Griffin, Merv 1925–2007
Griffin, Merv 1925–2007
(Merv Edward Griffin, Mervyn Edward Griffin, Mervyn Edward Griffin, Jr.)
See index for CA sketch: Born July 6, 1925, in San Mateo, CA; died of prostate cancer, August 12, 2007, in Los Angeles, CA. Television producer, entertainer, actor, singer, composer, business executive, and author. Griffin was so successful at so many different endeavors that he claimed he didn't even know how much he was worth, but his fortune has been estimated as high as 1.5 billion dollars. He is best known as the creator and producer of two of the most successful game shows in television history, Jeopardy! (1964—) and Wheel of Fortune (1975—). He once guessed that the profits from the musical pieces he composed for these shows alone were in the tens of millions of dollars. Griffin's second claim to fame was most likely his long-running talk show, The Merv Griffin Show, which he hosted until 1986, luring hundreds of celebrities from all walks of life to his low-key, generally sympathetic interviews. For these accomplishments Griffin received career achievement awards from both the Daytime Emmy Awards of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the Museum of Television and Radio (now the Paley Center for Media). These achievements were only the most visible elements of Griffin's wide-ranging business ventures, many of which were executed without fanfare beyond the focus of the public eye. Griffin served his apprenticeship as a radio singer, a vocalist with the Freddy Martin Band, a recording artist and solo performer, and a bit-player in films and stage shows. At some point in the early 1960s, he established Merv Griffin Enterprises, the umbrella under which he gathered his multiple media ventures, which included the television series Dance Fever (1979). Griffin sold the company in 1986 for a reported quarter-of-a-billion dollars, while retaining executive control of the game shows. He then founded the Griffin Group and expanded his holdings far beyond the boundaries of television. He owned hotels (including the Beverly Hilton), casinos (Resorts International in Atlantic City and the Bahamas), radio stations, and closed-circuit television systems for racetracks. He bred his own racehorses and even owned a California winery. He once described his entrepreneurial activity as simply another kind of gamesmanship. Griffin maintained an active social life and was a welcome party guest. His personal life was conducted largely out of the public eye but was not without scandal. In the 1990s he was sued by two different male acquaintances for inappropriate behavior, but he maintained his innocence and both suits were eventually dropped. Despite his preference for privacy, Griffin enjoyed relating anecdotes about his colorful life, but even his two autobiographies, Merv: An Autobiography (1980) and Merv: Making the Good Life Last (2003), reportedly focused more upon the other people in his life than upon himself. It was also noted that these accounts were in no way exposés of life in Hollywood; the anecdotes reflected the same genial nature that Griffin projected as a talk-show host.
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Griffin, Merv, and Peter Barsocchini, Merv: An Autobiography, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1980.
Griffin, Merv, and David Bender, Merv: Making the Good Life Last, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.
Los Angeles Times, August 13, 2007, pp. A1, A12-A13.
New York Times, August 13, 2007, p. A20.
Times (London, England), August 14, 2007, p. 48.
Washington Post, August 13, 2007, p. B4.