Jerry Springer’s heartbroken former bodyguard, Steve Wilkos, revealed that the TV host hugged him “like he’s never hugged me before” and didn’t reveal his cancer battle when they last met.
Wilkos, 59, who was on The Jerry Springer Show for several seasons from 1994 to 2007, said when he and Springer hung out about a month ago, he didn’t mention his pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
He told TMZ Live that he may have “said goodbye to me” as they reminisced about old times, something they rarely did.
Springer passed away at his home in Chicago on Thursday at the age of 79.
Springer seemed to reference his illness, saying during an interview last year that he wanted to retire while “still healthy” after NBCUniversal canceled its last show, Judge Jerry.
Pictured: Steve Wilkos and Jerry Springer. Springer passed away at his home in Chicago on Thursday at the age of 79
Pictured: Springer and Wilkos hugging. The Jerry Springer Show went off the air in 2018
He added, “I don’t have to make a living. I want to enjoy life.’
Wilkos then started The Steve Wilkos Show, which first aired in 2007 and is now in its 16th season.
The show deals with family and criminal law, true crime and relationship conflict.
Wilkos said Jerry was the person who had the most impact on his life and credited him for launching his career.
Wilkos was a cop patrolling the streets of Chicago in 1994 when a cop friend, Mike McDermott, asked him if he would be interested in performing in security on Springer’s show, where he became a popular figure.
Wilkos said that Springer always had his back and that he had always believed that his good friend would outlive him.
Pictured: Wilkos in action on the Jerry Springer Show. Wilkos was a cop patrolling the streets of Chicago in 1994 when a cop friend asked him if he was interested in a security appearance on the show
The Jerry Springer Show was known for its raw TV moments.
On his Twitter profile, Springer jokingly referred to himself as a “talk show host, ringmaster of the end of civilization.”
His audience would cheer his name, while his outrageous guests would get into fights – blowing out frequent expletive-filled diatribes.
Springer called it “escapist entertainment,” while others saw it as contributing to a decline in American social values.
His show was so popular in the 90s that it even surpassed Oprah Winfrey’s program in several cities.
The show went off the air in 2018, but Springer went on to host Judge Jerry, which ran for three seasons.
His last TV appearance was on The Masked Singer last season where he performed as The Beetle to sing a Frank Sinatra classic.
Springer is survived by his daughter Katie, who is deaf and blind, and his sister Evelyn.
David Hasselhoff paid tribute to Springer in a tweet on Thursday.
He said: ‘I never thought I would lose a special friend filling in for me as Captain Hook in the Wimbledon pantomime.
“He was a wonderful, wonderful person and I am saddened by his passing. What happens to a broken heart?’
Pictured: Jerry Springer hosts his show, which ran from 1994 to 2007. Wilkos said when they last met, he may have “said hi”
Pictured: Springer and Wilkos on The Steve Wilkos Show. The series is now in its 16th season
In another tribute, Piers Morgan wrote, “Jeez, this sucks. TV icon and such an intelligent, warm, funny man.
“Loved working with him (on America’s Got Talent), loved hanging out with him (we lived in the same hotel for 2 years), loved arguing with him (he loved his politics) , loved everything about him. Stripping.’
When asked in 1994 if he wanted to work on the show, Wilkos said he had never heard of it but wanted to make some extra money, so he agreed.
He recalled his first batch of episodes centering on the KKK, which meant security had to be on hand in case fighting and rioting broke out.
But he quickly learned that there would be many more challenging rows to break up over the next decade while on the show.
Producers said it was Wilkos’ no-nonsense attitude mixed with fatherly compassion that drew viewers to him – a personality that matched Springer’s well.
In 2006, Springer joined Dancing with the Stars and Wilkos acted as host.
Springer ended up competing for seven rounds, giving Wilkos over 30 episodes to cover.
He made such an impression that Springer decided to recruit him to fill in every Monday.