In 1998, while I was out on bond from the Treutlen County debacle, it was the height of Springer-mania. Drummer #11 of Dick Delicious (Rick aka “Hardon Long”) helped book Jerry Springer guests on the side. When he played his first show with the band, we had never even met him in person. He was our booking agent. After the previous drummer quit, he said he knew the material good enough to play it, we took him at his word, he met us at a club in North Carolina and did a solid job considering we didn't have one rehearsal.
After a while, Rick moved from Raleigh to Atlanta, and made the suggestion “Jay, you are a ham – you should go on the Springer Show.” I said, “Sure.” Truth be told, I'm not a Jerry Springer fan. I just thought it would be a funny story to tell later and guess what? You're reading this blog.
Jerry Springer‘s people called and asked if I wanted to be a jealous boyfriend of a girl posing for Playboy. Since I had already been in the porn industry for a while, I explained I was the wrong guy, but if they wanted a pimp, a drug dealer, or any other kind of scumbag — I was their man. They asked me to send a headshot, so I faxed one (yes, I said “fax”) and they agreed I was indeed a despicable curmudgeon and booked me immediately.
10 minutes later, after and extensive plot writing session, Jerry's producers called me with a new show premise and asked if I wanted to be a pimp who will not let his hoes out of servitude “come rain, sleet, or snow” unless they coughed up the cash they owed. This role, I happily accepted. A few weeks later, I’m in a Motel 6 in downtown Chicago preparing to film the show with my friend Scott from the Spo-its, who agreed to play the part of the jealous boyfriend, along with a bunch of people we didn’t know who were other characters in the episode.
These were the years when Jerry was still showing all of the fights. Scott and I agreed that we would try to kick each other’s asses because we knew neither one of us would get many swings in before security stormed us. The show taped on Monday, and we were in Chicago from Thursday till then rehearsing for a few short hours per day in the hotel room with a producer. In truth, myself and the ensemble spent most of that time in Wicker Park getting hammered at hipster bars.
When Monday came around, we had to be at the studio at 9 AM. The previous night, we all drank until 5 AM and hadn’t slept. I think I had sex with one of the strippers who was one of my “prostitutes.” 7 AM the head producer shows up and the entire cast was still drunk. I recognized the producer as “Bud Green,” who was a fake marijuana advocate who's big schtick was smoking joints on talk shows and getting thrown off set.
He asked me, “Where Is Your Suit?”
I told him, “I don't have one. I thought you guys did.”
I didn't bring any decent clothes, so they rushed me to Nordstroms and bought me an Armani suit. The suit was supposed to be custom tailored, but in the green room, they managed to make it fit me via scotch tape, thumbtacks, and bobby pins.
Despite the disorganization, I looked pretty legit.
In the green room, reality kicked in: I’m not an actor, I’m not a pimp. What the fuck am I doing here? Here I am, 10 minutes away from going on the biggest show on daytime television and I knew I was a total sham.
To say the least, I was nervous.
As the show began, I sat backstage and watched from the monitor as “my prostitute” explained her tribulations to Jerry. A thunderous “boo” resounded from the audience. In real life Jerry recently lost his bid to be Governor because he was busted with hookers, in part for trying to pay one with a personal check. I asked if I could bring this up and was warned to not even try.
When Jerry was interviewing her, she started crying: She was great! After watching, I felt slightly emboldened. I was still quite anxious, but I went out, and acted like the biggest bastard I could. When I saw the horrified reaction from the audience, I fed off of it, and this pushed me to be an even bigger slimeball. Scott came out in the next segment, we exchanged a few blows, talked about slapping hoes, insulted the entire restaurant industry, and Scott expressed his displeasure about his girlfriend coming home “smelling like an open can of cat food”, just before proposing. The show culminated with my epic Shakespearean-like improvised monolog about “how pimping ain’t easy”.
It was classic. Here is a clip I found on Youtube:
The show aired on Friday the 13th 1998. When the ratings hit the following Monday, it was the first time Jerry had ever surpassed Oprah. Springer was now the #1 talk show on television. By Monday afternoon, I was getting calls to come back and film a follow-up. Two weeks later, Scott and I were back in Chicago playing the same parts.
On the second show, I had to be escorted through the back entrance because there was a huge line of people around the Studio. The producers explained, “We got a lot of mail based on your appearance. 50% of it was from outraged viewers that want to kill you, and the other half was from girls that want your number.”
I found this quite amusing.
The second Springer appearance was good, but the cast wasn't as strong as the first. I took a few good shots in the jaw that day, but nothing I couldn't handle. Even though I didn't feel it was as solid as the first episode, it still exploded in the ratings. Before I even left Chicago, they were making arrangements for a third appearance.
After filming, they shuffled us to the airport within ten minutes after wrapping. I remember one of the strippers was on the same flight as me, still dressed in her outfit from the show and we recognized Senator Paul Simon at our gate. She ran up and hung on him long enough so people could snap a bunch of pictures. To this day, I'm surprised they never surfaced.
While the third show was coming together, the producers cut out Rick and started calling me to recruit guests. In the next few months, half of my scumbag Atlanta friends had been on the show. Meanwhile, I was getting stalked 24/7 by news media from New York and undercover reporters trying to be the first to break the “Jerry Springer is fake story”. It was surreal. I had producers from various networks showing up at Dick Delicious shows trying to say they would feature the band if I would talk about the episode. Another time, the cheesy “undercover reporter” with the camera clearly hidden in his bowtie was waiting for me in my parking lot. I told him there's no way I'm going to talk to the guy whose claim to fame as he caught people pissing in coffee makers. I never went on record to them regarding the show, my Italian side would never allow me to “snitch”, plus I'd signed a contract with the Jerry Springer show holding me responsible for 40k production costs if “my story was not authentic”, which I found ironic.
Two weeks later, 20/20 broke the big story with another group of “fake” Springer guests. In a statement from the show, Bud Green became the “one rogue producer” and was fired. Everyone on the Springer staff, including Jerry, knew it was bogus! On the second show, in lieu of purchasing a second Armani suit, they lent me one of Jerry's! The guy was looking at me wearing his own clothes for Christ sake!
When I returned to Georgia, I was a low-rent George Clooney for two weeks. The day the show aired some of the guys from the band and I made the cultural misstep of going to a monster truck pull. The entire audience recognized me, and I remember wrapping a towel around my head, so I looked more like the Taliban and drew less attention. I got into a scuffle on the Marta train with a redneck who is trying to look tough for his girlfriend. I ended it by stepping outside of the train, waiting for the door to close, and hitting him with a solid right to the jaw, then then giving him the middle finger the train pulled away.
About a year later “The Best of Jerry Springer DVD” came out and I was the first scene on it.
There was my 15 minutes of fame.
Or so I thought.