Monday, May 10, 2004

Springer weighs his options

'This is home,' he says of city

By Cliff Radel
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Jerry Springer - The Opera may be Broadway bound in 2005. But Jerry Springer - The Man has other venues in mind, such as Columbus and Washington, D.C.

Depends on whether he runs for Ohio's governorship or Mike DeWine's U.S. Senate seat in 2006.

Jerry Springer, TV talk show host and former Cincinnati councilman.
(Tony Jones photo)
Over breakfast recently at downtown's Cincinnatian Hotel, Springer talked about what he's been up to in the nine months since he pulled the plug on his exploratory Senate campaign.

He still has vague plans for re-entering politics.

"I'm not looking for a job. But one day I may very well get back into elective office - maybe the Senate or the governor's job - obviously after I stop the show."

He shared his thoughts on The Jerry Springer Show, his venture into trash TV. On the air since 1991, the show routinely presents episodes such as "Double Crossing Dames!" and "14 yr. old & 1,600 lb. Mom."

"It's so stupid," Springer said, "a dolt could do it."

He mentioned moving back to Cincinnati.

"I've been living downtown since early April. It's home." It's also his primary residence, topping his places in Sarasota, Fla., and Chicago's John Hancock Tower.

He touched on Jerry Springer - The Opera. A hit in London, the show could land on Broadway in 2005 after a tryout in San Francisco.

"I won't play myself onstage. That's a full-time job. Besides, I might be doing something else in 2005."

Such as revving up his political career.

Springer's itinerary reads like he's running for office. He's crisscrossing the state, pressing flesh and kissing babies. He plunges into crowds to shake hands and strides from speech to speech wearing his trademark Campers - fashionable Spanish footwear with the bowling-shoe look and $150 price tag.

Continuing the pace he maintained during his exploratory Senate campaign, which lasted six months in 2003 and cost him $1.1 million, Springer speaks with equal verve in small towns and big cities.

He has been the star of union rallies, pancake breakfasts and Democratic Party fund-raisers, invariably attracting larger than usual crowds across the state.

Springer was recently spotted speaking at voter registration drives in Clifton and Hillsboro, and attending a rally in Batavia for Pfc. Matt Maupin, the GI kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents April 9.

As he dug into a bowl of granola, the man who would be a candidate explained why he's on a route that closely resembles the campaign trial.

"I've been doing this nonstop for almost two years," he said. "This is my passion."

From August through April he tapes his TV show in Chicago. "Monday through Wednesday. Two shows a day. Six hours a week. I don't spend any more time on it.

"Then every Thursday, Friday and sometimes Saturday, I'm somewhere in Ohio."

Delivering speeches. Talking about what's right and what's wrong with America. Playing his favorite role, Citizen Springer.

He speaks for free. "I make enough money on the show." The program made him a multimillionaire. And freed him to speak his mind.

"This is not about winning an Emmy," he said about his role as Citizen Springer. "It's about having a decent country, a safe country. That's what I'm fighting for."

That's why he's stumping for candidates across Ohio. His efforts have not gone unnoticed.

During Saturday's Ohio Democratic Party Dinner in Columbus, Springer was named the state's Democrat of the Year - further increasing his chances for being seen as a serious candidate.

As he raises money for the Democratic Party, Springer amasses tons of political IOUs. Those IOUs could be redeemed during a race for the governor's mansion or the Senate. But not the White House. By virtue of his place of birth - London, England - Springer is constitutionally prohibited from running for president.

A famous face

Communication experts have a word for what Springer's been up to. They call it "surfacing."

Judith S. Trent, University of Cincinnati communication professor, coined that term 20 years ago. She used it in a journal article to describe potential candidates emerging like political cicadas.

"Springer's not being subtle about his surfacing," Trent said. "He's not sticking his toe in the political waters. He's throwing in his whole body."

But he can't stay in the water too long.

"He's going to have to fish or cut bait," Trent said.

If Springer runs for any office, he will easily be - thanks to his TV show - the candidate with the most name and face recognition.

Trent sees his high profile as a plus.

"He's famous," she said. "His audience is young. They like him."

Youthful voters "won't see anything wrong with him hosting that show," she added. To them, "it's just entertainment."

Gift of communication

Springer can connect politically with the man and the woman on the street, young or old.

"That may be the one arena where I really have some skills," Springer said.

"I have no talent. I can't sing. I'm no comedian. I'm not a great actor. But I do think I can communicate politically. I've been doing it for over 30 years."

For most of those years, he's based his political operations - including a successful City Council campaign that landed him in the mayor's office - in Cincinnati.

"This is home," Springer said of the Queen City.

"Here, it's like I'm their son. Admittedly errant at times. But there's not one snooty comment. It's always, 'Hey, Jer, welcome back.' "

"That's what you want home to be."

Springer's schedule

For a guy who's not officially on the campaign trail, Jerry Springer is definitely on the move. Here's a list of where he's been and where he's going:

April 29: Tiffin (Ohio) University, "Good Morning Breakfast Series," speech; radio interview on WTTF; Youngstown, lunch with Congressional candidate Capri Cafaro; Youngstown, radio interview on WKBN during a live remote from the grand opening of a car dealership; Calcutta, Ohio, Columbiana County Democratic Party Spring Dinner, speech.

April 30: Columbus, Communications Workers of America march, rally, speech; Dayton, A. Phillip Randolph Foundation, speech.

May 1-2: Family time in Sarasota, Fla.

May 3: Akron, Akron Press Club, speech.

May 4-5: Business meetings out of state.

May 6: Hillsboro, Southern State Community College voter registration drive and speech; Clinton County Fairgrounds in Wilmington, fund-raiser for state representative candidate Bill Horne, speech.

May 7: Business meetings out of state.

May 8: Columbus, Ohio State Democratic Party dinner.

May 9: Mother's Day, in Cincinnati with family.

Today: Youngstown, Mahoning County Democratic Party Chair Fundraiser, speech.

Tuesday: Los Angeles, meetings.

Wednesday-May 21: Vacation, business meetings, out of state.

May 22: Cambridge, Ohio, Guernsey County Democratic Party pancake breakfast and speech.

May 23: Niles, Ohio UAW Local 1112 Women's Committee Spring Luncheon, speech.

May 24: Lorain, Lorain County Democratic Club, cocktail party; Lorain County Young Democrats, rally.

For updates on Springer's whereabouts, check his Web site.



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