Jerry Springer Didn't Say He Was Sick Though He Was 'Saying Goodbye' (2024)

By

Miguel A. Melendez

Published:

12:22 PM PDT, April 27, 2023

It's been just a few hours since Steve Wilkos found out about the death ofJerry Springerandhe's still in shock that the man who changed his life is gone. While reflecting on Springer's legacy, Wilkos tells ET that their get-together about a month ago now all makes sense. Wilkos says Springer was saying "goodbye" without officially saying goodbye.

Wilkos, a longtime fixture on The Jerry Springer Show as head of security before his own spinoff show, spoke to ET's Kevin Frazier and recalled that fateful afternoon when he said Springer called him about getting together for cigars. The former Chicago police officer had just gotten done taping his show, The Steve Wilkos Show (now in its 15th season) and he was tired, but he couldn't say no to the man who had such an impact on his life.

"I really didn't want to go, but it's Jerry and I'm like, 'I want to see the guy and I love him,'" Wilkos recalls. "He never told me he was ill. And now, I think that night I saw him was his way of saying goodbye to me without saying goodbye. I wish I would have known. I think in his way he was telling me goodbye."

Wilkos says he thinks Springer was saying goodbye because their get-togethers were never about reminiscing about the good ol' days they spent together on The Jerry Springer Show. When they would get together, they'd talk about his grandkids or how he's doing. It was never a walk down memory lane, but this meeting about a month ago was exactly that. Only now does Wilkos realize the nature of that conversation and their interaction was unlike any they ever had.

"He embraced me. He hugged me like he had never done before and he was telling me he loves me," Wilkos tells ET. "We sat down, and I think back now, we were reflecting a lot on the good times that we had, which we normally didn't do a lot, but this time it was a lot of reflection on the good times that we had together."

"And I was telling my wife, for me, it makes a lot of sense today," he continues. "I'm hearing that he had pancreatic cancer, but he did not say anything to me. So, I'm really not sure. But if it's true, then he definitely said goodbye to me in a way that he was letting me know that that was the end."Springer's personal publicist confirmed to ET that he died of pancreatic cancer.

Geraldo Rivera, whose daytime talk show, Geraldo, aired from 1987 to 1998, also told ET he was shocked to hear of Springer's death.

"It was shocking to me. I mean, Jerry's just a a few months younger than I am. We kind of had our talk show run in the same era," Rivera said. "He always seemed so full of light, so to get the news that he had passed was quite shocking."

Springer, the iconic talk show host who also was a news anchor in Ohio before becoming the mayor of Cincinnati and then a nationally-syndicated talk show host, died Thursday. He was 79. His family said he died peacefully in his home outside of Chicago.

"I can't get in his head. I don't know why he would keep it a secret," said Rivera of the diagnosis. "But it's a very, very rough illness, so I can only surmise that Jerry didn't want to be the topic of one of his own shows."

Wilkos, who had known Springer for nearly three decades, credits Springer for how his life turned out. Wilkos moonlighted as a security guard on the show when it premiered in 1991. Wilkos thought he'd be a police officer the rest of his life, collect his pension and retire. But his life took a turn after personally meeting Springer, who asked Wilkos to travel with him on the road to provide security. Wilkos obliged, and the rest is history.

"Next year would have been 30 years of knowing Jerry," Wilkos says. "I'm still in shock that I'm never gonna talk to him again. He was 79 years old, but I really thought he'd live to 100."

As for his legacy, Wilkos says Springer will be remembered for his kindness.

"I'm not exaggerating when I say [he was] the nicest man in the world," Wilkos says. "He was a fantastic man, husband, father, friend. It saddens me. Maybe I'm too distraught right now, but I don't think we're gonna have a lot of men coming down the pipe like Jerry was -- open-minded, caring, respectful, listening to other people's opinions."

It's fitting considering Springer ended each and every one of the 4,969 episodes that aired across 27 seasons, "Till next time, take care of yourselves and each other."

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