He Was a Very fine Man
I don’t claim to have known Jerry Springer well, but he was my neighbor when my kids were young. It wasn’t often, but sometimes, his daughter and my daughter played together. In all of my interactions with him, he was a very fine man. I was saddened to hear that he passed away on April 27th. I will leave it to others to eulogize him, judge him, talk him up or down. I choose to quote him instead.
For part of his career, Jerry was a co-anchor – with Norma Rashid – of the evening news on WLWT in Cincinnati. Each night, he closed the newscast with a brief commentary on a national or local issue of his choosing, and then gave his signature signoff, “Take care of yourself, and each other.” In 1988, after he had delivered commentaries “five nights a week, fifty weeks a year, for six years,” the executive producer of News 5, Tish Hauss, compiled a book with some of his observations. The sale of this sixty-eight-page book benefited the Ruth Lyons Children’s Cancer Program. Ruth Lyons was a local television personality for thirty-eight years, all of them prior to Jerry’s turn on the air.
I, like many, loved Jerry’s commentaries! Of course, I bought the book. I peer into it today to show you the fine man I knew. Shockingly, many things he said back then are just as relevant now.
Commentary #1: Tonight in His Commentary (Date not given)
A summary of the night’s story: Explaining his family history to us, Jerry tells about Berlin in 1939, which is where his mother’s family owned a shoe store. The SS came in and arrested his grandparents, uncles and aunts. They were taken away on trains to camps, where along with six million fellow Jews, they were exterminated. His mom survived by hiding out back of the store. Her goal after that experience was never to be afraid again – afraid of her religion, afraid to speak, afraid to read.
How he ends the commentary: “I know each night during my commentary I sound so damn opinionated. I guess it’s just that I’m so in love with this country that lets me have opinions, and I don’t have to be afraid.”
Commentary #2: Warren Harper and the Prom (May 23, 1985)
A summary of the night’s story: In small-town Trenton, Ohio, a young man named Warren Harper wanted to wear a dress to the prom. The school board said his sexuality was his own business but what he wore to prom was theirs. In Tevye fashion, Jerry asks why Warren feels the need to flaunt his lifestyle and thinks he could easily find a pair of slacks somewhere in his closet. But on the other hand, wonders why the school board is making such a big deal of this? He wants them to worry about what the kids learn in school not what they wear outside of it.
How he ends the commentary: “It seems to me that most of our socially caused ulcers and tensions are brought about by our preoccupation with what everybody else should be doing. Look…leave the kid alone. He’s not hurting anybody. If we don’t like the way he looks, don’t ask him to dance.”
Commentary #3: The Return of the Ben-Gals (March 28, 1988)
A summary of the night’s story: Evidently, the Bengals football team had had a terrible season. City-wide speculation looked at the collapse of the offensive line because of injuries, the disappearance of the running game, etc. Meanwhile Jerry looked at the fact that the team had dumped their cheerleading squad, the Ben-Gals, and that the date of their dismissal coincided with the almost three-month-long losing streak the team had suffered at home. Jerry had been in favor of their dismissal for an odd reason. He felt the team had exploited the women – flaunted them without hardly paying them. Now the team was bringing them back…
How he ends the commentary: “Well, OK, the Ben-Gals are coming back. Good. I enjoy them as much as anybody. But show them some respect. Pay them as you’d pay men. You think they wouldn’t pay Ben-Guys?”
Commentary #4: On Being 44 (February 12, 1988)
A summary of the night’s story: On the eve of his 44th birthday, Jerry reflects on no longer being called the “Boy Mayor” or “Kid Commentator.”
How he ends the commentary: “Being 44 isn’t depressing because there’s not a lot left. There is. It’s just sad because so much has passed, so much of which was fun and loving and unforgettable…particularly the people with whom it was all shared.”
As one who shared just a little bit with Jerry, I am saddened by his death. I thank him for those friendly chats at the grocery store. For donating newsroom visits to the PTA’s silent auctions. For speaking to the Jewish community in remembrance of the Holocaust. And I thank him for these beautiful commentaries. With rampant book banning, rising anti-Semitism, struggles with acceptance of the LGBTQIA community, and women’s rights issues galore, I wish he was still anchoring the news here, sharing his commentaries, and reminding us to take care of ourselves and each other.