by DAN SEWELL/AP

CINCINNATI (AP) — Jerry Springer, the onetime mayor and news anchor whose namesake TV show featured a three-ring circus of dysfunctional guests willing to bare all — sometimes literally — as they brawled and hurled obscenities before a raucous audience, died Thursday at 79.

At its peak, “The Jerry Springer Show” was a ratings powerhouse and a U.S. cultural pariah, synonymous with lurid drama. Known for chair-throwing and bleep-filled arguments, the daytime talk show was a favorite American guilty pleasure over its 27-year run, at one point topping Oprah Winfrey’s show.

Jerry Springer speaks in New York in 2010 (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Springer called it “escapist entertainment,” while others saw the show as contributing to a dumbing-down decline in American social values.

“Jerry’s ability to connect with people was at the heart of his success in everything he tried whether that was politics, broadcasting or just joking with people on the street who wanted a photo or a word,” said Jene Galvin, a family spokesperson and friend of Springer’s since 1970, in a statement. “He’s irreplaceable and his loss hurts immensely, but memories of his intellect, heart and humor will live on.”

At 79, Jerry Springer died peacefully at home in suburban Chicago after a brief illness, the statement said.

On his Twitter profile, Springer jokingly declared himself as “Talk show host, ringmaster of civilization’s end.” He also often had told people, tongue in cheek, that his wish for them was “may you never be on my show.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Springer greets supporters at a 1982 rally on Fountain Square in Cincinnati, Ohio (AP Photo, File)

After more than 4,000 episodes, the show ended in 2018, never straying from its core salaciousness: Some of its last episodes had such titles as “Stripper Sex Turned Me Straight,” “Stop Pimpin’ My Twin Sister,” and “Hooking Up With My Therapist.”

In a “Too Hot For TV” video released as his daily show neared 7 million viewers in the late 1990s, Springer offered a defense against disgust.

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