Merv Griffin, R.I.P. (Part I)


[In 1999 I was doing a story on Merv Griffin and through his agent had made “the connection.” Mr. Griffin was to call me at home– and, just between you and me, when you’re interviewing on the phone, you don’t have the advantage of seeing the person, you don’t know what you’re going to get. The voice could be cold, impatient, condescending. In my case, when the time came, when the phone rang, I was pleasantly surprised by Merv’s voice on the other end, just the nicest guy in the world.]

After beginning as a big band crooner San Mateo’s own Merv Griffin became an early star of late-night television’s talk shows and one of the most successful entertainment entrepreneurs.

Seven years ago Griffin told me, in a telephone interview from his home at La Quinta near Palm Desert: “I have a warm spot in my heart for San Mateo.”

He was born at Mills Hospital in 1925, resided on Humboldt Street and El Dorado Streets in San Mateo, attended San Mateo High School and San Mateo Junior College. He was not the only Griffin who gained notoriety: his father was California’s youngest tennis champion in 1918–and an uncle won honors in tennis doubles.

But it was music that excited Griffin and when he was still a kid he played the organ at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church.

There weren’t many bumps or detours on Griffin’s road to success. He entered talent contests, wrote songs and eventually landed his own radio show on San Francisco’s KFRC in 1945.

…to be continued…