Quick! Pick two pop culture icons right now, one with a musical background and the other from any non-musical, pop culture category. Now imagine the one from the non-musical column singing the other person's music. Chances are you didn't come up with the odd combination of Elvis Presley and daytime talk show host Jerry Springer.
Even if your brain did randomly pair them, you probably think your only chance of seeing the longtime host of the daytime slugfest The Jerry Springer Show and the Game Show Network's Baggage belting out the lyrics to "Burning Love" behind a vintage microphone is in your head. Wrong again.
The talk show host who hears people chant "JER-RY! JER-RY!" every time he walks into a room has flown back to Dallas for the last two Januarys to host a special Elvis themed karaoke show at Big Al's tavern in honor of the late Presley's birthday. He returns to the Tavern tonight at 8 p.m. to continue this local live entertainment tradition. We spoke with Mack and Springer about how this bizarre show started.
Springer says the show started a few years ago when he was in town as a guest on Mack's morning radio show on January 8, Elvis' birthday.
"I said, 'In honor of Elvis, let me give you my impersonation of him,' and I started singing a little Elvis song," Springer says. "Apparently, they liked it."
Mack says that he and his radio crew knew that Springer had performed some Elvis songs in the past, but their ears were not prepared for what they heard.
"The first time I heard it," Mack says, "I was just shocked."
Cut to a year later and Mack was looking for a promotional show for Elvis' birthday at his McKinney Avenue bar. He remembered Springer's on-air rendition and decided to give him a call and see if he'd come back and host an all-Elvis karaoke show for him and his guests.
"So I called his publicist and asked if that was something he'd be interesting in doing," Mack says. "He said sure and flew down here and did it and he was great and we've done it every year since."
Springer says his Elvis impersonations have become a routine when he's on the road promoting his TV show or hosting The Price is Right Live, which he did for a stunned crowd at the Eisemann Center in Richardson in 2012.
The first time Springer remembers doing an Elvis song in front of other people, it was something that happened "purely spur of the moment." Pretty soon, it just became a regular routine because of the stunned reaction it gets, Springer says.
"I find when you do things that are unexpected, it gets a nice reaction," Springer says. "People always come with some image based on my show on what I'm going to be like live or what the show's going to be like and when they find out that the show's just a circus but that's not really me, it's just fun to do."
Springer can also bring out quite a crowd, even when he doesn't have a line of Satan-worshiping trailer trash who love to get spanked by their in-laws waiting behind him to belt each other with chairs and a cloud of fists.
"From the moment he comes in, the crowd starts yelling JER-RY, JER-RY," Mack says. "He takes pictures for 30 to 40 minutes and then he gets up on stage and sings two or three songs ... He's just a genuinely nice guy."
Springer says he spends a lot of time on the road meeting his fans and his TV affiliates because he feels so fortunate to have an audience at all whether it's through a television, in a packed house to hear him do Elvis or on his new podcast.
He says the Elvis impersonation is the least surprising part to him. He describes himself as someone who gets to be himself for a living, even with all of the crazy stuff going on around him.
"The part of show business I enjoy is being in front of a live audience," Springer says. "Just speaking in front of a camera can get boring but if I've got a live audience to play off of, that's fun and whatever I do, I'm always being me. So it's not like I have to learn how to act. It really is the easiest job in the world. Someone pays you to just be you and say whatever comes to your mind."
The fact that he has a career and a name in show business that's lasted 25 years and is still going is what floors him.
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"I'm more of a business man than an entertainer and I realize I've been lucky and successful but that's a fluke," Springer says. "What I'm trained to do is business. No one picked me out of high school or college and said this guy's going to be in show biz, but I'm having so much fun and I don't want to stop and if I stop at my age, it's over. So I'll keep doing it because it's so much fun."
Even so, the Elvis thing does make for a dandy backup plan.
“I could be Elvis at 72," Springer says. "No one knows what he would have sounded like so maybe I’ve got this thing licked.”
The show starts at 8 p.m. Thursday at the MAT. More information at thematonline.com.