Today on my KMOX show, I talked with Aaron Barnhart about Merv Griffin, who died of prostate cancer this weekend at age 82. As Aaron points out, Merv was one of the few TV stars who understood both "show" and "business." Listen.
My favorite story about Merv was when people would question his sexuality. He was married to (and had his only son with) Juliann Wright and hung around with Eva Gabor for years, but also was hit with a palimony suit by secretary Brent Plott and a sexual harassment suit by "Dance Fever" host Denny Terio. When asked whether he was straight or gay, Merv would reply, "I'm a quatro-sexual. I'll do anything with anyone for a quarter."
To see Merv in action as TV host, I recommend this boxed set from his primetime show, with 40 big-name guests (including Orson Welles, Jerry Seinfeld, Martin Luther King Jr., David Niven, Grace Kelly, Tom Cruise, Denzel Washington, and Robert Kennedy). It is truly a talk show from a different era, from the pacing to the way Merv related to his guests to his smooth, friendly approach to everyone and everything.
For more on Merv, read these entries by Ray Richmond, who was one of his producers in 1985-86. And Mark Evanier has stories about Merv here and here.
You'll find Aaron in print in the Kansas City Star and online at his TV Barn website. He's on my KMOX show every Monday at 4:15pm CT.