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Griffin, Merv (1925-2007)  
 
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He was known as "Buddy" Griffin as a child. Overweight and awkward, "Buddy" showed little interest in sports, and instead found enjoyment playing the piano. He took piano lessons from one of his aunts and exhibited genuine talent.

He also organized weekly entertainments on his family's back porch, recruiting other children from the neighborhood as stagehands and actors. "I was the producer, always the producer," he once reminisced in an interview.

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As a boy, Griffin started singing in his church choir, and later, as a teenager, earned extra money as a church organist and piano player of popular music at weddings and parties.

After graduating from San Mateo High School in 1942, Griffin attended San Mateo Junior College and then transferred to the University of San Francisco, but left before getting a degree.

Griffin began singing on the radio at the age of 19, appearing on San Francisco Sketchbook, a nationally syndicated program, from 1945 to 1948. The bandleader Freddy Martin heard Griffin on the radio and invited the singer to tour with his orchestra, which Griffin did for four years.

One of their biggest hits together was the novelty song "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts," recorded in 1950, which sold over three million copies.

Griffin was next discovered by Doris Day, who was so impressed with one of his performances at a Los Angeles nightclub that she arranged for a screen test at Warner Brothers Studios for a possible role in her 1953 film By the Light of the Silvery Moon.

Although Griffin was not successful in securing a role in that film (he appeared, uncredited, in one short scene), his screen test led to supporting roles in the musical So This is Love (1953) and a western The Boy from Oklahoma (1954).

Griffin soon grew disillusioned with the film industry, however, and bought out his contract with Warner Brothers. "I couldn't stand doing other people's words, waiting for the next shot," Griffin remarked in an interview. "That just bored . . . me."

He decided to focus his career on television, instead. He was a featured singer on weekly variety programs, and the host of several daytime game shows in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Griffin started his talk show career as a guest host on The Tonight Show, occasionally filling in for then-host Jack Paar.

In 1962, Griffin launched his own program, The Merv Griffin Show, which remained on television in various iterations until 1986, in both daytime and nighttime formats, and on broadcast television as well as in syndication sold individually to local stations. The show won multiple Emmy Awards during its long run.

As a talk-show host, Griffin maintained a low-key, unpretentious, and genial persona. Most of his guests were entertainers and "personalities" such as Zsa Zsa Gabor, but he also booked politicians and authors and comedians. Although he generally avoided controversy, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, he gave a platform to guests who criticized the Vietnam War, including philosopher Bertrand Russell and comedian Dick Gregory.

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