Jerry Springer, the one-time mayor and news anchor whose namesake TV show featured a three-ring circus of dysfunctional guests willing to bare all - sometimes literally - as they brawled and hurled obscenities before a raucous audience, has died.
He was 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 favourite 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.
"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," said Jene Galvin, a family spokesman and friend of Springer's since 1970, in a statement.
"He's irreplaceable and his loss hurts immensely, but memories of his intellect, heart and humour will live on."
Springer died peacefully on Thursday at home in suburban Chicago after a brief illness, the statement said
On his Twitter profile, Springer jokingly declared himself as "Talk show host, ringmaster of civilisation's end." He also often had told people, tongue in cheek, that his wish for them was "may you never be on my show".
After more than 4,000 episodes, the show ended in 2018, never straying from its core salaciousness: Some of its last episodes had such titles as "Stripper Sex Turned Me Straight," "Stop Pimpin' My Twin Sister," and "Hooking Up With My Therapist".
In a "Too Hot For TV" video released as his daily show neared 7 million viewers in the late 1990s, Springer offered a defence against disgust.
"Look, television does not and must not create values, it's merely a picture of all that's out there -- the good, the bad, the ugly," Springer said, adding: "Believe this: The politicians and companies that seek to control what each of us may watch are a far greater danger to America and our treasured freedom than any of our guests ever were or could be."
He also contended that the people on his show volunteered to be subjected to whatever ridicule or humiliation awaited them.
Gerald Norman 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 five and settled in the Queens borough of New York City.
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.
In 1974 - in what The Cincinnati Enquirer reported as "an abrupt move that shook Cincinnati's political community" - Springer resigned. He cited "very personal family considerations," but what he didn't mention was a vice probe involving prostitution. In a subsequent admission that could have been the basis for one of his future shows, Springer said he had paid prostitutes with personal cheques.
Then 30, he had married Micki Velton the previous year. The couple had a daughter, Katie, and divorced in 1994.
Despite the limits Springer's show put on his political aspirations, he embraced its legacy. In a 2003 fundraising infomercial ahead of a possible US Senate run the following year, Springer referenced a quote by then National Review commentator Jonah Goldberg, who warned of new people brought to the polls by Springer, including "slack-jawed yokels, hicks, weirdos, pervs and whatnots".
In the informercial, Springer referred to the quote and talked about wanting to reach out to "regular folks ... who weren't born with a silver spoon in your mouth."
Australian Associated Press