Sunday, February 16, 2003

Jer-EEE! Jer-EEE!

Where did Springer's fans go?


I couldn't help wondering why they stayed away.

In droves.

Famed TV schlockmeister Jerry Springer made a serious political speech Thursday night at Miami University. Tickets were $3, and Millett Hall was set up to handle 2,600. Seating for another 6,000 could have been arranged if - as was the case for an appearance by Colin Powell two years ago - the crowd exceeded expectations.

But only about 300 showed up, and nearly 100 tiptoed out early.

Maybe they were trying to get home in time to see the end of Survivor or Are You Hot? Maybe they had to study. Maybe some students were at the hockey game. Maybe they couldn't resist a documentary film about Vietnam showing at another campus location. Maybe they didn't want to miss Friends. Maybe they are looking elsewhere for tips on politics and leadership. Maybe they heard he left the strippers and dancing transvestites in Chicago.

Springer's speech was billed as "All Politics Is Global." Holly Wissing, a university spokeswoman, said the sponsoring campus groups "did a good job" of posting flyers and posters. They promised "Jerry will speak on a variety of topics including current events, politics, freedom of speech, the show and answer all the questions you've always wanted to ask him."

No mention was made of the "variety of topics" for which his syndicated television show is better known, such as "My Brother is My Lover" or "Lesbian Threesomes with Mom."

The roads were not hazardous. It was a cheap date with a famous guy. So what happened?

Citizen sleazeball

John was surprised by the size of the crowd. He's Jer-EEEE, Jer-EEEE's chauffeur. "We flew in on his twin-engine Cessna. Took us 48 minutes from Chicago," he says. The boss left his Bentley at home. The car, the rented limo and his expensive dark suit, Springer says, are paid for by his "stupid show." The man is rich and not afraid to admit it.

Several times.

He has suggested he might try to unseat Republican Sen. George Voinovich, but "I don't need the work." He spoke about the possibility of war in Iraq "not as a Republican or a Democrat but as a citizen" and warned that "Texas macho is going to make the world so dangerous."

He had some great applause lines: "I don't care how much duct tape you have, you'll never be safe enough." And, "Terrorism makes us all soldiers. You are a soldier as soon as you climb on a plane."

He was, as people who remember from his Channel 5 news commentaries, eloquent and thoughtful. But most people in the audience were the vintage of Doug St. Cyr, a freshman from Nashville, who has only known Springer for the talk show host's past 12 sleazy years. "I just went for the souvenir ticket. But I thought he seemed intelligent."

So maybe news of his appearance didn't reach enough people. Maybe students were not eager to set their moral compass by someone who makes a living smirking about incest and infidelity.

Or perhaps his constituents simply had a prior commitment to attend a mud-wrestling seminar.

E-mail or phone 768-8393.

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