James Leavey, de Forces sterjournalist, deelde deze maand een asbak met Jerry Springer, de beroemde Amerikaanse talkshow presentator.
[….] I do find it very relaxing and that’s what I mostly do it for. What it is for me is the time out. I’m always running around doing something because of the show, or being on someone else’s show, or in the community. I’ve become something of a workaholic. So a cigar to me says ‘whoah!’ That’s what I use it for.
By James Leavey
|Jerry Springer was born in London in 1944 of Jewish parents who fled Nazi Germany, and arrived in New York City as an immigrant at the age of five. He earned a B.A. in political science from Tulane University, a law degree from Northwestern, and his first job was as one of Senator Robert F Kennedy’s presidential campaign aides.|
After Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, Springer joined a major law firm and entered politics. He served as Cincinnati’s Council-at-Large for five years and in 1977 became one of the country’s youngest mayors. Then he moved into broadcasting and became a top-rated news anchor and nightly political commentator on Cincinnati’s WLWT-TV for ten years, winning ten Emmy’s for his work, including reporting from famine-stricken Ethiopia and Sudan.
The Jerry Springer Show was premiered in 1991 and has since become the fastest rising show in the history of television, as well as the most controversial, noted for the bleeped obscenities of its guests, and fights. It is seen by 25 million people a day in over 40 countries.
JL: What is your earliest memory of cigars?
JS: My Dad, when I was really young, smoked cigars, so I guess that probably was my first memory –that and Sir Winston Churchill, seeing pictures of him with a cigar. My first memory of smoking a cigar was in college. My room-mate’s Dad was in the cigar business so he’s the one who kind of introduced me and said, ‘Hey try this cigar’. So I smoked a little bit in college and then I went away and never did it again until about eight years ago.
JL: What made you take up cigars again?
JS: You know, I don’t know. I probably was in some place where somebody said, ‘Hey, have a cigar’. And then all of a sudden more people were smoking cigars and it started to be a relaxing thing. I can’t think of any one thing that actually started it but now I was smoking as an adult. And starting to really enjoy it. And I really did it as it was wonderful after dinner to have a cigar you know. Now of course cigars are so popular again.
JL: Is that still true? I understand that some cigar bars in America have recently closed?
JS: They still have a whole bunch of them. They have a lot in California because in California there is a ‘no smoking’ law so therefore you really do need a club to go in. You can’t even smoke in a restaurant. And I know there are in Chicago and that’s where I mostly go. I think cigars are basically as popular now as they were a few years ago. And I think all that attention has made me more of a cigar smoker too – what really escalated it is Richard Dominick, my executive producer. Richard’s very serious about cigars and knows a lot about it and he’s kind of like my teacher in that area and says ‘try this, and that’. And so we’ve become great friends, won awards together.
JL Sounds like the perfect partnership.
JS: Yeah. We kind of feed each other on this.
JL: How many cigars do you smoke a week?
JS: It really does vary. I tend to smoke more when I’m at work because I have the humidor right there. I don’t smoke in my car and I don’t smoke at home in Chicago so it’s really more of a work thing, or when I go out.
JL: Do you find cigars are a good way to unwind after a show?
JS: Yeah well I don’t need to unwind necessarily because I never really get wound up but I do find it very relaxing and that’s what I mostly do it for. What it is for me is the time out. I’m always running around doing something because of the show, or being on someone else’s show, or in the community. I’ve become something of a workaholic. So a cigar to me says ‘whoah!’ That’s what I use it for.
JL: Have you ever had smoking as a subject for your show?
JS: No. We do silly stuff.
JL: Of all the cigars you have smoked, is there one cigar, at one special moment, that is your absolute favourite?
JS: Not really. Most of the major celebrations in my life took place before I took up cigars again, such as the birth of my daughter.
JL: I’ve heard that America may lift the Cuban embargo some time in the next six months. If it was lifted would you like to go there?
JS: Absolutely. Nothing to do with cigars but I’d love to go to Havana. You know the stories you hear about it…the closest we have to Havana in the United States is South Beach in Miami.
JL: It’s very Cuban, I understand.
JS: Yeah. And that environment is very exciting. I picture Havana before Castro – the architecture, the rhythm of the place, the lifestyle – it must be an exciting place. Absolutely I would like to go.
JL: Who, living or dead, would you love to interview?
JS: Churchill, I guess he’s my hero. I think he is probably the greatest public figure of the 20th century. Churchill is the one who saved the world from Hitler. Obviously America came in and thankfully had the power and strength and all that to help win the war. But for those first two years Churchill was out there alone. What he did was masterful. It was an incredible lesson in politics that after he saved the planet they kicked him out of office. What the hell’s going on.
JL: You seem to have great empathy for most of your guests, who some people call ‘trash’. Has that something to do with your own family’s experience of the Holocaust?
JS: Yeah, I’m sure it does. I can’t ever imagine calling a human being ‘trash.’ You know, I mean just because someone isn’t rich or powerful or famous – my God! – it doesn’t mean they are a lesser human being. Those qualities are luck. If you happen to be born into a wealthy family or if you were born with a good brain and therefore you did well in life – those are gifts from God. They’re nothing you’ve earned, so you should be thankful instead of being snobs about it. And so, yeah, I always instinctively go for the underdog. In every society, you know, in a sense they’re kept down whether it’s in America or anything else. They’re always kept where they are and that’s how you get persecuted in a free society. But they’re never led into the economic mainstream. The stock market is doing great in America but you know 60-70% of Americans aren’t even a part of it. So as great as it’s gone for some of us, there are still people struggling at home making sure they have enough money to put their kids through school. It’s not fair.
JL: Some people think that your show is emetic; others feel it helps get things out in the open. Do you think that the show is in a sense educational in the way it helps break down social barriers?
JS: Yeah, to the extent that any observations that we make in life can be educational and yes, to that extent our show is. It’s not the purpose of the show; the purpose of the show is entertainment. But yeah sure I think it makes us much more open, we learn about how different people live and we’re able to make our own judgements on whether we like that or whether we don’t. We learn to become much more compassionate; we see that other people get hurt as well.
JL: Do you pay guests to appear on your show?
JS: Plain and simple, although some shows do, we don’t, mostly because we don’t have the budget for it, although we do pay for itemized expenses. But also we want our guests to be there because they want to be there, not for the few hundred bucks they might get somewhere else for making up a good story. If your story is outrageous, if you want to be on, and you’re telling the truth, chances are you’ll get on our show. If you do go ahead with your story, we ask you to sign a waiver that says that if you are not telling us the truth, we can sue you. We even videotape this process to ensure it is the same person signing.
JL: Is it true that you like to spend time with your fans after your shows?
JS: Yeah, after every show I stick around and shake everyone’s hand who’s come to the show and let them take pictures. I think that’s important, they gave up their time to come and spend half a day with the show and all that. It’s just the polite thing to do, you know, ‘thanks for coming.’ I put myself in their place, if I went to some place and met someone I really liked or admired or enjoyed their show or something it would be fun to get their autograph or their picture.
JL: Apart from the fact that you were born here, are you an anglophile?
JS: Oh yes, I love England. I not only have strong memories but I have strong feelings about it. Going into the old neighbourhood. Yeah very much because it reminds me very much of my childhood.
JL: What do you think of James J Fox’s cigar shop?
JS: This was a find. Yeah. You know when we first came over a few years ago with the show we were all excited because now we were smoking cigars and you could get Cuban cigars here and of course that was the big thing. It’s probably not as big as it is in America where you can’t legally smoke them. So we really started going around trying to buy up all the Cubans we could and that kind of thing. And we happened into this place and fell in love with it – it’s the sense of history here. You know, a cigar almost becomes a mood, an environment, a lifestyle; it’s much more than just the taste. You get that feeling here that all of a sudden you’re back in old England and that’s kind of part of the fun of it. You know it takes you – emotionally perhaps psychologically – it takes you to a different level.
JL: I understand you not only like rock music but you’re also into playing?
JS: I enjoy it. But my rock ‘n’ roll is old time rock ‘n’ roll. I grew up in the Elvis era and then the Beatles. I enjoy playing guitar, sitting in with bands.
JL: You’re not planning to do a CD, ‘Jerry Springer sings Elvis’, then?
JS: No. There is a CD but it was a country CD that I did a couple of years ago as a lark. I don’t think I’m ready to go after Garth Brooks.
JL: There’s a lot more to you than just the Jerry Springer Show and I think that you would be ideal as President. Would that job interest you?
JS: It’s the best job in the world being President. I can’t be because I was born in England. In fact I left England when I found out I couldn’t be King.
JL: Finally, is there something else you’d like to do?
JS: I’ve been so lucky with these great jobs. If it were in television I think it would be fun to have something like the ‘Tonight’ show…Yeah, I’d enjoy something like that. If it were in politics I think I’d like to be a Senator.