Monday, August 13, 2007

Who is Merv Griffin?

Keep hearing about Merv Griffin on the news but have no clue who he was? Here is a quick summary of his life in list form.

  • Birth - He was born on July 6, 1925 in San Mateo, California to Mervyn, Sr. a stock-broker and the former Rita Robinson, a homemaker.

  • Childhood - Raised as a Roman Catholic, at the age of seven he was staging neighborhood carnivals and churning out his own one-page newspaper.

  • Radio Career - Griffin started as a singer on radio at age 19, appearing on San Francisco Sketchbook, a nationally syndicated program based at KFRC.

  • Overweight - Griffin was slightly overweight as a teenager, which disappointed his radio fans seeing him for the first time to the point of laughter. Embarrassed by this rude reaction, Griffin resolved to lose weight and change his image. He was true to his word and matured into a handsome big-band vocalist.

  • Big Shot - Freddy Martin was a fan of the radio show and asked Griffin to tour with his orchestra, which he did for four years.

  • First Album - Griffin earned enough to form his own record label, Panda Records, and his self-released album Songs by Merv Griffin was the first American album recorded on magnetic tape.

  • One Hit Wonder - He became popular with nightclub audiences as a solo act. He scored a number-one record hit with "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts", which sold over three million copies.

  • On Film - During one of his nightclub performances, he was discovered by Doris Day, who arranged for a screen test at Warner Bros. Studios. His open-mouthed kiss with Kathryn Grayson in his debut film, "So This Is Love" (1953), was the first such kiss in a Hollywood film since the introduction of the Production Code in 1934.

  • Do-do-Do-do-Do-Do-do - One of Merv's better-known musical compositions would be the theme song for Jeopardy.

  • TV Appearances - He appeared regularly on such television shows as "The Arthur Murray Dance Party" and "The Jack Paar Show".

  • Game Show Host - From 1958 to 1962 he hosted a game show produced by Mark Goodson and Bill Todman called "Play Your Hunch". The show appeared on all three networks, but primarily on NBC. He also hosted a primetime game show for ABC called Keep Talking.

  • Talk Show Host - Griffin later substituted for Paar on The Tonight Show, leading NBC to offer him his own daytime talk show in 1962. That program failed, but NBC offered him the opportunity to host a new game show, Word for Word, in 1963, which Griffin produced as well.

  • Jeopardy - This led Griffin to produce the far more successful Jeopardy!. A reverse on the classic quiz show format in which contestants are given answers and must supply the questions, Jeopardy premiered on NBC on March 20, 1964 hosted by Art Fleming the show succeeded and lasted for 11 years.

  • MGS - The Merv Griffin Show aired in a variety of time slots throughout North America. Many stations ran it in the daytime, some broadcast it opposite Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show, and it was carried for many years in prime time on WNEW in New York. Stations had the option of carrying either a 60-minute or a 90-minute version. Merv's announcer-sidekick was the veteran British character actor Arthur Treacher, who had been his mentor.

  • Wheel Keeps Turning - Griffin was allowed to produce the show's successor, Wheel of Fortune. Premiering on January 3, 1975, Wheel became a modest hit on daytime television with Chuck Woolery and Susan Stafford as host and hostess. But it became a phenomenon when on September 13, 1983 Wheel hit the syndication market with Pat Sajak and Vanna White in the same respective roles.

  • Richest Man in the Biz - Upon his retirement, he sold his production company, Merv Griffin Enterprises, to Columbia Pictures Television unit for $250 million, which was the largest acquisition of an entertainment company owned by a single individual at that time. Following the sale, Forbes named him the richest Hollywood performer in history. He retained the title of executive producer of both shows until his death.

  • Real Estate Mogul - Griffin ventured into real estate, purchasing the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. He also purchased Resorts Hotel and Casino, formerly Chalfonte-Haddon Hall Hotel in Atlantic City from Donald Trump in 1988. In the 1980s, Griffin purchased Paradise Island in the Bahamas for $400 million from Donald Trump, but he later sold it for just $125 million.

  • Death - It was publicized that Griffin's prostate cancer, treated originally in 1996, had returned and that he was admitted to Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. On August 9, 2007 it was reported that Merv Griffin was in grave condition; he died three days later on August 12, 2007.

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