Steve Wilkos has opened up about the last time that he saw Jerry Springer, and revealed that he did not know the star had cancer.
It comes after the news that the legendary TV host has died aged seventy-nine. The star was best known for presenting The Jerry Springer Show for twenty-seven years, from 1991 to 2018.
During his time at the show’s helm, it became a notorious defining feature of daytime television, featuring on-air fist fights, swearing and infidelity revelations.
Wilkos worked alongside Springer on the show from 1994, first as a security guard, and then later as a fill-in for him while he was on Dancing with the Stars.
“I saw Jerry a little over a month ago. It was a Wednesday, I got done taping and he sent me a text he goes, ‘Hey, I was in New York I’m coming up I’d love to see ya,’” he said.
“Looking back, I really didn’t think anything unusual was happening. But whenever I would see Jerry we would talk and catch up on things. We weren’t two guys who sit around and talk about the glory days and rehashing old times and all that.
“Once in a while, but for the most part he would tell me about his grandson and what was going on in his life and I would be catching him up on my kids and we’d be talking baseball. We weren’t two guys who sat and looked in the past a lot. But that night, we did,” he continued.
“We reflected a lot and we shared a lot of old stories and he embraced me in a way that he’d never really embraced me. He gave me a hug and was telling me he loved me. I think he knew he was sick.
“I didn’t even know he was sick until this morning because he looked the same to me,” Wilkos added.
“I knew there was something off, but I certainly didn’t know he had a terminal illness, or whatever he had. I think this was his way of saying goodbye to me.”
Aside from his iconic TV show, Springer was also known for his political work, including his roles as a reporter and commentator, as well as being elected the mayor of Cincinnati in 1971.
One of the star’s close friends, Jene Galvin, described him in a statement as “irreplaceable.”
“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 said, via the BBC.
“He’s irreplaceable and his loss hurts immensely, but memories of his intellect, heart and humour will live on.”
A family spokesperson told TMZ that he died following a ‘brief illness’. Sources have also confirmed to the site that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a few months ago, and that this took a turn for the worse, forcing him to stop his work at a local radio station in Cincinnati.
He died peacefully at his home in Chicago, and is succeeded by his 2 daughters, Evelyn and Katie.
The final known footage of Springer before his death has also emerged…
The TikTok clip came from just last month, and showed the host in good spirits as he danced along to a viral trend. It shows the star still at work, dancing on set along with his crew.
He captioned the post, in a reference to the audio that matched it: “Only been a few hours but it felt like days ❤️🩹.”
Fans have been reacting to the heartbreaking news of his death on social media.
One person said: “Oh no… RIP Jerry Springer… Thank you for giving 90s kids something to watch when we stayed home “sick” from school.”
Another said: “RIP to an absolute legend, Jerry Springer you will always be famous.”
A third wrote: “For better or worse, Jerry Springer changed the landscape of daytime TV and live TV. He was era-defining. He also half raised some of y’all.”
A fourth echoed the same sentiment: “Damn… Just saw that Jerry Springer passed away at 79… Whether you loved him or hated him, that guy made one heck of an impact on daytime talk shows…”
“Wow, Jerry Springer died. R.I.P to a truly interesting man. Everyone knew him for drama and paternity test reveals, but few people know he was once the Mayor of Cincinnati, a lawyer, and a serious democrat politician,” a fifth commented.
Rest in peace, Jerry Springer.