For 20 years, Jerry Springer has made millions from people too debauched or ignorant to realize their lives have become a Roman spectacle.
I met Jerry Springer in 2004, when he spoke at some political shindig to discreetly test the waters as a possible Democratic candidate for governor in 2006.
Forget what you see on TV: The Jerry Springer I met that day was whip-smart and serious-minded, a veritable Dr. Jekyll compared to the ringmaster of a jaw-droppingly bad TV show. His comportment was a throwback to his days as a Cincinnati councilman, mayor and political aide to the late Robert F. Kennedy.
But the glaring question, the elephant sitting at the table with us that day, was why Springer ever thought he had a snowball’s chance of becoming governor, or even a dogcatcher, if it called for an election.
Springer sold his soul the moment he signed on to his train wreck of a TV show, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
For 20 years, Springer has made millions from people too debauched or ignorant to realize their lives have become a Roman spectacle, a sideshow that offers an easy sense of moral superiority to anyone who’s never had a wig yanked off or had sex with their grandpa’s fiancée.
It’s also a sad testament to how far people will go to feel validated.
People like Springer are often blamed for the downfall of society, but Springer contends, and rightly so, that people were behaving badly long before he came along. He didn’t invent cheating and beating. People were doing that in “Oedipus Rex” and the Old Testament.
But he hasn’t helped.
Admittedly, it would difficult to turn down the kind of money Springer commands, but shouldn’t there be some part of us that isn’t for sale?
Springer was first drummed out of politics in 1974 when it was discovered that he paid a prostitute with a check for her, well, services. He still was able to recapture a council seat, though a bid for governor in the 1980s failed.
These days, Springer’s scandal hardly would be enough to disqualify him from office — unless the check bounced. We have family-values paragons on their third wives, and incumbents who have been pinched for domestic violence, fraud, DUI and sexual harassment.
Get caught with a call girl? Win in a landslide! Take a bribe? Become a committee chair!
So what does it say about Springer’s image that, politically speaking, he couldn’t get himself arrested?
Twenty years later, the question Springer should have pondered long before 2004, resurfaces like an old blooper reel: Was being “Jerry Springer” worth it?
Contact Charita Goshay at firstname.lastname@example.org.