Las Vegas Sun

July 28, 2014

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ON THE STRIP:

Springer hosting talent, not fights

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Sam Morris

Jerry Springer pauses during rehearsal Wednesday of “America’s Got Talent Live,” at Planet Hollywood. The show features contestants from the TV program.

If You Go

  • What: “America’s Got Talent Live”
  • When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays; 4 p.m. Saturdays
  • Where: Planet Hollywood
  • Tickets: $63.95; 785-5000

Beyond the Sun

Every six months or so Jerry Springer likes to take a day off, he says.

He’s only joking, but then again maybe not.

The 65-year-old has hosted the volatile “Jerry Springer Show” for nearly two decades. In August he wrapped up a summer run on Broadway, singing and dancing in the role of Billy Flynn in “Chicago.”

Now he’s in Las Vegas hosting a 10-week engagement of “America’s Got Talent Live!” at Planet Hollywood. The show features eight of the top talents from the hit television show — including last season’s winner, Kevin Skinner, a chicken farmer turned country singer.

Springer works at Planet Hollywood five nights a week and then flies to New York to tape his talk show on Monday and Tuesday in Connecticut.

“I’m a lucky schlub with no talent who gets all these opportunities,” says Springer, former mayor of Cincinnati, former TV news reporter and commentator, and former lawyer.

He’s also former host of the TV show “America’s Got Talent,” serving in that capacity before quitting last year to pursue other interests, including the musical “Chicago” in the West End in London and then on Broadway.

Springer has no plans to slow down.

“At my age, if you slow down it’s over,” he says. “Show business is different from other fields. It only works as long as you’re still working. When I was a lawyer, if I had stayed with the practice, I could have been a lawyer forever, but in show business you’re only working as long as the show is on. Once you retire, you’re done. Few come back.”

Springer says he fell in love with the TV talent show when he began hosting it in 2007.

“It’s the best show I’ve ever done on television,” he says.

The show is produced by Simon Cowell of “American Idol” fame.

It features three judges (Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne and David Hasselhoff) commenting on and voting on unknown talent vying for a $1 million prize and a spot on the Strip in Las Vegas. Although the judges give a thumbs up or down, the winners are chosen by viewers.

Ventriloquist Terry Fator, who headlines at the Mirage, won “America’s Got Talent” in 2007.

Skinner won this year. First runner-up was opera singer Barbara Padilla.

They will be joined onstage at Planet Hollywood by Nuttin But Stringz (a 2008 contestant), Texas Tenors (a singing group), Acrodunk (a basketball dunking act), Hario Torres (a break dancer), Recycled Percussion (a drum group) and Grandma Lee (a comedian).

“The thing I like about this show is that it’s authentically American,” Springer says. “It’s a mirror of what our ideal is — that anybody can define their own dream, their own talent. Everybody gets a shot. You don’t have to be rich or famous or live in Hollywood or have parents in the business. You can be a chicken farmer from Kentucky and you can make it. You can win a million dollars.”

Springer likes the democratic aspect of the show.

“It’s not some executive sitting in an office building in New York or Los Angeles, but it’s the people who decide,” he says.

Springer enjoyed the atmosphere of the show when he was with the program.

“You get to meet the people trying out,” he says. “It’s all a good vibe. They’re there with their families and they’re cheering each other on. No one comes in thinking they’re definitely going to win the million dollars. It’s the idea that they can do something they love; they can compete; they can be the best they can be. Everyone’s cheering for them. There’s no negative to this show.”

Springer says the live stage show may be around longer than the 10-week run, perhaps indefinitely.

“Last year I hosted a one-night show at the MGM Grand featuring most of the finalists,” he says. “It was really successful and the producers decided — and I encouraged them — that this is a show that is perfect for Vegas and it could be forever. The show never has to die out. Every year new people would perform and it would be people that the public wants because they voted for them. You have this 15 weeks of incredible publicity as millions and millions of Americans watch and become vested in these people because they see them from the beginning. We’re along for the journey.

“So when people come to Vegas, whatever they’ve been planning to do, they walk along and see the billboard ‘America’s Got Talent,’ and they’re going to like at least three of the eight or 10 acts. It’s a wonderful family show that everyone can really enjoy, and they know who these people are.”

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