People You Should Know in Chicago

Steve Wilkos

Intro music starts

Howard Ankin: I’m attorney Howard Ankin with Chicagoans You Should Know and I’m here with Steve Wilkos to kind of understand his background and his life story. (Ankin points to Wilkos’s face) So this look is the Steve Wilkos on TV.

Steve Wilkos: (Rubs his head) Well this is what did it right here.

Ankin: So, you’re from Chicago.

Wilkos: I grew up right down the street from Wrigley Field, I grew up in Rascal Village and I went to Lane Tech high school and after high school I went into the Marines.

Ankin: While you’re a Chicago police officer, that’s when you get the invite to do security on Jerry Springer?

Wilkos: So I did…I was a Chicago police when I did Springer, so I got on the police department in 1990. I got on Jerry Springer in 1994 and I left the police department in 2001. I went from a role of just being a security officer, I went to kind of being Jerry’s sidekick on the show so.

Ankin: And how did that transition that you became the sidekick?

Wilkos: Well, I think it was a natural kind of selection by the fans because I was always breaking up the fight so I was always in the middle of the action so the audience kind of was drawn to me there.

There wasn’t a lot of white bald guys on TV so that really, I stood out and people were just drawn and I remember, this was before email, people would write letters into the show. I was in the hallway in the NBC tower and somebody came up, it was the very first time somebody asked me for an autograph.

Ankin: Were any of these fights like true fights where you really ever worried about getting your nose broken or something or was this kind of…

Wilkos: Well I certainly did suffer my injuries. I had two back surgeries, I had a concussion, I tore my groin on the show, so the fights were real and…

Ankin: My first question is, how come I didn’t get the workers’ compensation? Steve laughs

Wilkos: If I would’ve known you, I probably would’ve used that.

Howard and Steve laugh and joke some more

Wilkos: How, you know the first time I did Springer, you know it was easy to do because it’s the Springer Show and you know what it is, but my first show, you really don’t know what you’re doing, right, it’s like they just threw you behind a plane, okay now land it, you know. What the hell, I didn’t get trained to do this and so that’s kind of how I felt with my show.

Ankin: How much input do you put into like the topics for the show versus like the management of the station picking the topics?

Wilkos: Well there’s only one person responsible for doing the topics that we do and that’s my wife who’s my executive producer but maybe there was times when I didn’t like a certain type of show or whatever but she’s like, “just do it, this is what’s best for the show,” she’s in charge of…I really have no input.

Ankin and Wilkos joke around

Wilkos: This is our 12th season, like true crimes we’re doing homicides so it’s good that we’re constantly in a state of change.

Ankin: And what’s your opinion between how your show is and let’s say, like how Jerry Springer Show used to be?

Wilkos: On Springer, I swear it was like going to high school, hanging out with your friends, it was just fun and crazy, where mine show, these are people that have serious issues going on in their lives and they need answers, they need the truth, same issues I dealt with being a policeman—we brought it on the TV so that’s the difference. The Springer Show was fun and people having just kind of a great time and my show is people looking for justice, looking for answers and we’re trying to get that for them.

Ankin: So I guess my one big last question for you is when one of your fans calls and they say I’ve been in an auto accident, hurt at work…

Wilkos: You call Howard Ankin, the best lawyer in town!

Ankin: Thanks, do appreciate it.

Howard and Steve shake hands

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