CHICAGO – I fooled them. I got in. I’m sitting three rows from the stage of the TV show that may end civilization. The host introduces his first guest, a woman who had sex with 50 men in one day. The crowd laughs, then barks, “Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!”
From where I sit, I could reach back and touch Jerry Springer’s crooked nose.
I’m incognito, doing undercover reporting, you see. I sneaked into “The Jerry Springer Show” under the guise of – get this – a Jerry Springer fan.
I’m here despite “Springer” officials’ resistance. But I’ve got First Amendment rights. You know about that, Jerry.
In early March, I called the show’s publicist. I left four messages, asking politely if I could see a taping and write about it. No one responded.
Then I called the audience ticket hotline and got several dozen busy signals.
So I wrote a sloppy letter, complete with misspelled words (audience was “audeence”), asking for a ticket to “my favoritte show.”
Four weeks later, I got one.
And now I sit in the studio while a guest, Brandi, discusses having sex with 50 strangers in one day for a porno film.
She explains this as if it’s as normal as brushing your teeth; as if we – the American public – should just loosen up; as if sex in such quantities, for profit, is reasonable.
Jerry smiles and says we’ll take a break, then bring out Brandi’s boyfriend.
“The Jerry Springer Show” sends audience members a lengthy letter about clothing (no sports logo attire) and how we must arrive two hours before taping.
Our IDs are checked, because you must be at least 18 to enter. Another staffer checks our tickets with her computerized list of names.
Then it’s through a metal detector, up an elevator, down the hall and into the “holding room,” the studio’s waiting area. That’s where about 150 of us sit shoulder-to-shoulder on folding chairs.
During our hot, uncomfortable and long wait, a European TV crew, promoting “Springer” abroad, enters.
A crew member announces that the grandmotherly woman wanting to interview Springer fans is “Europe’s Oprah.” The woman seems peeved at the hyperbole.
She then asks if anyone drove here a long distance to see the program.
A teen shouts, “Nine hours.” The camera crew zeros in on her. She asks why the teen likes this vile show.
“It’s fun. It’s wild,” the teen says.
The woman behind me snickers. She tells her friend, “I love it because I see people get the (expletive) beat out of them.”
The European reporter eventually finds someone willing to make a relatively insightful statement.
“Jerry,” this burly biker-type announces, “is the ringmaster of `The Greatest Show On Earth.’ ”
That sends Jerry’s fans through the roof.
With two European cameramen filming us, we chant “Jerry!” as if we’re on fire and only Springer – the 54-year-old, former mayor of Cincinnati and Rolling Stone cover subject – could save us.
You expect the man who’s been ripped by everyone from pious commentator William Bennett to a Democratic senator from Connecticut to be all swagger.
Instead, Springer seems kinda embarrassed when we react to him as if Kurt Cobain returned from the dead.
He tells us dumb jokes before the show. “I don’t like cocaine,” he says, “but it smells good.”
Then he asks for questions. Someone mentions the announcement by the show’s distributor four days ago that the show’s fighting will stop – something Springer already had denied.
“We will edit out violence,” he says while shaking his head “no.”
With that, Springer leaves, and a stage manager warns us – with a grin wider than his beer belly – that there will be nudity during this taping.
There’s no title yet for this show, but when it airs next month it’ll probably be: Porn Stars Addicted to Sex!
I can’t take notes during the taping – remember, I’m a spy in the house of hate – but here’s what I recall:
Brandi’s boyfriend didn’t seem too upset with her sexual exploits on film with 50 guys, as long as they wore condoms. Then Brandi’s lesbian lover appeared, giving Brandi a long kiss.
Later, three Regular Joes who participated in the sex-capade join the fray. Then two more porn stars talk about how they loved the sex marathon.
The opposition is a porn star’s friend who thinks this video is deplorable. They push each other.
A Regular Joe is joined by his ex-girlfriend and his sister, both of whom rant about his bad behavior.
(Got it so far?)
Then porn star Candi arrives. She flashes her surgically enhanced breasts so many times, it’s as if this is her nervous tick.
At one point, she shoves her breasts into one of the porn naysayer’s face, and they push – but it doesn’t turn into a chair-throwing fiasco.
The show’s final guest is a rotund, white-haired porn director named John T. Bone. He defends the sex-athon porn video:
“It’s disgusting, Jerry, but it sells.”
Finally, Springer comments on the topic, which he does at the end of every show.
“Sex,” he says solemnly as if in prayer, “should be about feelings. What we saw today had nothing to do with that.”
Jerry, there’s no difference between John T. Bone peddling a porn tape, however nauseating, and your show.
When the show’s pushing match started, I turned from the fighting to watch the host. Springer looked disappointed when it fizzled before becoming an all-out brawl.