The “Steve Wilkos Show” host spoke exclusively with Access Hollywood following the death of the talk show icon on Thursday and reflected on the last time they’d seen each other and why the conversation has so much more meaning to him now.
“I saw Jerry a little over a month ago. It was a Wednesday, I got done taping and he sent me a text he goes, ‘Hey, I was in New York I’m coming up I’d love to see ya,'” Wilkos recalled.
The TV personality went on to remember how he felt tired that day but made sure to make plans with Jerry because they hadn’t seen each other in a while. Wilkos said the gathering ended up having more emotional weight than their usual meetups but he had no idea at the time that it would ultimately be their final time together.
“Looking back, I really didn’t think anything unusual was happening. But whenever I would see Jerry we would talk and catch up on things. We weren’t two guys who sit around and talk about the glory days and rehashing old times and all that. Once in a while, but for the most part he would tell me about his grandson and what was going on in his life and I would be catching him up on my kids and we’d be talking baseball. We weren’t two guys who sat and looked in the past a lot. But that night, we did,” Wilkos told Access.
“We reflected a lot and we shared a lot of old stories and he embraced me in a way that he’d never really embraced me. He gave me a hug and was telling me he loved me. I think he knew he was sick. I didn’t even know he was sick until this morning because he looked the same to me,” Wilkos continued. “I knew there was something off, but I certainly didn’t know he had a terminal illness, or whatever he had. I think this was his way of saying goodbye to me.”
Access Hollywood confirmed Springer’s death on Thursday morning. He was 79.
Remembering Jerry Springer: His Life In PhotosView Gallery
According to his family, he died peacefully at his Chicago-area home surrounded by loved ones after a “brief illness.” Springer is survived by his daughter, Katie springer, whom he shared with wife Mickie Velton.
“The Jerry Springer Show” ran for 28 seasons from 1991 to 2018 and is often cited as having revolutionized the genre. He went on to headline the reality courtroom series “Judge Jerry” and made his final tv appearance on “The Masked Singer” last year.
Ahead of launching “The Steve Wilkos Show,” Wilkos got his start as part of Springer’s TV team and he told Access the advice he got from his mentor about how to carve his own on-air presence after many expected him to follow in Springer’s footsteps.
“Jerry was incredibly supportive,” Wikos recalled, adding, “He said, ‘Hey man, just be yourself. Don’t be me. Do your own thing.'”
In a statement following the news of Springer’s passing, Wilkos paid tribute to how much the media legend and former politician had helped change his life.
“Other than my father, Jerry was the most influential man in my life. Everything I have today I owe to Jerry. He was the smartest, most generous, kindest person I’ve ever known. My wife and I are devastated. We will miss him terribly,” the statement read.
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