Jerry Springer, the onetime mayor and news anchor whose namesake TV show featured a three-ring circus of dysfunctional families willing to bare all on weekday afternoons including brawls, obscenities and blurred images of nudity, died Thursday at 79.
At its peak, “The Jerry Springer Show” was a ratings powerhouse and a US cultural pariah, synonymous with lurid drama. Known for chair-throwing and bleep-filled arguments, the daytime talk show was a favorite American guilty pleasure over its 27-year run, at one point topping Oprah Winfrey’s show.
Springer called it “escapist entertainment,” while others saw the show as contributing to a dumbing-down decline in American social values.
Springer was born February 13, 1944, in a London underground railway station being used as a bomb shelter. His parents, Richard and Margot, were German Jews who fled to England during the Holocaust, in which other relatives were killed in Nazi gas chambers. They arrived in the United States when their son was 5 and settled in the Queens borough of New York City, where Springer got his first Yankees baseball gear on his way to becoming a lifelong fan.
He studied political science at Tulane University and got a law degree from Northwestern University. He was active in politics much of his adult life, mulling a run for governor of Ohio as recently as 2017.
He entered the arena as an aide in Robert F. Kennedy’s ill-fated 1968 presidential campaign. Springer, working for a Cincinnati law firm, ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1970 before being elected to city council in 1971.