If you had told me early this morning that Bill Paxton, Mag the Mighty from Game of Thrones and Judge Joseph Wapner are taking the trip to the afterworld together, I’d tell you to stop eating edibles for breakfast, but that’s exactly what has happened. There goes another piece of my childhood.
TMZ says that Judge Wapner died this morning in L.A. He was 97. Judge Wapner was in the hospital last week with breathing problems. His condition got worse and so he was taken to his home and was put under hospice care.
Before Judge Judy, Judge Mablean, Judge Joe Brown, Judge Mathis and Judge Marilyn Milan, there was Judge Wapner! Judge Wapner served on the L.A. Superior Court from 1961-79, and in the 80s, he was cast as the star of television’s first arbitration-based reality court show, The People’s Court. Judge Wapner was on the show from 1981 to 1993. Where I lived as a kid, The People’s Court came on a little later, like at 4pm, so I used to watch it while doing my homework after school. Judge Wapner didn’t drag tricks as hard as Judge Judy does, but I still lived for him verbally slapping down messes in his court room. Judge Wapner (and the court room scenes from Dynasty) taught me how the justice system works!
The People’s Court was canceled in 1993 after ratings dropped to an all-time low. It was revamped in 1997, but Judge Wapner was not asked to star in it. He was replaced with Ed Koch and TMZ’s Harvey Levin was brought in to host. Judge Marilyn Milan is the current head judge of The People’s Court. In 2009, Judge Wapner made his grand return to the show to preside over one case.
Judge Wapner was married to his wife Mickey Wapner for 70 years and they had 3 children together.
Rest in peace, Judge Wapner. If the angels didn’t say, “one minute to Wapner,” one minute before Judge Wapner appeared at the gates, then they need to watch Rain Man again.
And now let’s end with a classic People’s Court clip featuring Judge Wapner, the show’s legendary theme song, 80s court room glamour, Doug Llewelyn’s luscious cloud of hair (either real of polyester) and talk of enemas.