Sunday, August 12, 2007

Of All the Merv!

Entertainer, game-show creator, and hotel mogul Merv Griffin died last night of prostate cancer, just over a month after he celebrated his 82nd birthday.

This is sad news, as I remember many an hour of my youth misspent in front of our black-and-white television, watching the syndicated version of The Merv Griffin Show, seeing him interview guests and break into occasional renditions of “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts,” the novelty song that he turned into a number-one record hit in the 1950s. It’s only by reading Griffin’s various obituaries (see here and here), though, that I learned he was considered, in 1962, to be Jack Paar’s replacement on NBC’s The Tonight Show, but that coveted slot went instead to Johnny Carson. (The Associated Press notes that “NBC gave Griffin a daytime version of ‘Tonight,’ but he was canceled for being ‘too sophisticated’ for the housewife audience.”) I already knew that Griffin made a mint by creating both Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! TV Squad notes that “Griffin’s newest venture, the game show Crosswords, will debut in syndication this fall.”

Last September, Esquire conducted one of its “What I’ve Learned” interviews with Griffin. My favorite observation was this one:
I’ve outlived all of my diet doctors. My first diet doctor was Dr. Atkins. And then I went through Dr. Stillman, the water diet. I think he drowned on his own diet. And I had Dr. Tarnower, and his girlfriend shot him. So I gave up dieting.
Rest in peace, Merv. You’ve earned it.

READ MORE:Smooth as Old Satin,” by Dana Cook (Salon); “Merv Griffin, Television Impresario, Dies at 82,” by Edward Wyatt and Richard Severo (The New York Times); “Why We Loved Merv Griffin,” by Richard Zoglin (Time).

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