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April 27, 2023 11:24 am

‘Grandfather of Trash Television’ Longtime Talk Show Host Jerry Springer Dies at 79


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Jerry Springer. Photo: DARA KUSHNER/ via Reuters

Jerry Springer, the longtime host of the raucous and controversial talk show bearing his name, died Thursday at his home in Chicago at the age of 79.

“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,” Jene Galvin, a life-long friend and spokesperson for Springer’s family, said in a statement shared by ABC News. “He’s irreplaceable and his loss hurts immensely, but memories of his intellect, heart and humor will live on.”

A former Cincinnati news anchor and mayor, Springer was best known as the host of The Jerry Springer Show, which ran from 1991 to 2018. He examined a variety of often bizarre and controversial topics on air with guests from all different backgrounds who were mocked on stage by the audience and judged by Springer. Many times physical confrontations erupted during the episodes. Springer was called the “grandfather of trash TV” and told CNN in 2010 about the nickname: “It’s probably accurate. I don’t know what the award for that is, but I think it is true that we were probably one of the first shows to present some of the outrageousness we have.”

He also said to CNN: “I think [the show is] silly, crazy and has no redeeming social value other than an hour of escapism. There is never anything on our show that hasn’t been on the front pages of newspapers in America. The only difference is that the people on my show aren’t famous. It’s a show about craziness. I know that going in every day.”

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Springer more recently hosted the courtroom show Judge Jerry, which was canceled in early 2022 after three seasons, and a podcast.

Gerald Norman “Jerry” Springer was born in Highgate, London, England, to Jewish refugees from Germany and both of his grandmothers were killed in Nazi concentration camps, Variety reported. His family immigrated to the US and settled in Kew Gardens in Queens, New York, when he was almost five years old, the publication added.

Springer had a B.A. in political science from Tulane University and a J.D. degree from Northwestern University. He was reportedly a political campaign adviser to Robert F. Kennedy and in 1970, at the age of 25, he ran for Congress as a Democrat but three days after announcing his candidacy, Springer was called to active duty as an Army reservist, Variety reported.

Springer was a former member of the Cincinnati City Council in 1971, was the city’s mayor in 1977, serving one term, and was a news anchor at WLWT in Cincinnati.

He also starred in a number of movies and television shows, including The Defender and the 1998 film Ringmaster. That same year he published an autobiography, also named Ringmaster. The musical Jerry Springer: The Opera was based on his talk show and he hosted America’s Got Talent for two seasons as well as the gameshow Baggage from 2010-13.

In a released statement, Springer’s family asked the public to make a charitable donation or do an act of kindness for someone in  honor of Springer’s memory, CNN reported. “As he always said, ‘Take care of yourself, and each other,’” the family wrote.

He is survived by his wife since 1973, Micki Velton, and his daughter Katie.

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