I have to admit that the passing of Merv Griffin caused me to pause a bit to remember my own childhood. Probably most of our younger generation may know Merv as the kingpin behind Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. But for those of us growing up in the 1970s, Merv was kind of like a hip-rat packish Oprah Winfrey of the day.
When Merv sold Wheel (and Jeopardy!) in 1986, he became my ex-boss, and that’s when the fun really began. He was a dear friend to me and my family, and there was no better friend to have. First of all, Merv knew everyone. When you were with him, you rubbed shoulders with the most exciting and famous people on the planet. We vacationed together in some of the most glamorous spots in the world, and we stayed up very late laughing as long and hard as I’ve ever laughed in my life. No one ever told a story better, and no one ever had better stories to tell. And he was a great audience. That much-imitated laugh of his was completely genuine, and it breaks my heart that I will never hear it from him again.
Merv, of course, will live on through video tapes and through all the projects he created and the careers he furthered. There will be tributes to his show business savvy and stories of his warmth and generosity. But none of that will really be able to capture the bigger-than-life person that was Merv. The solar system of which he was the center was filled with bright stars who seemed to gravitate toward him. Whether on a TV show or in a living room, no one could make you feel more alive than Merv Griffin. His life was a celebration, and those of us who participated in it can’t help but feel blessed.
Merv would be very upset that his friends should be as sad as they are. He didn’t believe in sadness. He was upbeat, forward-looking and optimistic to the end. There will come a time, I suppose, when the sadness will give way to the wonderful memories, but I have trouble imagining that time right now. The man who changed my life, and then became such an important part of it, is gone.
I do know this: the conversation in heaven has gotten a lot more lively.
For me, Merv represented something so lacking in today’s Hollywood and entertainment figures: class, humility and decency.
G’bye Merv. God Bless you.