Featured Excerpt from The Merv Griffin Show: The Inside Story

A new book from Steve Randisi, author and lifelong follower of Merv’s shows and work, has recently been released. The Merv Griffin Show: The Inside Story covers the show’s extensive history, features vivid recaps of several “lost” episodes, and shares many fascinating stories from Merv’s life as a singing star and success as a media mogul. 

We’re pleased to share this exclusive excerpt from the book. Enjoy!

METROMEDIA MERV

            After the demise of his late-night chat fest on CBS (August 1969 to February 1972), Merv was ready to bounce back in prime time.

During the late-afternoon hours of March 9, 1972, nearly a thousand people patiently stood in line outside the Hollywood Palace Theatre to witness the rebirth of The Merv Griffin Show. With only 400 seats available to the public, a multitude of irate fans could be seen scampering in all directions after the pages uttered two dreaded words: “We’re filled!” Located at 1735 Vine Street, the Hollywood Palace was a stone’s throw away from the famed intersection of Hollywood & Vine. “You can’t get more Hollywood than this,” quipped one lucky ticket-holder, taking his seat in the audience.           

The old marquee, which had trumpeted some of the greatest names in entertainment, now emblazoned the theatre’s current occupant: The Merv Griffin Show.

Assisted by most of the people who had been with him at CBS, Merv was ready to raise the curtain on his first show for Metromedia Producers Corporation. For Merv, this wasn’t merely a “comeback” after his failed attempt to dislodge Johnny Carson; it was also the dawn of the final chapter in his career as a talk-show host.  

The Griffin show had been off the air for nearly a month. During the hiatus, the star and his staff labored mightily to ensure that the Metromedia premiere would be a momentous event. Merv was ready for it. He’d shed nearly 30 pounds, looking nearly as svelte as he did during his best Play Your Hunch days. Without having to deal with the unrelenting stress of network television, Merv was once again at the top of his form.  

As the orchestra, still under the baton of Mort Lindsey, struck up the familiar theme music, Merv walked onto the stage wearing the broadest smile possible. To the home viewer, the switch from network to syndication was imperceptible. The only discernible difference was that Merv was now on a different channel.

“This Hollywood Palace lends itself to doing something that dramatic,” said Merv. “But I told my staff: this is a simple talk show. I do not want to do anything spectacular.” As he spoke, the set behind him parted, revealing an elaborate mobile bandstand slowly moving forward.

Earlier in the day at rehearsal, one of its wheels had gone flat. “Did you ever see a band with a flat tire?” Merv laughed. “All my life, I’ve wanted a motorized bandstand.” Now he had one, and he wasn’t going to worry that another flat might mar his opening-night song, “La La La La La La,” a rather unusual choice. Steve Lawrence, the first guest, offered the more conventional “Ain’t No Sunshine, When She’s Gone,” which he had just recorded for the MGM label.

By the time Merv brought out his next guest, Dinah Shore, a slight disturbance could be heard in the balcony. “Move back!” a voice yelled. “Louder!” said another. Merv continued chatting with Shore as though nothing was wrong. As they continued, the grumbling became more vociferous. Obviously annoyed, Shore said, “I keep feeling like somebody’s talking back to me.”

“Just a minute,” snapped Merv. “What’s the matter?” he asked, looking up at the balcony. “You can’t hear a thing I’m saying?” Shore asked incredulously. Soon, the only voices being heard were the ones emanating from the balcony. “Wait a minute,” said Merv in frustration. “One spokesman at a time. You can’t . . . what? You can’t see?”

Apparently, the panel of chairs had been placed too close to the edge of the stage, making it difficult, if not impossible, for balcony patrons to catch any of the action. Equally problematic was the less-than-adequate sound system, which had begun to fail during Shore’s discourse.

Merv asked if any stagehands were in the house. There were. “Let’s push this whole thing back,” he ordered, “then we’ll go on with the show.” The crowd roared its approval. “I knew we were going to have a balcony problem,” Merv sighed. “I just knew it.” Shore looked up at the balcony and said, apologetically, “You’re not missing anything!” To which Merv replied, “Oh, yes, they are!”    

The next interruption was a pleasant one. “Telegram for Merv Griffin!” announced a plump visitor to the set. It was Dom DeLuise, bearing a lovely bunch of bananas—instead of cocoanuts! DeLuise had been one of the opening guests on Merv’s Westinghouse series. Merv regarded him as a good-luck charm. This time, though, the evening had brought anything but good luck.

Even Merv’s cuff links were giving him trouble. He fumbled with them nervously as he began to introduce the big draw of the night. His expression turned somber. “What?” he said to his producer off camera. “He’s downstairs?” The groans from the audience resurfaced. “Now they’re going to really come get us!” “Stretching” is a television term for filling in time. That’s exactly what the panel did as everyone awaited the arrival of “Mr. Television”—Milton Berle.

Milton Berle was television’s first superstar. In 1948, when his Texaco Star Theatre aired on Tuesday nights, movie theatres closed early, and folks who didn’t own a TV sets found an excuse to visit their neighbors who did. “Uncle Miltie” had made numerous appearances with Merv through the years, particularly on the CBS entries taped at Television City.          

Berle said he’d been watching the show backstage. “I haven’t been so thrilled since I won Totie Fields on The Dating Game.” Some of Berle’s wisecracks fell flat. “Hey, you died,” he barked at his fellow guests, “Now let me die.”

“You were never funnier,” he told Merv, commenting on the opening monologue. “And that’s a shame.”  

Berle seemed to be taking over as host, critiquing Merv’s jokes and calling for the commercial breaks. His temerity came to a screeching halt when the next guest, Dionne Warwick, accidentally knocked a table onto his foot. “I’m suing Motown,” barked Berle, as he took Warwick’s coat. “Milton,” said Merv sternly, “can I run my own show?” Berle shot back a look that communicated: “Can you?”

In one of the show’s brightest moments, Warwick, Lawrence, and Griffin did an impromptu rendition of Bachrach’s “What Do You Get When You Fall in Love?” while seated on the panel. After the song, Warwick began speaking softly and the ire of the studio audience resurfaced. “Louder, louder!” they shouted.            

The sound in the studio was loud enough for the nation’s critics. “It’s the Same Old Merv Griffin,” observed Rex Polier in his column for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin (March 14, 1972). Polier noted that Griffin’s new show bore a remarkable resemblance to the old one. Which old Griffin show? “Take your pick of either his earlier syndicated one or the show he just recently bombed out from CBS with,” wrote Polier. Griffin’s guests, in particular, failed to impress the critic. Polier felt that Dom DeLuise came off as simpering, while Milton Berle was too overpowering.

“It is a little puzzling what Griffin thinks he can accomplish with a new talk show that he couldn’t in three years with CBS with a contract that gave him everything but the executive dining room,” Polier concluded. “He doesn’t appear to have any unplumbed depths.”

TV Guide observed that Berle had insulted his host venomously. In reality, it was simply a case of Berle being Berle. Even if Uncle Miltie’s zingers had been delivered maliciously, Merv would have handled the situation with his usual aplomb. Over the years, producer Bob Murphy would frequently attest that Merv wanted all his guests to outshine him. “He loved to listen and he didn’t try to top you,” said Murphy. One can view thousands of Merv’s shows and not find him even remotely rattled by a seemingly hostile guest. On the rare occasions when someone may have made a snide remark, the audience almost always sided with the host.

The Metromedia opener had been an unrestrained show. Even with all its near calamities, Merv would liken the experience to a vacation in Hawaii compared to his last days at CBS. The new show embodied an energy that was lacking during those awful last episodes on the network.

What the critics didn’t mention was that in several major markets (including New York and Los Angeles), the newly syndicated Griffin show had performed remarkably well against its network competition.

The Merv Griffin Show had cautiously embarked on a new and arousing chapter, one that would prosper for the next 14 years.            

 

Excerpt from The Merv Griffin Show: The Inside Story  by Steve Randisi                                                           

 

NEW BOOK: The Merv Griffin Show: The Inside Story

Merv and author Steve Randisi

A brand new book from Steve Randisi, author and lifelong follower of Merv’s shows and work, has just been released. The Merv Griffin Show: The Inside Story covers the show’s extensive history, features vivid recaps of several “lost” episodes, and shares many fascinating stories from Merv’s life as a singing star and success as a media mogul. 

Steve met Merv on several occasions and was a presenter at a 1985 telethon hosted by Merv. 

The book, published by BearManor Media, is available on Amazon and other online retailers. We think it makes a great gift, especially fans of the show! 

Steve Randisi is a longtime freelance writer who has contributed articles and celebrity interviews to such diverse publications as Filmfax, Outré, Classic Images, Films of the Golden Age, Scarlet Street, Remember, Autograph Collector, Cadence Magazine, and others. In addition to his own publications, Steve has made contributions to numerous books by other authors pertaining to veteran movie and TV performers.

In 2014, Steve penned the liner notes for the 12-disc anthology DVD release, The Merv Griffin Show, 1962-1986This project served as the inspiration for his comprehensive new book. You can read more about it and order a copy here.

 

Three Classic Musical Performances to Get You Moving

Of the over 5000 guests who appeared on The Merv Griffin Show between 1963 and 1986, a great many of them were musical artists. Some of them were in the very early stages of their careers (and would later become superstars!), and some even made their very first TV appearance on the show! 

Here we wanted to share three classic musical performances that we think will inspire and get you moving. You can see many more on the special Musical Icons Playlist we’ve created for you over on our YouTube channel. We invite you to subscribe and join us there where you can view many classic interviews and performances.

In this post we share great performances by Whitney Houston, Barry White and Donna Summer. Whitney made her television debut on the Merv Griffin Show in 1983, before she even had a record out! This clip shows her singing her hit song “How Will I Know” off her first album on April 29, 1985. Barry White and his Love Unlimited Orchestra were the subject of an entire episode of The Merv Griffin Show on September 8th, 1977. Donna Summer appeared on the show with songwriter Paul Jabara to talk about the song “Last Dance” – with Donna singing the hit tune to close the show. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Those Summer Nights – John Travolta and Olivia Newton John’s Classic Interview

Who doesn’t have great memories of watching John Travolta and Olivia Newton John together in the classic movie Grease? Revisit those summer feelings with Merv’s charming 1981 interview with John and Olivia, as they sit down together and talk about Grease, the price of fame and their relationship. Hear the adorable story about when John and Olivia first met, and find out what Olivia asked for before she agreed to do the film.

Merv Griffin had over 5000 guests appear on his show from 1963-1986. Join us on our YouTube channel a vast collection of great clips. 

Laugh Into Spring with 3 Classic Comedy Performances

From 1963 through 1986, over 5000 guests appeared on The Merv Griffin Show. So many of them were beloved talented performers in comedy, and a great number of these appearances have now turned into treasures to be shared and enjoyed.

Many of the most famous comedians who appeared on the show were new at the time, and the show was a perfect platform to share their talent. 

Here on the blog, we regularly feature some of the most memorable guests who appeared on the show.

In this post, we feature a 1965 early stand-up performance by George Carlin (he was a regular on the show in the mid-1960’s), Penn & Teller in an early showing of their fun blend of magic and comedy, and a 1965 performance by the legendary Phyllis Diller, who proves why she was known as the Queen of Stand-Up Comedy in her day.  

We encourage you to share and enjoy these classic appearances, and leave comments to tell us what you think.

For more interviews and fantastic show clips, subscribe to us on YouTube here.

 

Celebrating Women’s History Month – 3 Inspiring Interviews

March is Women’s History Month, and we couldn’t think of a better way to honor it then to celebrate some of the inspiring women Merv had the privilege of interviewing over the years.

Below are three classic, fascinating interviews with comedy icon Lucille Ball, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Pearl S. Buck, and legendary actress Sophia Loren (who talks about turning 50). 

For more interviews with fantastic women, see our post from last March featuring trailblazers Maya Angelou, Arianna Huffington and Rosa Parks. And, be sure to subscribe to our official YouTube channel for endless clips, interviews, and classic performances from some of your favorite all-time comedians and musical acts. 

Enjoy the interviews!

 

 

 

Incredible and Timeless Wisdom to Get You Motivated

From 1963 to 1986, Merv Griffin had over 5,000 fascinating guests appear on his show. Isn’t that incredible when you think about it? So much was shared on the show. Not just actors promoting movies or musical performers showcasing their talents, but also some of the most highly regarded public figures in U.S. history.

Activists, artists, political figures, and many others shared stories and wisdom with Merv over the years, and we have many of these interviews showcased for everyone to enjoy over on your YouTube channel (you can subscribe here). We’ve also got an amazing box 12-DVD set featuring a special collection of the greatest episodes of The Merv Griffin Show with over 200 of the best interviews (find it here).

Below are just three examples of the inspiring, wisdom-packed interviews (we consider them all treasures). They’re great motivation and food for thought. For more great interviews, be sure to check out all the wonderful music, talk, and comedy we’ve got for you on our YouTube channel. Watch and enjoy!

 

5 Famous Quotes from Merv Griffin

With all the popular quotes and classic clips of Merv floating around online, we thought it would be fun to do a roundup here of just a few of his most popular quotes. Witty, wise, and no-nonsense, here are six of the biggest fan favorites:

“What have I learned from talking to all these famous people? That there’s a major story behind everyone.”

“Unless it’s an emergency, don’t bother me after 6pm and on weekends.”

“If you make the customer a promise, make sure you deliver it.”

“I refuse to be bored.” 

“Luck comes in if you’re well equipped to deal with it.”

“It’s always been my philosophy; turn the page. If something falls through, turn the page. It’s over with. Get used to it, get on with it. Very simple. It’s always worked for me.”

On Twitter? Post your favorite Merv Griffin quote and tag us for a retweet! Follow @OfficialMerv here. 

For endless entertainment and classic clips, be sure to follow us on your YouTube channel where we’ve posted some of our favorite performances and interviews from The Merv Griffin Show. Join us here. 

Happy Birthday Merv – Five Fun Facts

Happy birthday Merv Griffin! Merv was born on July 6th, 1925. In celebration, we thought we would post five fun facts about his life and accomplishments that you may not have heard about.

  1. Merv had a passion for singing and got his start as a singer on the radio at the young age of 19.
  2. His 1950 hit song “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts” sold 3 million copies!
  3. After appearing in a few films, Merv developed a liking for television and made his first appearance in 1954 on a show called “Summer Holiday.” 
  4. The Merv Griffin Show was on for 21 years and showcased many of the biggest stars and luminaries in entertainment, art, music, and politics. Over the years the show received 11 Emmy Awards. 
  5. Merv wrote the famous “Think Music” for his gameshow Jeopardy in just 90 seconds! Hear Merv’s son Tony Griffin share the story about the creation of this famous song in this fun short video we’ve posted below. Thanks for stopping by our blog to help us celebrate this special day! 

 

Wisdom and Straight Talk from Merv via Esquire Magazine

In one of his last interviews (originally running in September of 2006, less than a year before his passing), Merv shared some witty and real thoughts with Esquire Magazine.

A few of his most well-loved quotes come from this very article including, “I know that when I get bored, no matter what I do on television, they’re gonna get bored.”

Have a read and get to know a few things about Merv you may not have heard before – including that he was a fan of American Idol (we suspect he’d be happy about the upcoming reboot on ABC). 

Click here to read the Esquire interview.