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After weeks of heavy competition and several breathtaking performances on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, the winner and final five will appear for three nights starting tomorrow at Caesars Palace with Jerry Springer as host. The shows through Sunday are the only place in America that fans will see the live acts.
Soulful vocalist and Frank Sinatra-styled sound-alike Landau Eugene Murphy, the winner, will be joined by artistic dance troupe The Silhouettes, choreographed technology act Team Illuminate, teen rock band PopLyfe, illusionist Landon Swank and 11-year-old Alaskan singer-songwriter Anna Graceman.
Joining the cast will be our hometown Season 5 winner singer-guitarist Michael Grimm and the winner of Australia’s Got Talent Jack Vidgen, who has become a global YouTube sensation with his soul singing. Then Jerry returns for two sets of double duty as celebrity host from Nov. 9-20 and Nov. 30-Dec. 11 to celebrate the fifth anniversary of The Price Is Right Live! at Bally’s.
I caught up with the former Mayor of Cincinnati just before he jetted to his hometown of London -- yes, he’s English, too. He arrived here Tuesday night to start yesterday’s AGT rehearsals after shooting a new TV series in the British capital with former Las Vegas comedy resident Wayne Brady.
It was obvious our conversation would start with the success of our hometown hero Michael and the upcoming concert at Mandalay Bay for tween sensation Jackie Evancho with hit-maker David Foster.
Robin Leach: What did you think of the progress of Michael Grimm and Jackie Evancho with both landing on The Strip?
Jerry Springer: That is great. The truth is the show has a pretty good track record because one of the most successful shows on The Strip came from our second season -- my first -- with Terry Fator at the Mirage. He jumped from the show to a huge success. And Jackie Evancho is just the hottest thing going in her category. Even, God’s truth, my 3-year-old grandson is fascinated by watching, almost every day, her DVD, her album Just Loving It.
So you can see what a fan base she has and Michael Grimm now with his own headline show coming to the Flamingo in December. The show now has a real track record and is an added incentive for people with this great dream to break into show business. It’s not a bad thing to break into show business on a show that is open to everybody and to immediately get any degree of success with a national audience of millions and millions of people several weeks in a row. Even if you don’t win, you still get a leg up. So, it’s really worked out well. I’m not saying that anyone knew that it would work out in the beginning, it was just a hope, but the reality is it is a great success.
R.L.: Answer any critic who might question how the show produces one winner and the other people who don’t win first place slowly get forgotten?
J.S.: That’s simply not true because obviously Jackie Evancho didn’t win, and she’s produced the No. 1-selling album, her premiere first-run album. Obviously, and in fairness, it’s not just America’s Got Talent. It’s the same with the history of American Idol. Sometimes the person that doesn’t win goes on to have even a bigger career. These shows give lots and lots and lots of people a real shot at making it with a huge audience. In fact, it’s not the producers of America’s Got Talent that actually create the stars. It’s the viewing public who decide.
Will everyone become a star? Of course not. But think of how many additional people who had no connections, no way of really breaking into the business until about eight years ago when these shows all started to really become popular on television. Let’s face it, back then there were about 10 people in the music industry that would decide whether or not you’re going to be a star. Now all of the sudden, you have these television shows, it’s really what I call the democratization of the entertainment business.
It really is democracy. Anyone can audition, anyone gets a shot, it’s the people who decide, the people who vote, it’s not some fat cat in New York or Hollywood that’s making the decision, and that’s what entertainment has become now. It’s not just with our shows, it’s just in general. It’s the Internet, it’s YouTube, it’s these voting shows, it’s Dancing With the Stars. Look how many people really got their careers going again because of Dancing With the Stars. So it’s the people who vote, the people who decide, and that is how I believe the industry has changed in the last 10 years. It’s really become a democracy now.
R.L.: Jerry, you’ll be in Vegas for The Price Is Right and America’s Got Talent, but you’re known best for The Jerry Springer Show. Would you ever think of doing a week’s run away from your Connecticut studio right on our Strip?
J.S.: I would, but that’s obviously up to NBC Universal, who own us. It would be fairly expensive, but if f you’re asking me would I be willing to do it, of course. I love Vegas; in a heartbeat, I would do it.
R.L.: Do you think we have enough crazy people here?
J.S.: Yeah, yeah, how about every 10 feet on The Strip. I don’t think it’d be difficult. Look, you can find any place in America, any place in the world you know, there’s not one street in America where you couldn’t find someone who could be on our show. I’ve seen every form of dysfunctional behavior, so I’m never surprised anymore. You can’t be a grownup in today’s world and be shocked by anything anymore. That’s the truth. You may be surprised that something happens to someone you know, but there is no event, no situation, there is no circumstance that we haven’t heard about. I mean all you have to do is read any newspaper in America, and by the time you get to Page 3, you’ve got 20 shows. It’s any place in the world.
I mean this notion that the people that are on my show are different, the only thing which makes them different is that they are willing to go on a show and talk about it, and most of us would never do that. But this idea that there is just this one class of people, you know, believe me you could go into the wealthiest neighborhoods of America and find exactly the same dysfunction, it’s just performed with better language and they dress better, and you know, they have the agents to put a nice take on it. But the reality is who are we kidding? Human beings behave in all different ways, most of us behave properly most of the time, but every once in a while, there is a slip-up.
Some people like to advertise it, talk about it, revel in it, I mean some people do their best to say, ‘You know, I’m not proud, and let’s keep it quiet,’ and that’s the only difference, but there is nothing on my show that I can honestly tell you as a grownup, gee, I didn’t know that ever happened. I didn’t know there are people who are transgender, I didn’t know that there are people who cheat, I didn’t know that there are people that curse, but of course we now know that. Until my show came along, we had never seen that on television before. That’s true, but beyond that, in term’s of the world, my God, in my lifetime we’ve had a Holocaust, we’ve had presidential assassinations, we’ve had scandal, we’ve had 9/11, impeachment votes. I mean what haven’t we had.
R.L.: Jerry, what causes those amazing fistfights when people get so riled up?
J.S.: I think it’s because they watched the show forever. I’ve always maintained if you could put these same people on Oprah’s show, they probably, even though the stories would be the same, would behave better. Just because they would say oh my gosh, we are on Oprah’s show, let’s behave. They come on my show that they go, well, security is going to break us up, and there they go. The thing is you can’t have it two ways, in other words, you can either have the show be honest and sometimes it won’t be polite or, you can have it polite, but it won’t always be honest.
They might start out trying to be polite, but deep down inside they’re really angry. So, what works with our show is its authenticity. This is what people really feel. If you went into their neighborhood or their homes, the chances are that a lot of this cursing and wrestling around would probably be going on. It’s oftentimes the behavior we don’t like to see is because it is inappropriate, but not because it isn’t authentic.
[Editor’s note: The Jerry Springer Show is now in its record-breaking 21st season -- it started in September 1991. Two million people still tune in daily, and there have been more than 4,000 shows produced with at least 10 guests per show -- so more than 40,000 dysfunctional people: As Jerry says: “Its own city!”]
R.L.: You’re heading home to London before arriving in Las Vegas?
J.S.: Yep, I’m off to London in the hour to shoot Wayne Brady’s new show called Trust Us With Your Life. They interview you, talk about your life for 10 to 15 minutes, and then they do your life in improv. They’ll take the stories and then go and improv, you know, making your life story funny. I think it starts January on ABC.
I’m doing another show while I’m in England, called My London, for the BBC where they take well-known people and what they love best about London, their connection to London, and mine of course will be my birth there and my first five years there, where I lived. I fly back to Connecticut to tape five more of my own shows, and then right to Vegas to start rehearsals for Talent on Wednesday.
I love being so busy. That’s the truth. The only negative is it takes me away from my family, from my grandson, you know, that kind of stuff, that’s really the only negative. Otherwise, I obviously love what I do, it’s exciting. It keeps me feeling somewhat young, even though the reality is I’m not. The show is 21 years strong, and I guess I can let you know that I have informed NBC Universal that I will be stopping the show when I’m 104, so that’s when it will be final.
As long as I am healthy and I enjoy doing it and people seem to like the show, then there is no reason to stop it. You know, at some point I’m sure. I hope it’s because I’ve lost interest, not because I’m not healthy enough anymore. But at some point, I’m sure I’ll stop it. Right now for the foreseeable future, it’s doing great. … There is no reason to stop.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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