Sunday, August 12, 2007
Too young to die at 82
Merv Griffin has passed away at the age of 82. Cause of death was prostate cancer. Born Mervyn Edward Griffin Jr. in San Mateo, California, Griffin got his first big break when as lead vocalist for Freddy Martin & His Orchestra, he had a number one hit with the novelty tune "I've Got a Loverly Bunch of Coconuts." From there he went on to a brief movie career, and from there to television history. Among other accomplishments on his resume: he was the singer on CBS's weekday Morning Show and The Robert Q. Lewis Show; He guest-hosted for Jack Paar several times on The Tonight Show; He filled in for Bill Cullen as host of The Price is Right in 1959: He was the full-time host of other game shows in the late '50s and early '60s, including Play Your Hunch and Keep Talking.
Then in 1964 he created a show you may have heard of, where contestants were given the answers and had to supply the questions. Jeopardy is the most successful TV game show ever. The second most successful is Wheel of Fortune, which Merv created in 1975.
At one time he hosted a late night talk show on CBS opposite Johnny Carson. But like the Smothers Brothers on that same network he ran into trouble with the network censors. Several of his guests were outspoken critics of the Vietnam War. When activist Abbie Hoffman was Griffin's guest in April 1970, CBS actually blurred Hoffman out so viewers couldn't see his shirt's American flag pattern -- that same pattern you now see everywhere on everything from bikinis to boxer shorts. Merv went on to host a syndicated talk show for several years.
And that's not all. Griffin owns the Mount Mervillian winery, several swanky hotels (Robert Downey, Jr. was once arrested in one), and Merv Griffin Events, a company that specializes in coordinating large-scale fashion events for companies like Gucci and Tommy Hilfiger.
His new game show "Merv Griffin Crosswords" debuts September 10th.
One thing I haven't seen mentioned in any of the obits is that Merv also appeared in an issue of Marvel Comics "What If?" with Captain America and Bucky: