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Jerry Springer, who already had a controversial political career when he later took the reins of a genre-changing talk show, has died.
Springer’s death was confirmed by Jene Galvin, a longtime friend who served as executive producer of the outlandish talk show host’s podcast.
He was 79.
As the New York Times noted, by the mid-1990s, “The Jerry Springer Show” set new standards for tawdriness on American television.
The confrontational and fight-baiting program turned the talk-show format into an “arena for shocking confessions, adultery-fueled screaming matches and not infrequent fistfights.”
Many now recognize the show as the beginning of the reality television boom that has made people like the Kardashian family rich and famous.
Springer earned a law degree from Northwestern University in 1968. He won election to the Cincinnati City Council in 1971, where scandal struck.
He resigned in 1974 after writing a check to a Kentucky massage parlor for prostitution services.
Voters brought Springer back a year later, and in 1977, he won the Cincinnati mayor’s race.
His unsuccessful run for governor in 1982 also didn’t lack the degradation that would highlight his 1990s talk show. Springer boasted of his prostitution arrest during the campaign.
“The next governor is going to have to take some heavy risks and face some hard truths,” he said. “I’m prepared to do that. This commercial should be proof. I’m not afraid, even of the truth, and even if it hurts.”
“He finished third in the Democratic primary and made a career change, joining WLWT-TV first as a news commentator and then an anchor, and later as managing editor, winning or sharing multiple Emmy Awards for local coverage over the next decade,” the New York Times reported.
“The Jerry Springer Show,” a daytime talk show syndicated by Multimedia Entertainment, which owned WLWT, began in 1991.
Originally it was an issue-oriented program; The Los Angeles Times called it “an oppressively self-important talk hour starring a Cincinnati news anchorman and former mayor.”
The Times pointed out that, by 1993, lead-ins like “Worshiping the Lord with snakes — next, Jerry Springer!” were turning up, and the shock value just kept going up. A 1995 episode featured a young man named Raymond whom Mr. Springer was helping to lose his virginity, offering him five young women, hidden by a screen, to choose from. Raymond’s friend Woody accompanied him.
“Woody doesn’t know it — his 18-year-old virgin sister is one of the contestants!” a scroll told viewers.
Springer reportedly was diagnosed with cancer, with his family calling it a “brief illness.”