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Jerry Springer: US talk show host dies at the age of 79

Jerry Springer, the legendary American TV host, has died at the age of 79.

His family confirmed that he died peacefully on Thursday at his home in the Chicago area, following a brief illness.

Jene Galvin, a lifelong friend and spokesman for the family, said in a statement: "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 humour will live on."

Michael Brandon, the American actor who played Springer on stage in Jerry Springer: The Opera, told Sky News about becoming friends with him while preparing for the production.

"He was so generous of spirit, so nice, so welcoming and gave me his blessing. It was a great experience to feel as close as we were. He was such a good guy," Brandon said.

"When Jerry used to come into town, he used to call and say 'How about breakfast, and bring your son!' He was a very family guy, he was so close with his daughter.

"He wasn't the kind that imitated him, he was not offensive, he was interested, he was shocked, he was surprised, he was nurturing. He was your great host."

Ricki Lake, who hosted a daytime talkshow that ran against Springer's, tweeted: "Just waking to the very sad news of the passing of my longtime talkshow rival and friend @jerryspringer. A lovely man. May he rest in peace."

Journalist Piers Morgan tweeted: "Jeez, this sucks. RIP Jerry Springer, 79.

"TV icon & such an intelligent, warm, funny man. Loved working with him (on @AGT), loved hanging out with him (we lived in same hotel for 2yrs), loved arguing with him (he loved his politics), loved everything about him. Gutting."

And David Axelrod, the former advisor to US president Barack Obama, said: "Jerry Springer will be remembered as the ringmaster of an embarrassing, tabloid-style TV show.

"But I met him earlier, when he was a mayor and insurgent progressive candidate for governor of Ohio in a race I covered. He was funny, self-effacing & incisive."

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Strippers, food-fights and punch-ups

A politician-turned-presenter, he was most famous for his eponymous tabloid talk show, The Jerry Springer Show, which he always ended with the catchphrase: "Take care of yourself and each other."

Synonymous with strippers, food-fights and punch-ups, it was once named the worst show in the history of television, but proved to be ratings gold.

It aired for 27 seasons and there were nearly 5,000 episodes from 1991 to 2018. A UK version of the show was made in 1999, and Too Hot For TV videos and DVDs were also released.

With infamous episodes including The Man Who Married A Horse and My Girlfriend Is A Man, the show even inspired its own musical, Jerry Springer: The Opera.

Remaining salacious to the end, some of its last episodes had titles including Stripper Sex Turned Me Straight, Stop Pimpin' My Twin Sister, and Hooking Up With My Therapist.

A rebellion against the elite

Frequently derided as low-brow TV, and criticised for its exploitative nature, Springer always stood by his show, describing it as a rebellion against the elite, in a world where only the rich and famous were considered worthy for screen time.

Speaking to Sky News in 2019, Springer defended the show's contributors, who he said were frequently dismissed as "trash," saying he preferred to see them as "regular people involved in crazy situations".

He went on to say that late-night US television was full of the "wealthy, famous and good looking", adding: "They come on and talk about the exact same things we hear on my show. They talk about who they slept with, what drugs they've been on, what misbehaviour they've had... And we think they're godlike.

"When someone's not wealthy, not good looking and doesn't speak the Queen's English, we call them trash. That's elitist".

Rejecting a celebrity label himself, he described himself as "a schlub who got lucky," and in a nod to his detractors, his Twitter bio reads: "Talk show host, ringmaster of civilization's end."

Away from The Jerry Springer Show, he was a popular contestant on Dancing With The Stars (the US version of Strictly Come Dancing) in 2006 and hosted America's Got Talent from 2007 to 2008.

Born Gerald Norman Springer in February 1944, he had an unusual start to life, with his mother giving birth in Highgate tube station in north London.

His parents, who were German-Jewish refugees, were in the station sheltering from a German bombing raid during the Second World War at the time.

Springer went on to move to Queens, New York, aged four, along with his parents and older sister.

He later studied political science at Tulane University in Louisiana and got a law degree from Northwestern University in Illinois, before serving in the US Army Reserves.

He went on to work as a political campaign adviser for Robert F Kennedy's 1968 presidential campaign, before joining a Cincinnati law firm and then being elected to city council.

A political animal

A lifelong Democrat, he was mayor of Cincinnati from 1977 to 1978, and considered running for the Senate in 2003. He also considered running for governor of Ohio as recently as 2017, but decided against it.

A news anchor in the early years of his career, it was during his time presenting the news that he came up with his signature sign-off line "Take care of yourself, and each other," which would later become his Final Thought on Jerry Springer.

As well as cameos as himself in various TV shows and films, he also briefly played Billy Flynn in Chicago in London's West End.

Other broadcast work included the Judge Jerry Show, the Springer on the Radio Show, Baggage, the Jerry Springer Podcast and until recently a 60s folk music radio show in Cincinnati.

A funeral service and memorial is currently being organised by Springer's family, who have asked that instead of sending flowers, well-wishers "consider following his spirit and make a donation or commit to an act of kindness to someone in need or a worthy advocacy organisation".

Springer leaves behind one daughter, Katie.