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Local News / Entertainment

Monday, 24 March, 2008 0:07 AM

Jerry Springer discusses his show, race, censorship and politics at Wayne State University


Television host Jerry Springer addressed the crowd at the General Lectures building on the campus of Wayne State University last Wednesday.

by Jason Rzucidlo

DETROIT -- On Wednesday, talk show host Jerry Springer brought his college tour to Detroit and spoke to students at Wayne State University. He showed clips from his daytime talk show, discussed them and took questions from the audience. Springer also added some political commentary at the end. He stayed later to sign autographs and meet students at the university.

Springer, 64, is the current host of the popular Jerry Springer Show, which is aired at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. weekdays on WMYD-TV, Channel 20 in Detroit. He is also the host of America's Got Talent, a reality-competition program which will air this summer beginning in July on WDIV-TV, Channel 4.

"In the beginning, the show started out as a relatively boring show," said Springer. "I'm sorry about the way I look but it didn't get any better as the years went on. Times have changed. Now on our show everyone goes through a metal detector. Now we're known for the fights. Now people come on the show to fight. I think if you took those guests and put them on Oprah, they would sit there very politely."

At a taping of the talk show, he doesn't know what the episode will be about. It is all kept secret until the minute it begins. Springer has a card that tells him the names of the guests but he doesn't know why they are on the show. He starts every segment with: "What's going on?"

"My job is to ask questions you would be asking at home," he said. "I don't know what the story is. Ninety percent of the issues we do aren't serious. It's about dating. Yep, you aren't happy at the moment but the next day you're dating someone else."

One episode that was controversial featured a man who married a horse. "It was wrong," Springer said. "Again, this is a story you think, wait a second, that's made up. He lived outside of St. Louis about 50 miles. When you went to his home, his hallways were extra wide so his horse could navigate up and down the hallways. He literally lived with his horse. We did a follow-up show and the horse left him. Those horses are so judgmental.

"This really was in the 17 years the sickest show. In fact, lots of [television] markets wouldn't run it. I can't tell you that I blame them. Each market makes it own decision. But again, I show up and there's the show. We're not allowed to have censorship and I wouldn't want to be a part of a show that had censorship. As long as it's real and it's outrageous it's entitled to be on."

Springer had to defend his show when Congress came after it. He believes the show deserves to be aired.

"I would never tell people you are to watch the show," he said. "If you like it, great. If I were in college, obviously I would watch it. It's not aimed at your grandparents. In college, it's the one hour escape from studying. It's fun. It's a hoot. I understand that and that's all it's put on for. I did go before city councils and the government to argue against it's being censored. I believe the arguments against shows like this are purely elitist.

"We call these shows trash. We call the guests trash. About 13 years ago, Princess Di was on international television. It was a British host who interviewed her for an hour with no commercials. It was shown throughout the world. In that interview, Princess Di talked about cheating in her marriage, having bulimia, talked about contemplating suicide. All these issues, not the suicide, are on everyday talk shows. And not one person said, how dare Princess Di go on international television and talk about that. No one called it trash."

Springer believes that people only want to hear the stories of others who are beautiful, wealthy, and celebrity-like. People who are poor, unknown and don't look as good are not aired on talk shows. He says celebrities who write books, make music and movies gets all the time they want in the media spotlight but the regular person gets no time at all.

"If you didn't like the subject matter, you wouldn't permit news to be on anymore," said the talk show host. "You wouldn't have newspapers. You wouldn't have magazines. Do you think there's anything on our show that beats the headlines in your papers? Of course not. I can go to your newspaper every single day and find 25 stories that could be on our show. In any newspaper in America. When people blast these shows for trash, it is purely elitist. They are not complaining about the subject matter. They can't get enough of it in every other form of the media."

He also explained that other races and cultures should get equal representation on American television. Springer said that most shows feature characters that are upper, middle-class white.

"If you were African-American, you had to be on one of the side networks," he said. "Or if you were Cosby, you had to be a doctor living in the suburbs. The only thing you saw on television was white, upper middle-class. The news stations all of a sudden wanted to be politically correct. There was always one anchor of one nationality or skin color. But they all had to speak upper middle-class white english.

"They could not speak the dialect of their neighborhood or their upbringing. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with an upper white middle-class perpective. I was raised as that. But it shouldn't be the only perspective you get in the free media. Free media ought to reflect the entire culture. All the top rated sitcoms over the last 25 years are all the same. All upper middle-class white. The truth is not all America looks like that. Certainly not all of America lives like that. But have every other part of our culture reflected in the free media as well. That's why we fight to keep these shows. Not to tell you to watch it but not to take it off."

Springer believies that our culture has changed for the positive. He said that people are now more open about themselves. His show was the first to air transsexuals and gay men. There was protests about the episode when it was first aired 13 years ago. He said there wouldn't be any protests if that particular episode was aired today.

"Thirteen years ago if you showed gay people on television particularly guys kissing there were protests, pickets, threats from advertisers to stop advertising the show, take the show off the air," he said. "I'll be the first to say our show is just stupid. We had a show early on about interracial dating. We now have a product of interracial marriage running for president of the United States. The issue is, that's how far we've come as a culture.

"For all the craziness of the show it does have its impact. The impact has been very, very, very positive as a culture. Who wants to live in a society that discriminates? The fact that we're much more open now and we don't even have to talk about it in a politically correct way. We can even joke about it, that's the acceptance that we now have."

The talk show host admits that he is a Democrat. You won't pickup on that by watching his television show. He was the mayor of Cincinnati from 1977-1978.

"Here I travel around the country doing America's Got Talent which will start in July again," Springer said. "Most of the time, I do politics. I give political speeches around the country, raise money, help organize, do stuff like that. That's my real passion in life. That's the thing I get serious about. The show is my business, that's how I make my living. It's fun to do but politics I take seriously like religion.

"First of all, Michigan is right in the middle of this whole Democratic party debate. It's a crime if Michigan doesn't get to vote. I'm a partisian so in fairness, if you're a Republican, you're not going to particularly care what I say. As a Democrat and a life-long Democrat, we are crazy if we throw away Michigan and Florida."




Springer says that guests must sign an agreement that outlines 21 possible surprises that might happen during a show before they can appear on television.



Jerry Springer participated on TV's Dancing with the Stars in 2006. "It was a lot of fun to do," he said.


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Unauthorized duplication or use of Text, Site Template, Graphics and or Site Design is Prohibited by Federal and International laws. See our Notice/Disclaimer.