Merv Griffin, by many accounts, was the single richest man in show business toward the end of his life. That's a long way from being a second string Big Band singer known for the novelty tune, "I've got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts!"
Already doing reasonably well as a singer, Merv was "dscivered' by Doris Day who got him an intro to Hollywood where he would appear in a number of small roles in the fifties. By the end of the decade, though, he was hosting game shows.
After a stint as a TONIGHT guest host pre-dating Carson, Merv arranged to have his own talk show first in syndication and then on a rival network with Arthur Treacher as co-host. Yes, THAT Arthur Treacher, a 1930's character actor best known today for creating an American fish and chips franchise bearing his name.
Treach was very tall and very English and not a little sarcastic toward his boss. It made for a very different dynamic than what Johnny ended up with with Ed.
The two got along quite well, though, and even recorded several albums together.
Eventually Merv took his show back to syndication to avoid censorship from the network. Treacher stayed behind when the series moved to the West Coast and was not replaced. Seen below is a bit more Merv merchandise, a game he created. He would create even more popular games in time including JEOPARDY (for which he always credited his ex-wife, actually) and WHEEL OF FORTUNE. Those two shows alone made him a mogul.
It was said that Merv knew everyone, often having guests on his show that simply wouldn't do other talk shows. Orson Welles, for instance, was not only a frequent guest but it was Merv who orchestrated a late in life reconciliation between Welles and his former theatrical partner John Houseman.
Seen here, most likely in Vegas, is Merv with Tom Jones, Elvis Presley and comedian Norm Crosby. Eventually, Merv would buy and sell casinos and hotels in Vegas.
In the seventies, as seen by how many times I mention it in my 1974 and 1976 journal blogs, Merv's show was easily one of my favorites.
He put out several entertaining books including the autobiography seen below and underneath it a collection of pieces about the various guests on his program over the years. The autobiography left out one major aspect of his life.
After his official retirement in the eighties, Merv grew a stylish little goatee for a while. I was looking for a picture to run here and typed in "Merv Griffin with beard." The search engine gave me a picture of Merv with his frequent late-in-life fellow traveler, Eva Gabor.
Due to a couple of lawsuits, it was widely rumored that Merv was, in fact, gay. In retrospect, that seems to have been the case.
But gay or straight, there is no question whatsoever that this reasonably humble man who knew everyone who was anyone was, in the long run, one of the savviest and most successful businessmen Hollywood has ever seen...as well as one of its most entertaining interviewers.