Monday, August 12, 2013

Remembering Merv Griffin July 6, 1925 August 11, 2007

There are many of us that have a single talent and there are those who are blessed with several like the legendary, Merv Griffin.

Griffin had numerous gifts including his career as a television host, singer, actor, and media mogul.  His outgoing personality gave him many opportunities in life.

He was born in San Mateo, California to a stock broker and homemaker.  His talent of singing started in the catholic church choir and then as church organist.  He was considered a piano prodigy.  He earned extra money as a youth with his musical talent.

He began singing seriously at the age of 19 on radio where he appeared on a nationally syndicated program called "San Francisco Sketchbook."  During his youth, he battled obesity and it often worked against him.  He had a difficult time accepting his weight and decided he was going to change his image.  It is said that he lost over 80 pounds over a four month period.  A big band heard him on the radio and he was asked to tour with them which he did for four years.  During that time, Griffin also worked as a radio announcer that included the 1953 horror classic "The Beast from 20000 Fathoms."

During that period of time, Griffin saved his money and when the right opportunity presented itself, Griffin invested his savings in a new venture where he started his own recording label called "Panda Records."  With the success of his records and publicity as a performer, Griffin became a huge hit on the nightclub circuit.  He recorded the 1950 hit song "I've Got A Lovely Box of Coconuts" that reached number one of the Hit Parade charts and sold over 3 million copies.

Griffin would say later that the person most instrumental to his success was Doris Day.  She arranged for Griffin to try out for screen test of "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" and although he failed to get the part, the experience helped him with several other roles.  One of those roles was "So This is Love" that became quite controversial because of an open mouthed kiss to actress Kathryn Grayson.  This was the first passionately recorded kiss in Hollywood film history.  Griffin's other roles include "The Boy From Oklahoma" and "Phantom of the Rue Morgue" Eventually, his interest in film began to dissolve and he became more interested in the television media.

Merv Griffin became hugely successful in the areas as a talk show host where he was a guest host for the "Tonight Show" and eventually launched his own television syndicated talk show called "The Merv Griffin Show" that aired 21 years and won eleven Emmy Awards.  He was known for his toughness and wasn't afraid to tackle controversial issues.  He had become a household name.

He also created some of the most popular game shows in the history of television through his production company that included "Jeopardy" "Wheel of Fortune" "Crosswords" and "Click"

Finally, Griffin was an extremely successful business man and got heavily involved in real estate ventures.  He owned the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Paradise Island in the Bahamas, and hotels and casinos in Atlantic City, and others.  He eventually sold his empire for $250 million dollars to Coca-Cola.  He then bought several more hotels and it is said that his wealth in 2003 was about $1.2 billion dollars.

Many have questioned his personal life.  He rarely ever talked about his wealth and his personal matters.  He always said he didn't care to know about his wealth because it "would keep him from sleeping at night."

In 1996, Griffin was treated for prostate cancer and his condition continued to deteriorate until his death on August 12, 2007.  He was 82.

Merv Griffin funeral program
Griffin funeral at Good Shepherd
Merv Griffin's funeral mass was held on August 17, 2007 at 3pm (program pictured) at the Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Beverly Hills.  Among those in attendance was his longtime friend, Nancy Reagan(an honorary pall bearer) Jack Klugman, Ellen DeGeneres and Ryan Seacrest to name a few.  Among those who eulogized Griffin were Arnold Schwarznegger and Merv's son, Tony.  Schwarznegger who was a frequent guest on Merv's show gave credit to Griffin for jump starting his own acting career.) Following Griffin's interment in Westwood Village Memorial Park (pictured), a reception was held in the Beverly Hilton that Griffin owned from 1987-93.

Merv's resting place at Westwood
The epitaph on Merv Griffin's monument reads "I will not be right back after this message."He was laid to rest in the same section of Westwood that includes Rodney Dangerfield, Farrah Fawcett, Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon.

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