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Run, Jerry, Run? 

We need more chair throwing in the Senate

I had to giggle when I saw a recent editorial page blurb about TV talker Jerry Springer testing the water to run for US Senate. I quote: "Mr. Springer's experience includes more than just providing opportunities for chair-throwing by men who've fathered children by their wives' mothers, or whatever. He was elected mayor of Cincinnati at age 33 and served five terms on city council. And he was an award-winning television journalist."Is Jerry Springer kidding about this Senate run? From my experience, probably not. And face it; we've had an actor as president, a pro wrestler as a governor, a "Love Boat" star in Congress, and Sonny Bono on the Hill.

Let's at least set the record straight about a couple of things, or at least bring up a couple of points to ponder. Yes, Springer was "a popular mayor in Cincinnati," but that higher ambition was tainted by a 1974 raid on a Kentucky prostitution ring, where a personal check with Springer's name on it surfaced. He resigned from city council, but was re-elected just a year later.

In 1982, Springer ran for governor and lost, and that's when his base for being the center of attention shifted from the political arena to the hotter spotlight of television. That same year, the third-rated NBC affiliate, WLWT-TV in Cincinnati, said "What the hell, he has name recognition," and hired Springer as a political reporter and editorialist. A few short years later, he was main anchorman and known for his nightly commentary at the end of the 11 o'clock news. It was a hell of a TV story, with WLWT going from third to first in their market.

By the time I walked into the station, working on special projects for the news department in 1990, Springer was riding high. He was a fun guy to be around, intelligent, a true political liberal, but you wouldn't trust him with your little sister or even your mom. And he was married.

Unlike Charlotte, where popular news anchors are so anything-but-colorful and PC about their opinions, Springer was king of a city known for some pretty unique characters (Pete Rose, Carl Lindner, Sheriff Simon Leis).

To show you how confident he was, he had no qualms when I put him and a news photographer in disguise and sent them to live on the streets for a week to "chronicle" the homeless population with a hidden camera. "Street Diary," as we called it, was a sweeps success, and we won a regional Emmy for it. Springer and I weren't friends, and I'd bet you a buck he'd scratch his head trying to recall my name today.

After that, though, Multimedia was readying for Phil Donahue's retirement and was looking for a male host. They began to produce a show with Springer out of Cincinnati. At first, the content was typical: Richard Simmons as a guest, courageous kids with diseases. But it didn't work, and a TV sleazefest was spawned. Jerry went for the big bucks, and didn't care about notoriety. He'd been at that bus stop before.

So back to a bid for the US Senate. Let's think like a political spin doctor: disclosed any scandals? Check. Name recognition with voters, especially younger ones? Check. White and rich? Check, and check. Able to get his message out on TV and the Internet? Already on it, boss.

The biggest liability will be the thing that's made him famous: the television show. Or will it? Our collective cynicism about politics and the people who run for office is at an all-time high, as the political season has begun much too early again. Run, Jerry, run? It would make a good movie. If he runs, Jerry Springer might not win, but believe me, he wouldn't be afraid to lose.

Hiring a bookend? I'm talking a bookend for wacko weatherman Mark Mathis. We'll find out next month, as Ari Bergeron joins Fox18 as its sports anchor after a stint in Oklahoma City.Being touted as the "Sinister Minister of Sports," he apparently has shtick in his bag, and will have main sports duties, replacing Paul Butler, who's moved to news. Bergeron will host the new "Panthers Unleashed" NFL post-game show. WCCB-TV is the new "official" station for the Panthers. Wonder if he'll do the Mathis drag thing?

Speaking of wacky, a beloved "member" of Charlotte's Perch comedy troupe can be seen nationwide on MTV2 in its first consumer ad campaign. The "Talking Baby," a plastic infant who spouts adult themes, shall we say, is the face of commercial spots that will run coast to coast.Local ad agency Boone/Oakley, which reps MTV in North Carolina, brought "Talking Baby" to the music network's attention. "Baby" creator Sean Keenan will be writing and performing all the spots. "Baby," we can say we knew you when.

Stay tuned...

Shannon Reichley is an independent television producer and former news manager at WBTV. E-mail her at

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