin his political career. In fact, his candidness about the affair is largely credited for his political comeback, as he won re-election to the council in 1975 and served as mayor for one year starting in 1977. Afterward, Springer shifted his focus to television, working as a political reporter and anchor on WLWT, the NBC affiliate in Cincinnati.