Merv Griffin Dies at Age 82
Creator of game shows ''Jeopardy'' and ''Wheel of Fortune'' and longtime talk show host had prostate cancer.

Mervyn Edward "Merv" Griffin, Jr. (July 6, 1925 August 12, 2007) was an American talk show host, entertainer, pianist, television personality and executive. He began his career as a singer and also appeared in movies and on Broadway; he later became host of his own TV show, The Merv Griffin Show, and an entertainment business magnate.

1963 photo originally provided by NBC, Merv Griffin, host of the NBC-TV daytime series

Griffin started out in show business in the 1940s as a singer, most notably for the Freddy Martin big band. He also acted in various television shows in the 1950s and early 1960s. He got his big break in 1962 when he was asked to fill in as host for Jack Paar on The Tonight Show. He went on to host his own talk show, The Merv Griffin Show, on-and-off from 1962 to 1986.

In 1963, he set up Merv Griffin Productions and created two of the most popular, long-running game shows in TV history: Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. Griffin sold his game show empire to Coca-Cola in 1986 for $250 million and embarked on a hotel-buying spree (including the Beverly Hilton, where he lived for years). By 2003, his personal worth was valued at $1.2 billion.

Nancy Reagan, a friend of Griffin's, appears on his show in 1971. Griffin would later be a pallbearer at the funeral of her husband, former President Ronald Reagan.

In March 2001, he briefly returned to his singing roots and released an new album, ''It's Like a Dream'', and he retired from performing for good soon after.

Griffin spent his final years on a ranch in La Quinta, Calif., where he raised thoroughbred racing horses. He is survived by his son, Anthony (from Griffin's marriage to Julann Elizabeth Wright, which ended in divorce in 1973), a daughter-in-law Tricia, and two grandchildren, Farah and Donovan Mervyn.

Celebrity guests including Bob Hope (left) were a staple on "The Merv Griffin Show," which aired in syndication from 1971 to 1986. Griffin Group photo via Reuters

Longtime friend Nancy Reagan said in a statement: "This is heartbreaking, not just for those of us who loved Merv personally, but for everyone around the world who has known Merv through his music, his television shows and his business."

Merv's first job playing in public was at the Coconut Ballroom in Santa Cruz. Then he played the Cocoanut Grove in Hollywood, the most glamorous nightclub in the world, which led to his recording the #1 hit, "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts" with the Freddy Martin Orchestra. It sold more than 3 million copies.

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