Merv Griffin may have lived from 1925 to 2007 but his creations continue to live on, long after his death. He was a man who enjoyed a legacy that several men and women strive for every day to no avail; to create something that would live long after their death. While most people achieve these through their children, some through inventions, Merv Griffin’s lasting legacy is in the form of the long-running game shows Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. Before he came to create the two legacy-defining shows, he was himself a media star who had a career that spanned across film and Broadway. The story of his life makes for a fascinating read.
Merv Griffin Biography
Merv Griffin’s life began like that of any other ordinary man when he was born in San Mateo, California on July 6, 1925, to a father who was a stockbroker and a mother who was a homemaker. Griffin was raised in the Roman Catholic faith as a result of his Irish American roots. His media career started with singing in his church’s choir when he was a boy and using his talent as a skilled organist to earn some money by playing for the church.
Like many of his peers, Merv was a college-educated man having started his formal education from San Mateo High School before he graduated college at the University of San Francisco after spending some years at San Mateo Junior College. His life could have turned out very differently had he been considered physically capable of joining the war as a World War II soldier.
Not joining the war meant a young and eager Griffin could make something of his talents as a singer and as such, he took his talents from the four walls of the church into the small booth of radio at the age of 19. Through the show, San Francisco Sketchbook, Merv Griffin’s career as a singer exploded. Not only was he beloved by radio listeners, but he was contracted to go on tour with Freddy Martin, joining the popular bandleader’s orchestra for four years.
After four years of touring and amassing enough capital to start a business that would give him a piece of the show business, he established the Panda Records label. Through his label, he released his songs which continued to receive the same amount of popularity they did during his time on the radio in San Francisco. His popularity and touring of various nightclubs in promotion and performance of his music led to a chance encounter with, who, fascinated enough with his personality and talent, arranged a screen test for Merv Griffin at Warner Bros. Studios. The screen test itself did not result in a film role for Merv but news of the test spread across other studios and Merv got his chance to star in other films like So This is Love (1953).
His popularity, combined with his charming personality helped him land a deal to host his first game show, Play Your Hunch from 1958 to 1962. After his time as host, he produced other shows for NBC, which had hired him to host Play Your Hunch. In 1965, he got his chance to be a Talk Show Host, hosting his very own The Merv Griffin Show for 21 years and winning eleven Emmy Awards in the process.
Apart from his own work on The Merv Griffin show and music albums, Griffin’s lasting legacies, which cemented his place as a media mogul were Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune which was created in 1964 and 1975, respectively. The shows were created through his companies, Merv Griffin Enterprises, and Merv Griffin Entertainment, a move that would later earn him a whole lot of money.
For his achievements throughout his career, the media mogul was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1974, among many other honors he received during his lifetime and after.
At the time of his death, Merv Griffin was believed to be worth $1 billion. Using resources accrued from his active days as a media personality, actor, host, singer, and producer, he invested in different ventures, mostly in real estate through which he amassed a large fortune and became one of the richest entertainers on the planet.
Was Merv Griffin Gay?
When it came to his personal life, Merv Griffin kept a tight lid on many of the details. He was married to Julann Wright from 1958 to 1973 when they both got a divorce. Before that, however, the couple had a child, a singular son they named Tony Griffin.
The secrecy that plagued his personal life led to rumors about his sexuality and speculation about whether or not he was for people of the same sex. He never confirmed nor denied the rumors to the public while he was alive, but they were further fueled by two lawsuits from two men who claimed he sexually harassed them on different occasions.
How Did he Die?
For a period of his life, Merv Griffin was plagued with prostate cancer, but through money and the advances in medical research, he was able to fight off the disease until the age of 82 when his body could no longer withhold the impact of the disease. He died in Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, survived by his son and grandson, and was buried in Westwood in Los Angeles.