MARINE CORPS RECRUITING STATION RALEIGH, N.C. --
You’ve seen the Jerry Springer Show. You’ve seen chairs flying across the room, fights, swearing, screaming, and when times get tough, who is always there to keep the situation under control? One man is keeping Jerry’s guests in check.
You may know him as “Steve the Security Guard,” but the Marine Corps knew him as Sgt. Steve Wilkos.
Steve grew up in a military family and said he always figured he’d serve his country someday.
“My father was a paratrooper in the Army during the Korean War,” Steve said. “When I started talking about the military, he told me the Corps was the best outfit out there and that I should try to be a part of it.”
Steve was recruited into the Marine Corps by Sgt. Ulsa Harris and went to Marine Corps Recruit Training in October of 1982. Steve said he had an extremely positive recruiting experience and that he believes Marine Corps recruiters are the embodiment of what it means to be a U. S. Marine.
“I had a great recruitment experience,” Steve explained. “Sergeant Harris was a ‘Marine’s Marine’ and the main reason I wanted to join the Corps.”
After graduating from Parris Island, S.C., he attended Military Occupational Specialty School at Camp Johnson, N.C., to be trained as an administrative clerk.
“Originally I wanted to go open contract because I thought I’d end up with something cool, but my recruiter reminded me that I might end up with something I don’t like,” he said.
Steve left the Marines in March of 1989 after serving nearly six and a half years on active duty.
After leaving the Corps, Steve decided to join the Chicago Police Department and to “Protect and Serve.”
Steve said life after the Marines went smoothly and he attributes his success to the lessons he learned while serving as an active duty Marine.
“I never regret being a Marine,” he said. “My life has turned out pretty wonderfully and I never hesitate to tell people that it’s because of the Marines. I contribute all of my success as an adult to my time in the Corps. I had a (Drill Instructor) in boot camp tell me, ‘You get through this, the rest of your life is gravy.’ And he was right.”
Steve said he was working as a Chicago Policeman when the producers of the Jerry Springer Show requested off-duty officers to provide extra security in the audience for an episode. Steve was one of the officers chosen.
“The crowd just seemed to respond very positively to Steve,” explained Richard Dominick, executive producer of the Jerry Springer Show. “We had already decided we needed permanent security, so he was offered the job.”
As time went on Steve’s popularity continued to grow and Dominick said it was during the filming of an episode in Daytona Beach that he got the idea that Steve should shave his head bald – putting the finishing touches on his trademark look.
“I said, ‘Nobody shaves their head anymore. I think you should do it,’” Dominick said. “He went and did it right then.”
Steve said it wasn’t a problem for him, primarily because he had kept his hair “Marine Corps short” anyway.
“Well, you know Steve’s a pretty good-looking guy anyway, but he also looks like someone you could meet out on the street,” said Jerry Springer. “He was kind of balding anyway, so the shaved head wasn’t a ‘stretch.’”
Dominick said when Steve came back with his head shaved, the audience started going crazy for him.
“They just seemed to respond to the new look,” he said. “Especially the ladies.”
As time went on, Steve’s natural charisma started shining through and fans began writing him letters and asking for his help, Springer explained.
Because so many fans wrote Steve for help, Dominick said they started doing “Steve to the Rescue” episodes where Steve would go out and give advice to the fans.
Since spotting Steve’s ability to work the crowd, Dominick said he’s been looking for a way to get him his own show, an effort that recently paid-off, and Steve’s new show, The Steve Wilkos Show, is scheduled to air on Sept. 10 of this year.
“I guess we’ve been basically working on getting Steve his own show for about seven years now,” Dominick said. “In all truthfulness, about one of every thirty new television shows is a success. It’s a rare show that makes it and I think Steve’s new show will be one of those few.”
Like Steve himself, Dominick said he also believes that Steve’s successes, including any future success, can be directly attributed to his time in the Marine Corps.
“He got his determination, discipline and drive from being a Marine,” he said. “For a long time he wasn’t very good at expressing himself emotionally, but now that he has children, that’s all come together. He’s pretty well-rounded.”
Steve said he hopes his show does well, but that his primary mission with the Jerry Springer Show and his new show is simply to help others.
“I think Steve takes great pride in his military service, and the Marine Corps should be proud of him,” Dominick said.
Steve embodies the spirit of once a Marine, always a Marine – a testament to the Corps’ legendary knack for molding recruits into successful citizens. Whether its on the stages of the “Jerry Springer Show” or on the set of his newest adventure, Steve will forever remember the honor, courage and commitment it took to recruit him, train him and equip him for life.