The Fox and the Hounds

Last week’s interrogation of Jerry Springer by the Chicago City Council’s Committee on Police and Fire produced some choice moments–which you probably missed if you weren’t glued to Court TV. For one thing, it was the first time in recent memory that Alderman Dorothy Tillman arrived on time. Normally she waltzes in at least a half hour late.

Alderman Edward Burke, the lead questioner, started out by hounding Springer with technical questions about how Jerry Springer is run–how the show leases space and equipment, etc.

Springer: Call the legal department. They’d probably know that stuff.

Burke: The legal department? Is there a name?

Springer: Y’know what? Call Studios USA [the company that produces and distributes the show]. You call ’em and you say, ‘Can I speak with the legal department?’ I swear, they’ll probably connect you.

Burke: What should I say–that Jerry Springer doesn’t know whether or not he has a lease at NBC Tower, doesn’t know the terms of the lease, doesn’t know how much the station pays in licensing fees, doesn’t know how much he gets paid…

Springer: My guess is we do lease the space. Let’s go over your questions again. You asked me, do we lease the space? I said I imagine we do. You ask me how much it is. I don’t know. You ask me about the equipment. I assume it belongs to them. You can get the exact answers. In fact, every single question you asked, you can get the answer if you’re really interested in getting the answer. If you’re interested in making a show here and just trying to beat up our show, that’s fine. But you know you can get those answers, don’t you? Don’t you know that you can find out who has that lease, sir? You don’t have to be asking me. You know that. This is–there you are, that’s what we’re doing this for, isn’t it?

Burke: I don’t know. Are we, Mr. Springer?

Springer: I’m here at your invitation, God love ya. You invited me someplace. I’m here, I’m glad to be here, but this is your show, not mine. My show is at NBC Tower.

Burke: I didn’t invite you, Mr. Springer. I assume the chairman of the committee [Alderman William Beavers] invited you.

Beavers: I invited him. I called NBC. I asked for the legal department, and they gave me the legal department. And I asked ’em, where was Jerry Springer? And I talked to somebody in the legal department, and they got back to me. I looked it up in the–I dialed zero or 411, one of the two.

Alderman Burton Natarus questioned Springer, then Tillman interrupted, asking Springer to clarify a point. Springer answered Tillman’s question, but apparently not to her satisfaction.

Natarus: Mr. Chairman, can I finish my questions?

Tillman: My clarification–

Natarus: Why do you interrupt me, Dorothy? I don’t interrupt you when you are asking questions.

Springer: Throw a chair at her.

Toward the end of the hearing Burke seemed a trifle desperate.

Burke: Lemme ask you something else. [He stands up holding up a big book.] If I was to suddenly grab this book and walk up to you and smack you with it, would you think I was commiting a violation? Would you think I was committing a violation of the law?

Springer [to the cameramen]: Take a picture of this, ’cause this is what you want.

Burke: You’d think I was violating the law, wouldn’t you?

Springer [to Tillman]: You want him to do it?

Beavers: Alderman Burke, as a peace officer, sittin’ here, y’know what I would advise [Springer] to do? Get a warrant.

—Cate Plys

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Mike Werner.