From humble beginnings to daytime legend, Jerry Springer has seen it all. Tech students will get a glimpse of this span tonight, Feb. 29, in his Inside the Actors Studio-style lecture.
Springer, born on Feb. 13, 1944 to Margot and Richard Springer in London, England, emigrated to the U.S., specifically Queens, New York, in 1948. He graduated from Tulane in 1965 with a B.A. in Political Science, then moved on to earn his J.D. from Northwestern in 1968.
Interestingly enough, the infamous “Ringmaster” began his career as a sort of “politics Renaissance man.” Not only was he a campaign aide to Robert F. Kennedy, but he also helped to ratify the 26th Amendment, allowing the voting age to drop to 18, and became mayor of Cincinnati for three years.
While in office as mayor, Springer was hired by NBC to anchor an affiliate news channel in the area for ten years. After the ratings began to rise, NBC sought to replace the host of their daytime TV show, Phil Donahue, with a fresh face, and for the next few seasons Springer flew every day from Chicago to Cincinnati for tapings of his programs.
Few people realize that The Jerry Springer Show as we know it today began as a sort of political pundit show, hosting a span of politicians and officials. Many of the daytime shows of the day, as Springer said, “were all trying to be like Oprah… catering to that crowd.”
Taking a gamble, Springer decided to go with the road less traveled, as Ricki Lake had just previously done, and cater to youth.
“We didn’t decide to go wild,” Springer recalled, “we decided to go young.” Ratings soared, and with that came mandates from the suits at NBC to keep the train rolling, which is just what Springer did.
Contrary to popular belief, Springer does not orchestrate a rehearsed act on stage.
“I’m not around much to know what the chow is about,” he explained. “When I come in they give me a card with the names [of the guests], I ask what’s going on, try to be a viewer and tell some jokes.”
Among the epics created on the set, Springer stated that his absolute favorite episode was the story of the man who married his horse. The Missouri man had widened his home to accommodate the companion.
Between laughter, Springer explained that “eventually the horse left him. The horse had standards.”
Today, straying away from the farm-animal-fond, Springer tours the globe giving lectures like the one Tech students can attend, all focusing on the dynamic of culture and media. Upcoming dates include UCLA, American U., Rhode Island and Cincinnati. Altogether, he has traveled to over 60 countries, which he said “really helps me keep in touch with pop culture and today’s youth.”
As a final note: when asked if he could take his bald bodyguard, Steve, in a fight, he promptly responded, “Not a chance. I’m pretty much a wimp.” Don’t miss this chance to see the king of daytime talk, live at the Ferst Center tonight.