(1944 - )
Journalist, talk show host and politician Jerry Springer was born Gerald Norman Springer on February 13, 1944, in the Highgate tube station in London, England. At the time of his birth, his parents were taking shelter in the station from German bombing runs. His parents, Margo and Richard Springer, were Polish Jews who escaped from Germany during the Holocaust. Springer's paternal grandmother and great-uncle died at the Theresienstadt concentration camp, and his maternal grandmother was gassed at the Chelmno extermination camp. Springer's birth came shortly after the family's emigration to England and, by the time Springer was five years old, his family had moved again—this time to the Queens area of New York City. For young Gerald and his parents, America represented a place where people could live without persecution.
Springer's college years took him south to New Orleans, Louisiana, where he earned his bachelor's degree in political science at Tulane University in 1965. He then received his law degree from Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois. Shortly after earning his Juris Doctor in 1968, Springer met New York Senator Robert Kennedy at a dinner party. Springer signed on with the Kennedy's presidential campaign shortly after. Kennedy's assassination occurred on June 5, 1968, only a few months after Springer began helping the candidate on the campaign trail. The incident took an emotional toll on Springer, who felt compelled to continue Kennedy's political vision.
The next year, Springer took a job with the law firm Frost & Jacobs in Cincinnati, Ohio. While at the firm, the 25-year-old Springer spearheaded the movement in Ohio to lower the voting age from 21 to 18, which culminated in his Senate Judiciary Committee testimony supporting ratification of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution. He then ran for Congress in Ohio in 1970, nearly beating the entrenched Republican incumbent, Donald Clancy. In 1971, he won a seat on the Cincinnati City Council and served five terms before becoming the city's mayor at the age of 33, with the largest plurality in the city's history. Springer served two terms as mayor of Cincinnati.
After an unsuccessful bid for governor of Ohio in 1982, Springer was courted by several networks, ultimately signing with the Cincinnati NBC affiliate WLWT. As their anchor and managing editor, Springer took WLWT to first place in the news rankings. It was his nightly commentaries, the precursor to his now legendary "Final Thought," that landed him seven Emmys. Springer was voted television's best anchor for five consecutive years by readers of Cincinnati Magazine.
Springer's success on the network led to his own WLWT talk show, which debuted on September 30, 1991. The first season of The Jerry Springer Show aired originally as a politically charged talk show, with episode topics including the social effects of rock 'n' roll, gun control, and homelessness. It also featured high-profile guests such as Jesse Jackson and Oliver North. To improve the ratings, the network brought in a new producer for the 1994 season, and the show began targeting a younger audience. Shortly thereafter, the show moved filming to Chicago, prompting Springer to leave Cincinnati. The new version of Springer's talk show garnered huge ratings, and lots of attention. By 1998—the same year that Barbara Walters named Springer one of the world's "10 Most Fascinating People"—The Jerry Springer Show was reaching more than 6.7 million viewers, and had become an inspiration for dozens of imitators, including the award-winning British musical, Jerry Springer: The Opera in 2003.
In 2007, NBC-Universal announced it would carry The Jerry Springer Show through its 2010 season. The show was renewed again in the fall of 2010, picked up by NBC-Universal through the 2013-14 season. The year 2012 marked Springer's 22nd season.
In addition to his success in the TV talk-show circuit, Springer became a morning radio talk-show host. His progressive Springer On The Radio show hit the airwaves on January 17, 2005. Broadcast in 85 markets, including many Air America affiliates, the show would last for two years.
In 2006, Springer showcased his dancing ability as a contestant on the program Dancing With The Stars, finishing in the top five. In 2009, Springer traveled to London to star in the role of Billy Flynn in the West End production of the play Chicago. His performance earned him critical acclaim, and landed him a reprisal of the role on Broadway in August of 2009. Additionally, he starred for a week in a production of the Rocky Horror Show Live.
A man of diverse talents, Springer stepped into the studio to record a country music CD; written his memoirs in the book Ringmaster (1998); and has had his own late-night variety show in both England and South Africa. He also hosted NBC's hit series America's Got Talent for the 2007 and 2008 seasons, and hosted the live show on the Las Vegas strip. Additionally, he twice served as the master of ceremonies for the Miss World Pageant and, in the summer of 2008, hosted the Miss Universe Pageant.
Today, because of his lasting popularity, Springer is a favorite guest speaker at college campuses throughout the United States. He has also graced the cover of Rolling Stone, Esquire and New York Magazine throughout his career.