Geraldo Rivera is thinking about Jerry Springer’s life and what he has done for the world.
Thursday, Springer died quietly in his home near Chicago, Illinois, after a “brief illness.” He was 79. Jerry Springer was well-known for his long-running trash talk show, The Jerry Springer Show, which started in 1991 and ran in reruns until 2018. Rivera worked with Springer and was a friend of his.
After Thursday’s shocking news, ET’s Kevin Frazier talked to the co-host of The Five on Fox News. He talked about their time together on air and how his long-running show helped fans and the daytime TV community.
“This is a very strange time. Phil Donahue was like the father hen to Oprah Winfrey. Then there were the followers. Jerry, Montel, me, and some of the other people were there. Jenny Jones, Ruth Westheimer, Sally Jesse, and Maury Povich are still crossing lines, said Geraldo Rivera, who had his own talk show from 1987 to 1998. “You couldn’t turn on the TV during the day and not see one of these shows. There were a lot of shows on at the time that many people planned their whole days around. We sometimes reached great heights, and other times it felt like we were living in the trash.
Rivera left at the height of the daily talk show craze, but he said that Springer did things differently, giving some of those crazy TV moments a level of performance.
“I think Jerry turned it into a show, though. Jerry seemed to know what he was doing. He put the fighters in the ring and let them go to town on each other. “No matter what the issue was at the time, he was very raw and real,” he said. “I was always amazed at how calm he was. He’d step to the side, holding his notes, and Steve or one of the other henchmen would go and separate the fighting parties.”
Rivera went on, “It was… a very interesting time for TV. Lively is a good way to describe it. It was bold.”
As for his own connection with Springer, Rivera said that the two of them knew each other through TV and became friends over time.
“Jerry really was a Renaissance man. I mean, the person who used to run Cincinnati. When I looked at his work, I didn’t even know he was born in the U.K. until I read his obituary. I had already forgotten that he was British and that his family had escaped the Holocaust. He had a lot of good things going for him. He went to Northwestern and Tulane. The long-time writer said, “He got into the business, but he could do everything.”
“He could be as serious as any politician or as loud as any bawdy circus barker. I think that’s what made him so strong and gave him the skills to last for decades and work in so many different roles, like game show host, talk show host, mayor, and lawmaker. He really did everything,” he said. “He had a very full life, and he seemed to enjoy it. He had this catchphrase: ‘Take care of yourself and others.'”
Rivera added, “So, even though the show could be very rough and sometimes rude and crude, he ended on a kind note. “Let’s remember that we’re all in this together,” was the last thing he said.
Even though there were a lot of hosts and on-air characters at the time, Rivera said that none of them were as “fun” as Springer. She told ET that she could talk to the late host about everything from “international affairs” to “bedroom affairs.”
Rivera said, “Jerry was so much fun, so smart, and interested in so many things.” You could talk to him about things going on in the world or in the bedroom. You could tell Jerry about anything that came to mind. He was at Playboy Magazine, so you could go there. Whether you wanted to go to Newsweek, Time, Variety, or Vanity Fair, Jerry had experience there and could talk clearly and entertainingly about it.
Rivera called Springer a “ringmaster” and said that while many people left the talk show business because of the crazy problems they had to deal with on-air, Springer was able to not only deal with them but also make even the most stressful situations feel calm and easy.
“Jerry Springer was the leader of a circus. He was the kind of person who could watch people show their dark side in a very dramatic way without getting upset. He had a calm personality and almost an intelligent way of thinking. “He was a pro, and I hope I wasn’t as planned as him. But everyone is a director, and in a way, everyone is a ringmaster in these group shows.”