Jerry Springer, TV talk show legend, dies at age 79

Jerry Springer, widely recognized as the long-standing presenter of a chaotic syndicated talk show, has passed away at the age of 79, according to his family.

The statement said that Springer, an originating resident of Cincinnati where he began his talk show and once served as mayor, died peacefully on Thursday at his home in the outskirts of Chicago, following a brief illness.

Jene Galvin, a long-time friend and spokesperson for the family, commented that “Jerry’s ability to relate to people was at the core of his success in all areas he endeavored, whether that was in politics, broadcasting, or just simply interacting with people in the street wishing for a photograph or a chat. He was irreplaceable and his loss is deeply felt, but his wit, heart, and intellect will live on in our memories.”

In addition to hosting the show for 27 seasons from 1991 to 2018, Springer was the fifty-sixth mayor of Cincinnati from 1977 to 1978. The show was heavily criticized by some as the “most terrible show on television” (as stated by TV Guide in 2002). However, the show was immensely popular and known for its outlandish spectacles and common conflicts.

In his Twitter bio, Springer described himself as “talk show host, ringmaster of civilization’s end.” The show was filmed mostly in Chicago until 2009, when it was moved to Stamford, Connecticut.

On the occasion of the show’s 25th anniversary in 2015, Springer told USA TODAY that he was contractually obligated to keep up the show’s reputation. This show made him an international celebrity, and he went on to host a liberal radio talk show, star in the movie “Ringmaster,” compete on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” and host the syndicated “Judge Jerry” courtroom reality show from 2019 to 2022. Springer also expressed his gratitude for the show’s success, telling the Cincinnati Enquirer in 2011 that “with all the joking I do with the show, I’m fully aware and thank God every day that my life has taken this incredible turn because of this silly show.”

Before his career in television, Springer had a political career in Ohio. He ran an unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 1970, served in Cincinnati’s city council in 1971, and was the city’s mayor for one term in 1977.

Despite his scandalous past, including the revelation that he used personal checks to pay for prostitutes during the early 1970s, Springer continued to be successful. His last TV appearance was on Fox’s singing competition “The Masked Singer,” where he was revealed in October 2022 as “The Beetle.”

In spite of the notoriety surrounding his show, Springer often expressed empathy and compassion for the people who filled his set with the kind of entertainment that led to its success.

In a statement Thursday, Steve Wilkos, one of the competitors to Springer’s show, praised him, saying “Other than my father, Jerry was the most influential man in my life. Everything I have today I owe to Jerry. He was the smartest, most generous, kindest person I’ve ever known. My wife and I are devastated. We will miss him terribly.”

Springer was born Gerald Norman Springer on 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. The family emigrated to the United States when Jerry was 5 and lived in Queens. He married Micki Velton in 1973 and the couple had a daughter, Katie, before divorcing in 1994.