Legendary US talk show host Jerry Springer dies aged 79
New York (AFP) -
Longtime US talk show host Jerry Springer, whose program became a symbol of low brow television with its on-air fights, swearing and infidelity revelations, died Thursday at the age of 79.
Springer, whose rowdy show became an international hit that ran for 27 years and at the height of its popularity even beat Oprah, died peacefully at his home in Chicago, according to a family statement given to US media.
Launched in 1991, 'The Jerry Springer Show' began life as an ordinary talk show focusing on social issues and US politics, led by the-then mild mannered lawyer and former politician Springer, who briefly served as the mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1977.
But in an effort to boost ratings, the son of Jewish German immigrants switched things up dramatically after a few years, focusing on salacious and outrageous content.
In most episodes, guests came to talk about family problems and expose adultery and other transgressions.
Springer would supposedly try to mediate but the encounters often ended up in fisticuffs, with guests being held back by security guards. Many shows were punctuated by his audience roaring his name: 'Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!'
'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,' a family spokesman told WLWT, the Ohio NBC affiliate where he started his career.
In the late 1990s his show topped the daytime television ratings in the United States, briefly leaving the cultural giant that is 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' in its wake.
While Oprah preached wellness and healing, Springer appealed to rougher instincts, igniting criticisms that he was contributing to the 'dumbing down of America.'
When versions of the show began running internationally it fascinated audiences overseas, even inspiring an opera that debuted in London in 2003.
'There is nothing about 'The Jerry Springer Show' to be applauded,' wrote Variety in its obituary of the tabloid talk show host, adding that his guests 'were packaged as freaks and brought onstage to be mocked.'
- 'America's id' -
'Springer was YouTube before YouTube, widespread Internet fetish porn before widespread Internet fetish porn, reality TV before reality TV,' argued the AV Club pop culture website in 2014.
'It was America's id, going nuts on stage, and the man who presided over it looked like a math teacher.'
Springer was born in a London underground station on February 13, 1944, he told the BBC. Tube stations were used as bomb shelters during World War II, and his mother had been sheltering at Highgate station when she went into labor, he said.
His family were German-Jewish refugees who had arrived in Britain in 1939. When he was four years old, they moved to New York.
He graduated from Tulane University in 1965 with a political science degree, and three years later with a law degree from Northwestern in Chicago. He worked on Robert F. Kennedy's presidential campaign before launching his own political career, serving as mayor of Cinncinnati from 1977-1978.
After a failed bid to become governor of Ohio, Springer turned to television journalism in the 1980s, first appearing on Cincinnati-based WLWT.
'The Jerry Springer Show' ended its run in 2018.
Springer himself married only once, Micki Velton in 1973, and the pair divorced in 1994.
They share one daughter, Katie Springer.