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Jerry Springer, R.I.P.

Jerry Springer, former Mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio, and later host of an over-the-top daytime television show, died today at 79.

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Jerry Springer in 2011. By David Shankbone. CC BY 3.0 Unported.

Jerry Springer, former Mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio, and later host of a daytime television show that became emblematic of the Nineties, died today. He was 79.

Jerry Springer, politician and showman

Jerry Springer died quietly in Chicago, Illinois, according to Linda Shafran, his agent. He had been suffering from pancreatic cancer, which usually one diagnoses at Clinical Stage IV – the worst. (The anatomy of the abdomen is such that the pancreas does not stand out in any way. Therefore, tumors of it manifest late in the course, when nothing will avail except chemotherapy. Even then, to give chemotherapy is to prolong the inevitable – as your editor remembers from his medical training.)

Longtime friend Jean Galvin said a few words to NBC News about Jerry Springer and how he died:

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.

He’s irreplaceable and his loss hurts immensely, but memories of his intellect, heart and humor will live on.

Jerry Springer was born in London, England. He came to the United States and began a career in politics. First he served as a city councilman in Cincinnati, then became mayor.

But people remember him best for The Jerry Springer Show, which became synonymous with over-the-top, anything-goes performances by ordinary people. His guests mordantly joked, “He brings you in in a limousine and sends you home in a cab.” That aside, guests often would have heated arguments and even physical altercations on stage.

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Provoking conflict

In one memorable episode, a young man and his “significant other” came on stage and discussed their chief relationship problem. Which was that he was jealous of the attentions other men paid to her. Knowing this, Jerry Springer surreptitiously invited three men, all of whom knew the girl, to come onto the stage. All brought bunches of long-stemmed roses in their arms to present to the girl.

At once the original young man reached for the roses the first suitor carried, and threw them to the stage. He did the same with and to the next suitor. But the third suitor raised his bunch of roses and brought them crashing down on the young man’s head. Result: mélée – and immediate fade to black. The next segment began with Jerry explaining the “great depth of feeling” that existed among his guests. But, as became typical, the producers recorded every show in advance. Springer used that mélée many times to promote that episode days in advance.

Small wonder, then, that then-SecEd William Bennett, in 1995, called The Jerry Springer Show and other shows like it “perpetrators of cultural rot.” And after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on stage at the Academy Awards, Alec Baldwin complained that Smith had turned the Oscars into The Jerry Springer Show.

Family wishes

Reports are sketchy about how many survivors he leaves behind. But his family released this statement to NBC:

To remember Jerry, the family asks that in lieu of flowers you consider following his spirit and make a donation or commit to an act of kindness to someone in need or a worthy advocacy organization. As he always said, “Take care of yourself, and each other.”

The portrait of Jerry Springer, taken at the Musto Party in 2011, is by David Shankbone. He has released it under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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