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Museum Gala in NY to Honor Merv Griffin

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

New York, NY—The Museum of Television & Radio will honor Merv Griffin at its annual gala in New York for his award-winning television and radio career and his contributions as a business leader in the entertainment industry. The Museum's annual galas in New York and Los Angeles are major fundraising initiatives that benefit the Museum's ongoing efforts to continue to collect and preserve television and radio programs and advertisements and make them available to the public. The gala will be held on May 26, 2005, at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.

"Merv Griffin is a unique force in the world of entertainment and media, combining his talents as a singer, performer, and television personality with his skill as a business leader and entrepreneur," commented Museum president Stuart N. Brotman. "The Museum is very pleased to recognize Merv's enormous accomplishments both on-camera and behind-the-scenes. He's truly a living legend."

Merv Griffin began his career sixty years ago at the age of nineteen singing on San Francisco Sketchbook, a nationally syndicated radio show broadcasting from the San Francisco radio station KFRC. He started on a Friday, and by Monday, the name of the program was changed to The Merv Griffin Show.  Shortly thereafter, legendary orchestra leader Freddy Martin, a fan of the KFRC show, asked Griffin to tour with the band, and for four years he performed on some of the most glamorous stages in the country. Among them was the legendary Cocoanut Grove in Hollywood, where the audience included a nightly parade of stars, one of whom—Howard Hughes—called Griffin his favorite singer.

In 1950 Griffin's pseudo-Cockney interpretation of "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts" topped the Hit Parade and sold three million copies. His other hit recordings of the time included "Wilhelmina" and "Never Been Kissed."

After a short film career, Griffin moved to New York looking to break into television. He began hosting CBS's Look Up and Live, a Sunday morning religious program and he became a featured vocalist on CBS's The Morning Show. He became a regular guest on The Jack Paar Show and The Arthur Murray Show, and was commuting to Miami to host a show called Going Places. A year later, he began hosting Mark Goodson and Bill Todman's game show Play Your Hunch, which required him to sing, dance, lead an orchestra, perform in skits, and ad-lib with guests like Bob Hope, the Three Stooges, and Arthur Treacher.

In January 1962, Griffin was called in to substitute for Jack Paar on the Tonight Show, and he would be asked back again several times during the six-month interim between Paar's departure and the arrival of Johnny Carson as host. His impressive ratings prompted NBC to give him his own daytime talk show. In 1965 Group W began syndicating The Merv Griffin Show in a ninety-minute format. During the show's twenty-one-year run, Griffin won fifteen Emmy awards, hosted five thousand shows, and interviewed more than twenty-five thousand guests, including four United States presidents; Martin Luther King, Jr.; Nobel laureate Bertram Russell; and John Lennon; among many others.

Merv Griffin is also the creator of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy (the most successful game shows in television syndication history) and wrote their distinctive theme songs.

In addition to his entertainment career, Griffin is a respected businessman.  When Columbia Pictures Entertainment (then a subsidiary of The Coca-Cola Company) purchased his production company, Merv Griffin Enterprises, for $250 million in 1986, Forbes named Griffin the richest Hollywood performer in history on its annual list of the four hundred wealthiest people in America. In 1987 Griffin purchased the landmark Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, which he sold in December 2003 after establishing it as the home of the Golden Globes and other high-profile events. It became the flagship for Merv Griffin Hotels, which currently owns the Hilton Scottsdale Resort & Villas in Arizona and the boutique eighteenth-century St. Clerans Manor House near Galway, Ireland.

In addition to Merv Griffin Hotels, Griffin's umbrella operation, The Griffin Group, includes Merv Griffin Entertainment, a film and television production company;  Griffin & Company (specializing in real-estate-investment banking); The Griffin Ranch, three hundred luxury homes with riding trails and full equestrian services in La Quinta, California; and Teleview Racing Patrol, which provides closed-circuit coverage of horse racing at major venues throughout the country. The Griffin Group has purchased, managed, and successfully sold seventeen radio stations, six casino resorts and riverboats, and seventeen hotels over the past twenty years.

Griffin serves on the boards of the Reagan Library, the Young Musicians Foundation, and the Thoroughbred Owners of California.  In addition to being honored by the Museum, Griffin is also expected to receive an honorary doctorate from the National University of Ireland and a Lifetime Achievement Award as a television icon during this year's Daytime Emmy ceremonies at Radio City Music Hall.

Past Museum of Television & Radio gala honorees include Alan Alda, Julie Andrews, Steven Bochco, Kevin S. Bright, David Brinkley, Tom Brokaw, Carol Burnett, James Burrows, Sid Caesar, Marcy Carsey, David Crane, Ted Danson, Kelsey Grammer, Marta Kauffman, David E. Kelley, Mary Tyler Moore, Jack Paar, Ray Ramono, Dan Rather, Phil Rosenthal, Jerry Seinfeld, Garry Shandling, Martin Sheen, Tom Werner, and Dick Wolf. 

Individual tickets for The Museum of Television & Radio's Annual Gala honoring Merv Griffin are available for $1,000 per person and can be purchased by contacting the Museum's Special Events office at (212) 621-6753.

The Museum of Television & Radio, with locations in New York and Los Angeles, is a nonprofit organization founded by William S. Paley to collect and preserve television and radio programs and advertisements and to make them available to the public. Since opening in 1976, the Museum has organized exhibitions, screening and listening series, seminars, and education classes to showcase its collection of over 100,000 television and radio programs and advertisements. Programs in the Museum's permanent collection are selected for their artistic, cultural, and historic significance.

The Museum of Television & Radio in New York, located at 25 West 52 Street in Manhattan, is open Tuesdays through Sundays from noon to 6:00 p.m. and until 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays. The Museum of Television & Radio in California, located at 465 North Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, is open Wednesdays through Sundays from noon to 5:00 p.m. Both Museums are closed on New Year's Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Suggested contribution: Members free; $10.00 for adults; $8.00 for senior citizens and students; and $5.00 for children under fourteen. Admission is free in Los Angeles. The public areas in both Museums are accessible to wheelchairs, and assisted listening devices are available. Programs are subject to change. You may call the Museum in New York at (212) 621-6800, or in Los Angeles at (310) 786-1000. Visit the Museum's website at