The text messages and emails started coming in to me immediately yesterday. But I already knew the news. Jerry Springer had died.
Jerry Springer was a mentor of sorts to me; in fact, I may not be where I am today without him. That's not an exaggeration. It's the truth. And I didn't truly realize it until he died.
Jerry Springer and I first met around the summer of 1995. But we didn't meet in real life, we met in tv world.
Prior to becoming the blogger I am today I was a television host for 20 years. I worked on many of the national specialty networks like HGTV, W Network and MuchMoreMusic.
The very first television hosting job I was hired for, (thank you Barb and Dawn) was at a Toronto television station called CFMT. My job there was to talk for 30 seconds to 2 minutes at a time in between television shows. The idea was I would act like a bridge between shows, to keep viewers viewing right into the next one.
So I did commentary in between television shows 5 or 6 times a day. I was allowed to write or talk about anything I wanted to: feet, pizza, Charlie Sheen ... it didn't matter as long as the segment was entertaining enough to keep people tuned in.
The segments were popular.
Very, very popular.
I definitely couldn't just go to the store and wander around like a normal person. I kind of couldn't go anywhere without this sort of mobbing type-thing happening.
For 4 years I was the most famous person in the world, in Southern Ontario, Canada.
And that's because of Jerry Springer.
In that first tv world meeting in the mid-nineties Jerry Springer and I met through a remote live interview. Which means for the interview he was in Chicago with a camera facing him and I was in Toronto with a camera facing my 14 pounds of makeup.
I don't remember much about the interview other than maybe being a tiny bit nervous because he was Jerry Springer and I was me. For example his show was one hour long while my show was, on average, 45 seconds.
By 1997, Jerry Springer and I had met a few times through on-camera interviews. Plus he was aware of who I was because of the photo restraining order.
Always looking for ways to fill time on air, I came up with the idea to find all the celebrity addresses that I could and then request an autographed photo from them. If anyone sent me back a signed photo I'd give their mailing address out on air so any viewers who wanted to, could try to get an autograph as well.
Naturally the first person I tried was my station's biggest star, Jerry Springer.
After I announced his address on television I got a phone call from the producers of The Jerry Springer Show in Chicago that amounted to "what the hell?". Please stop putting Jerry's address up so much we're running out of photos and energy.
I only did it once, I said.
Before I knew it someone in a big office spoke to someone else in a big office and just like that Jerry Springer was coming to visit.
A lot of the reason his show became so popular with such a cult-like following was because Jerry would spend every moment he wasn't taping the show, promoting it.
Most weeks when he wasn't taping the show he was flying to local television stations that aired his syndicated show to do interviews and promote his festival of Wow.
He did it because he had the work ethic of someone who in one lifetime became a lawyer, a campaigner for Robert F. Kennedy, the mayor of Cincinnati, ran for Governor and hosted a daytime talkshow that turned him into a cultural phenomenon.
On April 29th, 1997, Jerry Springer and I met.
We met at a steakhouse in Toronto with a few other people from our television station for a welcome dinner. He made a joke about the lobster. I can't remember what it was but chances are it was dirty.
And chances are I laughed.
After dinner we travelled to Toronto's Four Seasons Hotel where we'd sleep before touring the city in an open air bus the next morning.
I'm not sure if we got in bed together that night or the night before.
This clip will give you an idea of what Jerry and I in bed together looks like. This is a small clip from my 20 year old demo (basically a video resume).
As way of explanation for the last bit, "Phyllis" was Tom Snyder's nickname for me. Really. That's a different story for a different death.
The remainder of our time together was spent eating and at events. He spoke a very tiny bit about his daughter at lunch. He may have only mentioned her.
Unlike his guests, Jerry kept his personal life personal.
Jerry Springer wasn't the kind of person to ignore a wave, shoutout or an autograph request from a fan.
Jerry Springer was the kind of person who'd go out of his way to say hi if he thought even just 1% of you wanted to meet him.
Jerry did ask me to go for a drink. And for my phone number.
I doubt that made me any more special than 90% of the women he met. He was charming and engaging in his nerdy way. And he liked women.
I politely declined by way of a chair to his head.
After his trip I continued to put his autograph address up every once in a while. And every once in a while his producers would ask me to stop.
For the next 10 years I tried to recreate what I had on other shows, at other stations. But nothing was like my time with Jerry.
In 2010 I divorced television, took what I liked from it, and gave it all to my new lover - blogging. If I were to turn that into a Jerry Springer Show title it would be:
SHE MARRIED HER TELEVISION THEN SEXED A MAN/WOMAN/HORSE/BLOG.
Nuance and innuendo were as rare as a full set of teeth on The Jerry Springer Show.
That's actually not even true so I should retract that. I learned once, and I can't disclose who told me this, that if a guest was of particular interest to the producers, The Jerry Springer Show would pay to have dental work done on the guest.
That was a hard and fast rule for The Jerry Springer show. Guests must have teeth. I feel the need to reiterate I am not being facetious, even though this is exactly the kind of thing I would say if I were.
I hadn't thought of Jerry Springer in years.
When I heard the news he had died I was genuinely saddened. In a very weird way he was a big part of my life. Which is the only way Jerry Springer can be a part of your life.
All I did was ride his coattails for a while before I was spun off into the national spotlight - which being in Canada is about the size of a flashlight operated by 2 very weak AA batteries.
It was that job, at that time, beside that man that created the trajectory of my career which has landed all of us right here.
Wondering why in God's name Tom Snyder used to call me Phyllis.