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Merv Griffin Remembered

Aired August 13, 2007 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, TV legend Merv Griffin dead at 82 and remembered one of his closest friends, former First Lady Nancy Reagan.
Plus, Vanna White -- her exclusive first interview on the death of the man who created "Wheel of Fortune".

Alex Trebek hosted "Jeopardy," Merv's other stroke of game show genius.




KING: And Merv's son Tony Griffin -- his first primetime interview since he was there at his dad's side when Merv lost his battle with cancer early Sunday morning.

Also with us, Ryan Seacrest, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Joan Rivers, Ed McMahon and Merv's ex-wife Julan Griffin. She created "Jeopardy" with Merv and last spoke with him a few weeks ago.

Memories of Merv -- the entertainment giant who brought icons into America's living rooms for decades, all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

We've got quite an array of guests for you tonight to pay tribute to talk show titan and game show King Merv Griffin.

But as Vanna White, Alex Trebek and others wait in the LARRY

KING LIVE Green Room, here on the set are Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Merv Griffin's son Tony.

But let's start with someone who is on the phone, former first lady and close friend of Merv's, Nancy Reagan.

Nancy, thanks for joining us.


KING: Did you know that Merv was very ill? REAGAN: Oh, yes. Yes, I did. Although in the very beginning I didn't. I mean he complained early on about having some pains that bothered him. But -- and then he -- soon after that, I think it was the 3rd of June, went to the emergency room but came back. But then he kept complaining of the pain. So I knew something was up.

KING: When you and the late president were in the White House, the two of you did an interview with Merv. Merv talked about it later on this show.

Let's take a quick look.



MERV GRIFFIN: Has there ever been a terrible moment for you here?

REAGAN: I had a meeting up here with a lady. Anyway, I stood up and I had my hand out to say thank you and good-bye. And as I stood and she stood with her hand out, my skirt just went right down to the floor.

And I was standing there with my blouse on and I was yelling to Jim, "Don't turn around. Don't turn around. And the poor woman was standing there with her arm out. And I'm grabbing to my skirt and the only thing I could think of to say was well, I'm sure this is a meeting you'll never forget."



KING: You got along very well with the Reagans.

MERV GRIFFIN: Oh, I loved them both. I knew them a long time.

KING: He was governor then?


KING: When did you last speak with him, Nancy?

REAGAN: Well, it was in the hospital, obviously. And it was about, what, a week maybe before he died. And he asked me if I wanted to go over and see him the day before he died. Nobody knew that it would be the day, but we all knew it was close.

And I said no. I just -- I didn't want to see him like that. I wanted to remember him the way I remembered him. But I didn't want that to be my last memory.

KING: How will you remember him?

REAGAN: Oh, well, as the best friend I've ever, ever had. I mean he and Ronnie and I were friends for 40 or 50 years, a long time. And when Ronnie was sick, he was with me all during those 10 years. And then when Ronnie passed away, he was with me all during that time.

I mean, you know, you couldn't ask for more and I'm dearly going to miss him, terribly.

KING: His legacy -- he won't be matched, will he?

I mean there was -- he was a one of a kind.

REAGAN: Oh, I think so. Yes. I never heard anybody say anything unkind about Merv ever.

KING: Yes.

REAGAN: They only good things.

KING: Thank you for spending these moments, Nancy.

I know how difficult it is for you and we really appreciate it.

REAGAN: You're very welcome.

KING: Nancy Reagan. Governor Schwarzenegger, how long did you know Merv?

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA, U.S. TALK SHOW DEBUT ON MERV'S SHOW 1974: I have known him for -- since 1974. As a matter of fact, I remember that I was trying to promote bodybuilding and I couldn't get on a talk show. And so I went to pre-interview for his talk show, for "The Merv Griffin Show." and they asked me to come back and to be on his show. And he was absolutely fantastic. And...

KING: Was that the first show you did?

SCHWARZENEGGER: It was the first talk show I've ever done and it was really extraordinary how kind he was. And he came back stage and he said, you know, the first two or three questions that I'm going to ask is about bodybuilding and where you grew up. You know, normally you never do that on a talk show, that you tell people, you know, the questions. But he felt like I was a foreigner and, you know, my English wasn't that good, you know?

So he wanted to be helpful.

But that's the kind of a guy he was. He always -- he had a talk show where he wanted to make the guests shine and not to get the ratings by attacking or doing anything controversial or something like that.

KING: Did you, knowing you had the same kind of acumen, did you appreciate his business acumen?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Oh, absolutely. I think that he was a genius. I mean he was a great, great entertainer that entertained people regularly and his singing was fabulous. And then he was just so multi- talented. And I think that what was also extraordinary about him was, as you know, and as we all know in Hollywood, people make a lot of money, but they also blow a lot of money and a lot of them end up bankrupt and a lot of people have their business managers and all of those things to guide them along because they don't have the slightest clue about money and how to make one dollar into two.

But Merv was quite the opposite. He was very shrewd. He was very, very good with money and with being an entrepreneur, very daring. And not only did he create all these shows, he got into real estate, owning hotels, owning, you know, horses and having this huge horse ranch and all of those things. So he really spread out and created businesses and made, you know, billions of dollars.

KING: What did he think of your running for governor?

SCHWARZENEGGER: You know, he was a very big supporter. I mean I remember...


SCHWARZENEGGER: ...the first -- one of the first fundraisers that we had, he was right there. He was right there. He came up to me and gave me a big hug and he usually always just pulls out -- whenever he sees me, he pulls out his chest and he does this whole chest pulse, you know? And he comes and he bounces into me and he bangs into me and he does this whole thing. He says, look at my chest now and feel the abs.

I said, Merv, there are no abs. There's an ab, but there are no abs. And he always...

KING: He was mad. (ph)

SCHWARZENEGGER: Exactly. And he would be always so proud. And I think that he liked hanging out with me a lot of times talking about fitness, because he wanted to get in shape and I always wanted to get his humor. So it was a great combination.

KING: Did you know how ill he was?

SCHWARZENEGGER: No, I did not. I mean, as a matter of fact, you know Merv was one of those guys that would never talk about anything that, you know, where he had problems or concerns or where if he would have been -- if he was depressed, he would never share it with someone.

Maybe he did with Nancy or someone really close, but definitely not with me. Everything was always great, everything was fantastic. And, you know, I saw him and he invited me many times over to his home. We were together many times at the Cafe Roma smoking cigars and stuff like that.

So he was just a buddy that I admired tremendously.

KING: So were you shocked when he died or had -- did you knew near the end that he was dying?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, Nancy called me in the morning after he passed away and she told me about it. And -- which I really appreciated. And so that's how I found out, basically, before I ever found out through the news or anything.

KING: And before you leave us, let's take a look at you on "The Merv Griffin Show". Watch.


SCHWARZENEGGER: Thank you for giving...

M. GRIFFIN: Have you ever played that game?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Oh, my god. That was a -- that was a good one. But first let me (INAUDIBLE).

M. GRIFFIN: That was a good one, huh?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Let me thank them for giving me a better applause than they gave you.

But anyway...


M. GRIFFIN: Oh, are you back there rating applause now?


M. GRIFFIN: is that what you're doing?

SCHWARZENEGGER: I have a special meter back there.


That's a real funny pair of socks for a great big guy to wear.

SCHWARZENEGGER: Do you like them?


SCHWARZENEGGER: Do you like them?

M. GRIFFIN: They look like blue booties or something.

No, I don't want them, Arnold.

Oh, no, no, no.

No, no, no, no.

SCHWARZENEGGER: I share everything.

M. GRIFFIN: No. No, no. Put -- I'd put those back on if I were you.


KING: What a great moment.

Thank you, Arnold.

SCHWARZENEGGER: Thank you very much.

KING: Thank you for coming by.


KING: Thank you, Governor.


KING: Forgive me for saying Arnold, by the way.

SCHWARZENEGGER: Yes, please say Arnold.

KING: I know that (INAUDIBLE)...

SCHWARZENEGGER: Yes. You can say Arnold any time.

KING: Tony Griffin comes back after the break. And we'll be joined by two people Merv made global stars -- Vanna White and Alex Trebek, talking about the Merv Griffin they knew and loved.

That's next


M. GRIFFIN: You've discovered it's a fun city?

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: Well, I haven't...


KING: I haven't quite discovered that side of New York. Being a Baptist clergyman they keep me involved in other areas.

M. GRIFFIN: Right.



M. GRIFFIN: Congratulations are in order. You got married.

JAY LENO: Yes, I did. Yes, I did.

M. GRIFFIN: Isn't that good?

You know why I'm happy?

I'm happy because now when your mother comes out to visit she doesn't have to say to all her friends, "Here's Jay Leno and his -- his un-huh...


M. GRIFFIN: His...



M. GRIFFIN: When Charles Nelson Reilly was playing in the game and you had two aces and I said oh, she's got two big ones. And Charles said, "Boy, has she got two big ones. That was one of the better adlibs ever on this show."



KING: We're remembering Merv.

And with us now, Vanna White, the co-host and letter Turner on "Wheel of Fortune," a Merv Griffin creation that brings top ratings in practically every city.

Tony Griffin remains with us, Merv's son. We'll get a chance, finally, to chat with him.

Alex Trebek, the host of "Jeopardy," the mega successful TV game show created and produced by Merv Griffin.

And in Atlanta, Ryan Seacrest, the host of Fox's "American Idol". Long before "Idol," Ryan was hosted hired by Merv Griffin to host a game show called "Click" 10 years ago.

Let's start with Tony.

You were with him at end?

TONY GRIFFIN, MERV'S SON, FIRST PRIMETIME INTERVIEW SINCE MERV DIED SUNDAY OF CANCER: Yes. The end seems to be a little bit more longer than most people know. He got sick six to seven weeks prior to him dying and I believe in the end of August he started to get sick. And sick I mean he -- his assistant, Ronnie Ward, called me and said, "Come on over here. You need to see your dad. He's really wheezing."

I go, "What is he smoking?"

He goes, "Oh, yes, he's smoking."

I said, "Oh, Ronnie, get those cigarettes from him."

He goes, "I can't, I can't."

So I come over and he was having trouble moving from the couch to the bathroom to the bedroom. And we knew something was wrong and he didn't want any of us to stay. He wanted someone staying there at night.

So Ronnie and I started switching off nights and taking care of him and switching off days. We didn't leave him.

And then he was having pain here. And so we said, well, jeez, dad, you've got to go to the hospital. And I was at home and my cousin Mike called me and said, hey, he just went to the hospital because he went in to see about the pain. It was right before July 4th.

So it was on July 3rd. So he went in the hospital. So I said, "Dad, what are you doing here? What's going on?"

And he finally told me he -- his prostate cancer had metastasized to his bones.

KING: Now, he told everyone he had beaten prostate cancer.

T. GRIFFIN: Yes, I know.

KING: He hadn't?


KING: He didn't at the time?

T. GRIFFIN: How do you -- you know, how do you quantify it?

I don't know.

He -- I guess about three or four years ago, he had not told any of us and went to this specialist, Dr. David Agus and who is the chief guy at Cedars, runs the cancer lab. And I guess they were treating it. I'm not sure. I'm not clear.

KING: Did he know he was dying?

T. GRIFFIN: The last 33 days in the hospital he kept asking me every day if he was dying. So he -- he kind of knew. I mean it was getting worse and worse so...

KING: I don't want to make this more (INAUDIBLE)...

T. GRIFFIN: I'm sorry. Yes, this isn't like some big...

KING: No, really.

T. GRIFFIN: ...yes. But it happened a day...

KING: We all loved him and he...

T. GRIFFIN: It happened a day-and-a-half ago and I'm still reeling from it.

KING: When he died, was he asleep?

Was he... T. GRIFFIN: The last nine days -- Nancy said a week. She actually saw him, I think, on July 20 -- or maybe August 1st. She visited him twice in the hospital. It was a big deal. He was really happy she did. And then on the nine days before he died, he went into ICU. He was having major trouble breathing. And so they came in and they tubed him. They ventilated him.

KING: Did he die in ICU?


KING: And you were with him?


KING: Was it peaceful?

T. GRIFFIN: Yes, it was. He was -- for five days he was sedated and then he woke up and he had this tube in his mouth and he's like what's going on?

You know, he couldn't talk. But I was squeezing his hand and I said , asking, are you trying to ask this. And I'd say well, it's going to be a couple of days, we've just got to get this out of you and keep going and working hard and we just kept trying to keep his spirits good.

And then I think he realized a day later that it was not good and then they really sedated him again, because he was in such pain.

KING: He died in sedation then?

T. GRIFFIN: Yes, I would say the last two days it was like that.

KING: Did he hire you, Vanna?


KING: Directly?

WHITE: Yes. Yes. I met -- I actually did not meet Merv until -- it was after he hired me. I was visiting "Dance Fever," which was one of his shows, visiting Janet Gretzky, who was on the show. And she introduced me to Merv's right-hand man. And I said, "I hear you're looking for a replacement on 'Wheel of Fortune.'

Can I audition?"

And he gave me his card. And I called. He said if we haven't made a decision by October 5th, you come in for an audition.

Sure enough, I went in and auditioned and he selected me.

KING: We'll talk a lot about him.

Alex, you were the second host, right?

Bill Fleming was the first host.

TREBEK: Art Fleming...

KING: Art Fleming.

TREBEK: ...had hosted the program on NBC on network television.

KING: Daytime?

TREBEK: Daytime, 1964 to '74. And it came back briefly in '78 for about six months. And I wasn't Merv's first choice for "Jeopardy" in syndication. In fact, it wasn't a given that "Jeopardy" was going to go into syndication because Merv didn't want it to. "Wheel of Fortune" had gone on the previous year and was a big success.

And when they approached Merv, the King brothers, Michael and Roger, said we've got to put "Jeopardy" in syndication. He said no, it's too classy a program for syndication, it should be on network.

Finally, they talked him into doing it in syndication. And keep in mind that Art Fleming was still alive and there were other hosts and I was doing another show called "Battlestars" at that time. And the King brothers came to Merv and they said our mother, before she died, told us that if we could some day get a job for Alex Trebek. And they mentioned that to Merv and then he picked me to host "Jeopardy".

KING: All right, we'll bring Ryan Seacrest in in the next segment.

Coming up later, Merv's closest friend, Oscar nominee Robert Loggia.

And up next, the woman who helped create two of the things Merv loved most -- one of his game shows and his son Tony.

Merv's former wife and lifelong friend joins us, when we come back.


KING: You wrote the "Jeopardy" song?

M. GRIFFIN: I did.


KING: Do you get paid every time that plays?

M. GRIFFIN: Wait. I've got to do it 30 seconds.


M. GRIFFIN: Here comes the money.

KING: Do you get paid every time that plays?

M. GRIFFIN: Every time. Got -- that...

KING: Even though you owned the show. You sold the show.

M. GRIFFIN: That little song has made a fortune. I couldn't even tell you how many millions and millions and millions of dollars.



KING: By the way, Merv Griffin has a new -- he'll never go away, will he?


KING: He has a new quiz show coming this fall called "Merv Griffin's Crosswords."

If we get some time, we'll talk about that in a while. But it's scheduled to debut in September.

Before we meet his ex-wife, Ryan Seacrest, he hired you to do a show called "Click".

What was "Click?"

RYAN SEACREST, HIRED BY MERV TO HOST GAME SHOW "CLICK" IN 1997: "Click" was a kids' game show that I auditioned about 10 or 11 years ago when I first moved to Hollywood. And I remember the day that I was called into the Beverly Hilton Hotel, his hotel. He created this game show for kids. And I had to audition with Merv in the room. And I just -- I couldn't even think about what I was doing. I didn't hear what I was saying.

I just remember thinking about how important he was and what a legend he had already been and all the things that he had done. And he really became a dear friend and a mentor for me, and somebody that I looked up to and called on for advice throughout my career. I mean I called on him -- I had spoke to him maybe a week or 10 days before he, I guess, he went into the hospital. And he didn't lead on that he was sick at all.

KING: Yes, he never would.

Did "Click" click?

SEACREST: No. I sunk the ship, but...

T. GRIFFIN: It went on three years. It went on three years.

Come on, Ryan.

SEACREST: I know. I tried. And the thing Merv said to me, he said, "You know, you really are good at running a show." and he said, "You are fearless."

And that stuck with me and it's one of the reasons that I do what I do today. He gave me that big break.

KING: Let's go to Charlottesville, Virginia and say hello to Julan, Merv Griffin's wife of 18 years, remained a close friend right until his death, the mother of son Tony, who is here, right here.

Julan, you had -- you had something to do with "Jeopardy," did you not?

JULAN GRIFFIN, MERV'S EX-WIFE, JOHNSTON CO-CREATOR, SPOKE TO MERV A FEW WEEKS AGO: Yes. We were on a flight back from Ironwood, Michigan visiting my folks and we were going back to New York. And Merv always loved game shows. And he started to do some musical symbols on a piece of paper.

And I said oh, don't tell me you're going to do one of those game shows where there are lots of people jumping on chairs and acting like monkeys and everything."

And he said, "Well, you can't do a question and answer show since the $64,000 show was put off the air because they gave the answers." He said, "The FCC suspects you give the answers."

And I said, "Well, then why don't you give the answers and admit it and make people come up with the questions?"

And he said, "Like what?"

And I said, "The answer is 5,280."

He said, "The question is how many feet in a mile?"

I said, "The answer is 52 Wistful Vista."

He said, "Where did Fibber McGee and Molly live?"

And this is the one that's so hard. I said, "The answer is Kathy Fiscus."

He said, "What's the name of the little girl that fell in the well in the 1940s?"

When we got off the plane we had a show. I kept giving him answers and he kept giving me questions. And so then we went to -- he called everybody at office. They came over to the house and I cooked a lot of meals and they built things in the dining room. And we had a show within a short amount of time.

And I must say that Merv did some wonderful things with the idea. You know, he really produced it. Like it's the first time money was taken away from contestants when they missed an answer.

KING: Yes.

J. GRIFFIN: And I thought that wouldn't work, but it was one of the things that made it work.

KING: He was extraordinarily creative. Vanna, Merv gave you your big break as a letter turner on "Wheel of Fortune".

Let's take a look about a classic clip about that and we'll hear how Merv joked about choosing you years later here on LARRY KING LIVE.



M. GRIFFIN: And now we will officially welcome her. Please do that for Vanna White.




KING: How did you come up with a girl that doesn't talk to turn the letters?

M. GRIFFIN: Saw her. They put her, one of 12 eight by ten glossies on my desk.

KING: I mean but you did want a girl that would turn it?


KING: You didn't want a machine to turn it?

M. GRIFFIN: No, no, no, no, no, no.

KING: You knew you'd have a pretty girl turning it?

M. GRIFFIN: I wanted a girl, a pretty girl. She never had a press agent. And I walked in and there was her face. And I said her. Get tape on her. It was Vanna.

And then I said, people would say why did you pick her?

And I said because her head is large.

And she came and made an appointment and came to see me after I told that to the press and she said, "Is my head too big for my body?"

And I said, "Oh, god. I said, no, Vanna. No, you know the whole alphabet. That's why we hired you for."



KING: By the way, Pat Sajak released a statement on the loss of Merv Griffin. He says: "The loss of a dear friend has made it difficult to focus on Merv's enormous contribution to the world of entertainment that will come. And that will come in time. For now, like his family and so many of his close friends, I'm dealing with deep sadness and the realization I'll never hear that wonderful laugh of his again. He meant so much to my life. It's hard to imagine it without him."

Is it, Vanna?

WHITE: It is. It is. I just -- I can't believe it, you know?

I love Merv Griffin. He has -- he changed my life.

KING: Hard for you, Alex?

WHITE: He believed in me and...

TREBEK: Yes. I'll echo what Vanna just said and also what Governor Schwarzenegger said a little while ago. Merv was into everything and anything he did he gave it his full interest, his full effort. And he was successful at many more things than he failed at. You know that, Tony.


TREBEK: And he had, when you were in his company, you never saw him angry and he had that that throaty laugh. It wasn't even a throaty laugh. It came a little more from the chest.




That's better. That's it. That's it. You've got your dad's laugh.

KING: More show and lots more guests ahead. Robert Loggia joins us here on the set to talk about his friendship with Merv.

We break with a musical moment from one of Merv's appearances right here on this show.

We'll be right back.


KING: All right, now, let's -- we've got to do this.


KING: Merv's big hit. I've been singing it for all the girls here.

M. GRIFFIN: Right.

KING: What was your big hit with (INAUDIBLE)? M. GRIFFIN (PLAYING THE PIANO AND SINGING): Down on an English fair, one evening I was there, when I heard a showman shouting underneath the flair.

M. GRIFFIN AND KING (SINGING): Oh, I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts. There they are all standing in a row, big ones, small ones, some as big as your head. You give them a twist, a flick of the wrist, that's what the showman said.

Oh, I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts. Every ball you throw will make me rich. There stands me wife, the idol of my life, singing roll a bowl a ball, a penny a pitch.

M. GRIFFIN (SINGING): Everybody.

M. GRIFFIN AND KING (SINGING): Singing roll a bowl a ball, a penny a pitch. Singing roll a bowl a ball, a penny a pitch. Roll a bowl a ball, roll a bowl a ball, singing roll a bowl a ball a penny a pitch.




KING: You went after all those years you didn't get?

M. GRIFFIN: Pope John Paul II turned me down. Of course, he didn't even answer the phone. No, I talked to everybody I wanted to talk to. There's some today I would like to.

KING: You did that mix too -- do you miss, it by the way?


KING: Don't miss it.


KING: Wouldn't want to do it again.

M. GRIFFIN: No, I would rather watch it at home and watch people doing their interviews. No. I've now become America's guest. All those years, I never ever had an opinion on the show, not political at all.

The Republicans would write to me and say you damn Democrat and the Democrats would say you're just a Republican. Nobody ever knew my politics. I thought it would intimidate the guests if they knew my politics so everybody became my best friend.


KING: We're paying tribute to Merv Griffin. We're joined now by lots of hosts and guests jumping in and out. Robert Loggia, the Oscar nominated actor, close friend of Merv's. How far back did you go with Merv?

ROBERT LOGGIA, ACTOR: I first met him when I was in boot camp in the army in 1951. He was going with Judy Balaban, Bonnie Balaban's daughter, the head of Paramount.

KING: Was he in the army?

LOGGIA: No, no, I was in the army. I was in basic training in Ft. Dix and I got invited by a fellow named John Foreman, who went on to be a producer, I went to college with him. I was on a weekend pass from Ft. Dix. We went through basic training, the Korean War, and they invited me to the Roosevelt Hotel where he was singing, and Wally Cox was there, Harry Belafonte, Robert Clary and all that.

KING: Did that begin the friendship?

LOGGIA: There was a lot dissolved from meeting him and Judy Balaban that weekend. It was a fantastic weekend to two years later when we hooked up again.

KING: We'll pick up more in a minute. With us now on the phone, Jerry Seinfeld. Are you there, Jer?


KING: Hi, how do you go back with Merv?

SEINFELD: Merv discovered me at The Improv in 1981, and I went on to appear on his show 25 times. And, you know, being on Merv's show was like having an uncle in show business. You never felt any intimidation. You always felt that you were just welcome there and he was thrilled to have you on and even if you didn't do that well, he would say to you during the commercial, it's the audience's fault. He would always try to encourage you. I mean, he was a great friend, and a wonderful guy.

KING: There's no one quite like him in show business, is there, Jer?

SEINFELD: I would say you would be the only one.

KING: Yeah, but I'm not an impresario and I don't own things.

SEINFELD: You are an impresario.


SEINFELD: You're a guy -- you know what it is. It's a person that a whole country feels comfortable, and you feel like you know them and you feel like they are in your family and Merv was like that and you're like that.

KING: Well, it's so nice of you to call in. How will you remember him?

SEINFELD: I'll just remember those, you know, chatting in the commercials. That was the nice time, when he made you feel secure.

I mean, when I was 25 when I first went on his show and you're terrified, and you're wondering if you're going to have a career, if you're ever going to be on back on the show and he would always reassure you, you know, that you did well and we can't wait to have you back and in those years, in those early scary years, you know, you never forget the people that encouraged you.

KING: Thank you for calling in, Jerry. Great, great seeing you and happy to be in your movie, "Bee Movie" coming in November, right?

SEINFELD: That's right.

KING: Julan, what kind of ex-husband was he?

J. GRIFFIN: Well, he was wonderful. You know, he's -- I still thrill when I hear his singing voice. I know he loved you, Larry, because you appreciated his singing and musical talents. The last time I talked to him was about a month ago, right after the 4th of July when he called to thank me for a dessert that I made, his favorite, and I said I was going to go and see him at the Hollywood Bowl. He was supposed to sing there this September, and I'm so disappointed that he didn't make it. He -- and he was -- he was a very thoughtful ex-husband, and he loved Tony and Tricia and the kids and that made me happy. I think he loved me, too.

KING: What kind of friend was he, Robert?

LOGGIA: He was my best friend. I asked him if he would be my best friend and he said he'd be honored, and --

KING: You asked him to be your best friend.


KING: I never heard of that in my life.

LOGGIA: Well, we ran - as you get older, you lose friends. They either die and suddenly you're kind of alone. You've got your wife and everything, who really is a best friend too. But a male best friend is awfully tough to come by later in life.

KING: Ryan, you could do a lot worse than having Merv Griffin as a best friend, right?

SEACREST: That's true. I met a lot of the folks in the studio with you through Merv. He would love to have lunch at Griff's, at his hotel, and he would love to gather a group together and he would say things like watch this, watch me close this deal. And he loved to tell stories. I mean, he was a true showman. There has never been anybody like Merv, and there will never be anybody like Merv.

KING: Great guy to work for, Alex?

TREBEK: Yes. It was, because he got involved with "Jeopardy!" early on and then realized we were solid, we were OK. We were doing a good job so he let us be. He would make suggestions from time to time as he would with "Wheel of Fortune." He was writing a lot of puzzles for "Wheel of Fortune."

KING: He would write them himself?

WHITE: He would.

TREBEK: He was into games. He loved competition. He loved any kind of challenge. As you just heard from Ryan, he would want to win at things, and when he got involved with Donald Trump, for instance, that was a whole to do that made --

KING: It was a game.

TREBEK: It was basically a high-stakes game in which Merv took exceeding delight when he got the upper hand. He says Donald thinks he got the best of me but no, I won this game.

KING: Tony, what do you do for a living?

T. GRIFFIN: I write films and I'm producing one right now.

KING: Does your father -- did your father get involved in your work?

T. GRIFFIN: Well, what my dad did early on with me is he said -- he put me in his office when I was 25 and I said I've been acting, I've been doing pretty good and he said I'm going to tell you this once. I'm going to make sure you have a roof over your head and some wheels to get to your auditions and I'm not going to interfere with what you do in your life and here's why.

I don't want you waking up one year, and he said 50 years from now and say gosh darn it, my old man stopped me from doing this so he really -- he really allowed me to do what was my passion.

KING: Still to come, the queen of comic dish gets serious for a bit with her memories of Merv. Joan Rivers joins us, don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want you to hear what an idiot this fella is. I've been in show business probably 60 years.

M. GRIFFIN: Oh my god, have you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you're asking me if I can remember the first laugh.

M. GRIFFIN: I would think -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't remember the last laugh I got.

SEINFELD: I don't know who is watching this right now. Did you ever think that people are just like flipping around, hey, you flipping around, hold it. Go ahead. People are flipping around. M. GRIFFIN: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to do that?

M. GRIFFIN: What was that guy's name? Used to say that.



KING: Joining us now from the Magic Theater in San Francisco, she's debuting her new one-woman show tonight, is Joan Rivers. Joan, what are your memories of Merv?

JOAN RIVERS, ENTERTAINER: Oh, such warm ones but not just as a professional. I had dinner with him last I think it was April, and he was always the one I wanted to sit next to at a dinner party because he was so funny and fun and teasing around. He was just wonderful.

KING: Did you ever go on his show?

RIVERS: I went on the show a lot. When you first started, there was a great rivalry between "The Johnny Carson Show" and "The Merv Griffin Show" and it was an unwritten law you couldn't do either. You had to make a choice and I was one of the few performers that said I'm going to do both and I was lucky enough I did both. I loved working with him.

KING: What was his talent?

RIVERS: Making you feel very -- as Jerry just said, making you feel so wanted and so at ease. You never felt the pressure of I have to be funny here. I have to be funny. It was always just like visiting a friend that got your humor. I think it was a great talent.

KING: And Ryan, despite all his money, Ryan Seacrest, he never carried it on his shoulder, did he?

SEACREST: No, he didn't.

KING: He never acted like I'm rich guy even though he was probably the richest show business person in the country?

SEACREST: The most likable billionaire in the world. He was the most entertaining history book for me in the world. He was, you know, somebody that always made you want to do more, encouraged you, and it was said earlier he never blamed you for anything.

If anything went wrong he always said, ah, it's their fault. Don't worry about it. You're great. You'll do better next time. He was like that coach used to love when you were a kid.

KING: How do you categorize him, Joan? Is he a businessman, show business, entertainer, creator or what?

RIVERS: He was a great business man and about the money he was so -- two things that I loved about the money. He was very wealthy, and he enjoyed it. He had a great time. He went on yachts and he went to the south of France and he did things and he shared them with his friends. He really was like the happy billionaire, and that was a terrific thing because he really had great money and knew it and loved it and that's terrific.

KING: Thanks, Joan. Thanks for joining us and he was great for horse racing.


KING: Robert, you have a story when he got mad at someone.

LOGGIA: The only time I saw Merv angry and Tony was there as well. We were coming -- we were in Italy, in Naples and then we took a flight. We landed in Ireland and Charlie Chan, Merv's dog, prior to taking off on the private jet, it was Merv's private jet back to America, Merv thought it would be a good idea since we were at a very -- a runway way off the path of a main runway, and Merv thought it would be a good chance for Charlie Chan to relieve himself, and the Irish customs people there would not allow him to do it. Now I had never seen Merv angry before, but he got as angry as Mount Vesuvius and blew his stack. Tony and I ran for the hills as Merv took on these Irish cops.

KING: What was the reason for not letting the dog relieve himself?

T. GRIFFIN: They had a quarantine in Ireland.

LOGGIA: And he couldn't wee-wee there.

T. GRIFFIN: We couldn't even go -- he refused after that to go back to Ireland to see St. Clarenes (ph) for two years because they wouldn't let his dog in, but now he would have gone back this year.

KING: What memories. Let's check in with Anderson Cooper. He'll host - he's back -- he'll host "A.C. 360" at the top of the hour. Anderson, what's up?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, on the program tonight, the man known as the architect or even Bush's brain, Karl Rove, the longtime Bush confidant and current deputy White House chief of staff resigned today. Depending on what side of the political fence you're on, probably depends on how you view Mr. Rove. We'll look at all the angles. We're also going to be keep Rove honest, objectively looking at his record to see how much he accomplished.

That plus new pictures from inside the mine where rescuers continue to search for their six co-workers. They are holding out hope. We'll tell you why. All that and more, Larry, at the top of the hour on "360."

KING: That's Anderson Cooper at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 Pacific. Ed McMahon joins our guest list next as we remember an amazing man, Merv Griffin. Stay tuned. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The services for Merv Griffin are Friday afternoon. They are private, right?

T. GRIFFIN: Yeah, 500 of his closest friends.

KING: But there will be invitations sent.


KING: let's check in with our friend Ed McMahon who is in Savannah, Georgia. Ed, what are your memories of Merv Griffin?

ED MCMAHON, FRIEND OF MERV GRIFFIN: Well, I remember his great generosity, you know. He was not only generous with his money but his toys. He loved to share his boat, loved to share his airplane, his ranch, and I loved how he was so into show business.

We were doing "Alf." We brought "Alf" back on TVLand for a limited run and "Alf" was set up like he was Johnny Carson and I was, of course, the sidekick and we did a series of shows and the producer said do you think we can get Merv Griffin. So I said, let me call him.

I called Merv. I said, would you come on the show, it would really help us. Like that, he said I'll be there. Showed up, not only was a guest, but he played the piano and he and "Alf" did the cutest little song together and it was just adorable. And that's the way he was. He was a very generous man.

KING: What did Johnny Carson think of Merv?

MCMAHON: Well, they got to be great friends. You know, Johnny used to tease him. He had an expression when something was really interesting he would go "ooh" and so Johnny would imitate him and then Johnny would kid him about his theme shows.

He would do a theme show, and Johnny was who was opposite us but Johnny would say, be sure to catch Merv's theme show tonight. It's really great, but they became good friends and had dinner often. They became great pals.

KING: And did you get to know him very well?

MCMAHON: Say that again, please.

KING: Did you know him very well?

MCMAHON: Oh, yeah. I got to know him, and my daughter, my oldest daughter worked for him for a while.


MCMAHON: I got to know him that way, Claudia, and she worked for him, and she -- she just handled his operation very well and he was very pleased with her.

KING: We will not see his likes again, will we, Ed?

MCMAHON: Not at all. Not a man like that, no.

KING: Thanks very much. Ed McMahon checking in from Savannah. What will this new game show be like, Tony?

T. GRIFFIN: Well, it's like a crossword puzzle.

KING: Who is hosting?

T. GRIFFIN: Ty Treadway.

KING: Ty Treadway, he's going to be as famous as you.

TREBEK: Good luck to him. I wish him all the best.

T. GRIFFIN: It's close to as good as "Jeopardy!" I'm telling you.

KING: Really?

T. GRIFFIN: Yes, it is, and the thing about dad is he's very hands on and he wanted to get to this set to dig into it and he was just getting sick so he couldn't come down to the set, but he did do something funny.

We got a tape for him in the hospital and he was looking at it, and he goes oh, my god. I said, dad, something wrong with the show?. I thought it was running well.

He said look at Ty's hair. Can you spoof it up a little bit? It looks -- it doesn't look hip enough. And so Ty Treadway, you know, when he got the news, he goes -- check this out. An 82-year-old guy, Merv Griffin is telling me 30-something guy I'm not hip enough and doing his hair and he changed his hair and it looks great.

KING: Was he involved in what you wore, Vanna?

WHITE: No, but he would let me know if he didn't like it, that's for sure.

KING: He was that involved in every?

WHITE: He was every inch of the show he was involved in. He watched it every night, didn't he? I heard he did.

T. GRIFFIN: He wrote every puzzle. I remember him scratching puzzles out everywhere he went.

KING: How involved was he in "Jeopardy!" Alex?

TREBEK: He was not that involved except as Vanna indicates, if he didn't like something he would let you know, but otherwise he seemed to enjoy the program. He and your mom used to watch the show and you were there?

T. GRIFFIN: Battle.

TREBEK: And they would battle over it because he was very competitive. He's got to win.


TREBEK: And Julan is probably exactly the same.

T. GRIFFIN: She's good, she's very good.

TREBEK: And she was an equal match to him.

T. GRIFFIN: And U was not.

TREBEK: And you were not. You were the little one sitting in the middle saying mom, dad, cool it.

T. GRIFFIN: I only did two of those.

KING: We have an e-mail question from Terry in Goshen, Ohio. What kind of dad was Merv? He always seemed like he was a very happy guy?

T. GRIFFIN: Well, he was. He was a very private guy. He was working so much in the early '60s and '70s that I really got to know him when my parents got divorced in 1973, and I just started hanging out with him.

I didn't really know him that well, to tell you the truth, because he was doing two shows a day. He was doing game shows at night and so I finally got to know him and we started double dating and, dad, don't tell her I'm 14, and we became best friends. That's what kind of dad. He was just fun to be around.

KING: Some final words.

WHITE: A great grandfather, too.

T. GRIFFIN: Oh, the best grandfather.

KING: What kind of grandfather?

T. GRIFFIN: He adored his kids.

Donovan Mervyn Griffin, who is 8, named after him, and Farah Christian Griffin who is 12. He went to every single one of Farah's plays. She was in six or seven, "Wicked." He went in may of this year when he was sick and sat in these horrible chairs, not horrible, sorry, Oaks Christian but he sat in these hard chairs and it was hard on him and he sat through the whole thing.

KING: Some final words about the man with a magic touch and the heart of gold, Merv Griffin, when we come back.


M. GRIFFIN: What's the most important thing you've done in the last 100 years.


M. GRIFFIN: Absolutely nothing.

BURTON: Well, virtually nothing -- occasionally a man wrote a verse, said something that was mildly interesting, but for the most part we haven't advanced really for the last 2,500 years, I wouldn't think.

SAMMY DAVIS JR., PERFORMER: I never knew at that time, however, that I would be in living color.

M. GRIFFIN: Yeah. In what?

DAVIS: In living color.

M. GRIFFIN: I have to ask you what that means.

DAVIS: That means if you're colored, it shows it.

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: Well, Merv, one thing I've learned in all my years is sometimes you've got to say what the heck.



KING: Ryan Seacrest, how are you going to remember Merv?

SEACREST: I will miss the chats we would have. You know, for the last 10 years, I never made a big decision in my career without calling Merv, and he always made me smile and gave me the right direction so I'll miss my buddy.

KING: Wow. We have an e-mail, one more from Kathy, El Cajon, California. Of all the Merv Griffin's accomplishments, what do you think he was most proud of?

TREBEK: Oh, gosh. I think the fact that he succeeded in so many different venues. He was a successful singer. He was an actor, not so successful. But in terms of producing his own show, being his own host on his program, the game shows he produced, horse racing which was mentioned. That's more recent and the casinos and the hotels. I mean, there isn't any area that he didn't delve into and succeed at. My gosh, he's a phenomenon.

T. GRIFFIN: He loved winning the Breeder's Cup. That was a huge win for us. It was a big deal.

KING: Well, everything he touched.

LOGGIA: But I think what's important is that when Merv got that money for "Jeopardy!," that incredible amount of money, most guys would have stood pat. Merv gambled it all.

KING: You're right.

LOGGIA: He put it at risk. He could have lost it all.

KING: Thank you all very much for a terrific hour. Before we say good night, a reminder to check out our special Elvis tribute show live from Graceland this coming Wednesday. And as always remember our Web site We've got an Elvis quick vote and photo gallery for you, so send the e-mail or video question on upcoming guests as well. You can even download our current podcast, Paula Deen. It's all at

Tomorrow night, Bill Maher, so bring on those e-mail questions for Bill. Right now, "A.C. 360" with Anderson Cooper. Anderson?