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CNN Larry King Live

Interview With Merv Griffin

Aired May 11, 2006 - 21:00   ET


MERV GRIFFIN: This is a really a rare treat for us Mr. Wayne.

JOHN WAYNE: Why not Duke?

GRIFFIN: Yes, all right Duke.

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, talk show legend Merv Griffin, for more than 20 years he brought icons into America's homes.

GRIFFIN: Will Elizabeth criticize you?

RICHARD BURTON: Oh, indeed she does frequently.

GRIFFIN: And will you stand for it?

BURTON: Oh, yes.

KING: Some of the world's most fascinating and important people sat down and opened up on his couch.

GRIFFIN: What has the civil rights movement done to the negro individually?

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: Given the negro a new sense of dignity.

KING: And some were just getting started becoming giants.

TOM CRUISE: Sometimes you got to say "What the heck?"

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all start floating up.

JERRY SEINFELD: They'll be back Merv. There's nothing else on.

KING: What kind of guy could do all that? Merv Griffin, sharing special memories of unforgettable people is next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: Merv Griffin, a dear and old friend of mine, got some of the world's most talked about people to tell all on his TV show. Tonight, Merv is here to share his memories, not to mention a lot of fabulous clips from those interviews.

You'll be seeing a lot of them and you can see even more of them on his recently released three DVD set called "The Merv Griffin Show, 40 of the Most Interesting People of our Time." There you see its cover. I have a copy of it right here. And it's always great to see Merv Griffin.

GRIFFIN: Thank you, Larry.

KING: How did you get the idea to put all this together?

GRIFFIN: I didn't. I didn't. A company named Alpha in Philadelphia came and said, "We'd like to see your vault." I hadn't thought about my vault in 20 years.

KING: Your vault?

GRIFFIN: I have my own vault and you have a vault too.

KING: I guess. I don't know.

GRIFFIN: They don't erase all the -- I hope they don't.

KING: No, they don't erase it.

GRIFFIN: Because some day this will be historical or hysterical. And they came and I hadn't seen anything in there in 25 years. And so, they went all through it, there's 5,000-something tapes, 5,500, 25,000 guests, so they went in there and they rummaged through my vault and then they came up with the pieces they wanted to use.

And, I said "You got to play those for me." You can't remember all those interviews and people. And they did. I was shocked at the performances of some of them and the things they said and the length of time their interviews ran without commercial interruption. It was amazing to me, amazing, and very different from today's talk shows.

KING: Yes, we'll get into that. You were a very well known band singer with Freddy Martin.

GRIFIN: Yes. Yes.

KING: Had some hit records.


KING: How did the talk show come about?

GRIFFIN: Well, I served my time as an apprentice in television. I did a lot of shows in New York. I was kind of a utility singer. If a show like Ken Murray (ph) or some of them had a waterfall in their vault and they'd say "Let's put the waterfall on this week, who knows waterfall? Get Merv Griffin. He knows all the waterfall songs." So, I'd come and sing a waterfall song.

KING: So, you were a runabout?

GRIFFIN: Yes. Yes. Then my next door neighbor at our broadcasting center, I was on the Dumont network. You're too young, Larry, to remember.

KING: No, no, no, Channel 5, Jackie Gleason, New York.


KING: Come on.

GRIFFIN: And Merv Griffin. Well what was the name of Jackie Gleason's show?

KING: Cavalcade of Stars.

GRIFFIN: And I was Cavalcade of Bands. And we were right next door. And, Jackie, we became great friends and he would come over and I don't think he was a fan of our orchestra because it had violins. He liked that haunting trumpet sound and those great records he made.

And I remember when I was going to be drafted I said to Jackie, "What do you think?" He said, "Well, I think reveille (ph) will sound better than this band." I mean that's his...

KING: That was Korean War time.

GRIFFIN: Yes. Yes.

KING: So you had a band show, Cavalcade of Bands.

GRIFFIN: Yes, so then I would run over to his show. He'd say, "I just wrote some new words to my theme." And I said "Well you did that two weeks ago." "Oh, I know but I need some new words. You have to come over and sing it tonight on my show."

Well he would change the words five minutes before air and, of course, it was live and I'd be on there looking Melancholy Serenade and Jackie would be standing there going "You got it pal." I loved him.

KING: How did you...

GRIFFIN: But it was very interesting about him.

KING: I knew him well.

GRIFFIN: Yes. Remember when he walked down the streets every cab driver in New York because they are the barometer of how good and how popular you are "Hey, Jackie."

KING: That's how he knew he had made it.

GRIFFIN: Yes. And he'd go, "Hello, pal."

KING: Pal, everyone was pal.

GRIFFIN: Every truck driver, "Pal, how are you pal?" And we're walking along and I go "Gee, you get a lot of attention." He said, "That's my audience. I love them." Then came the headline in the paper he signed a deal with CBS for Chrysler Motors for $12 million and we were walking down the street, nobody yelled. And I said, "Jackie, why aren't they yelling?" "Ah, people don't yell at a rich man." And that's probably true.

KING: But they always loved him.

GRIFFIN: Loved him, yes.

KING: So how did you get your talk show which was the original question?

GRIFFIN: Oh, well how long ago was it?

KING: I don't remember.

GRIFFIN: It was Jack Paar and I was doing a game show on NBC called Play Your Hunch and there was a moment where the contestants were quiet and (INAUDIBLE) not that one but they were quiet and all of a sudden through the center curtain walked Jack Paar in his open shirt and he was stunned. The audience, of course, went wild. It was at the apex of his career, front page stuff every day, fights, everything he did.

And so I walked over and delivered my first talk show line, "What are you doing here?" And he said, "What are you doing here?" And I said, "Well this is my studio." "It is not. This is my studio. I do my show here. I tape at six o'clock." I said, "Well I tape at 12:00 Noon." But the audience just loved it.

And he went back to his agent and said "Who is that kid?" He said, "Give him a Monday night." You know Monday night was death at The Tonight Show. Everybody took off, the director, the producer.

KING: So, you replaced him on Monday nights?

GRIFFIN: Replaced him on a Monday night and from that moment everything went wild.

KING: And then where was your show slotted?

GRIFFIN: My show on NBC at that time was 2:30 in the afternoon and I did the same format in the same studio on the same opening night as Johnny Carson. We both came from the studio. The interesting part was that I could get stars and he had a terrible time.

KING: I know.

GRIFFIN: Because I had a history of the whole summer doing the Paar Show before Johnny and all the stars would come on. At that time, stars were very worried about their life, you know, and personal lives and stuff and they weren't going to trust somebody they didn't know to, you know, knock them out.

KING: Did you take to it right away?

GRIFFIN: Oh, yes. Oh, God.

KING: What did you like about it?

GRIFFIN: It was like finding, you know, heaven.


GRIFFIN: What's it like being a woman in France that's any different than being a woman in America?

JANE FONDA: I don't think it has anything to do with the country you live in. I think it has to do with the man you live with.

GRIFFIN: Who's that?


GRIFFIN: Oh, yes. I'm sorry.


GRIFFIN: He walked on and it was all, you know, ad lib. It was like this. But if I felt like that there was a lull I'd go over and play the piano and there'd be a bigger lull. Of, you could sing a song. You could do anything you wanted and that's what was exciting about the talk show.

KING: And that couldn't work now could it according to the suits it couldn't work?

GRIFFIN: Oh, no, oh God. You brought it up, I didn't. And you're not even wearing a suit so that's good.

KING: They wouldn't take that show.


KING: Because?

GRIFFIN: Well first of all they have to slot-- see in those days we didn't have the number of commercials that they have today. It was a far looser thing. I don't know. A show like that has to be built on the person, built on the personality you've hired.

And, you know, Jack Paar was the beginning of it all. Now, I knew Steve Allen well. I loved Steve Allen but he did not create what we know today as the talk show. He had comedy bits and he had actors on his show and all kind of stuff. He wasn't the master of the sit down interview. But when Paar did it, he just took little nothing stories and built them into epics.

KING: And he was edgy.

GRIFFIN: Edgy, always edgy.

(CROSSTALK) GRIFFIN: I was walking down the hall with him one day before the show. I was on with him that night. And he said, "Oh." I said, "What's the matter Jack?" He said, "See that guy over there by the piano lurking? OK, look at him now." And I said, "Yes." He said, "He's been here for three nights in a row and I don't know who he is." And I said, "Jack, that's your saxophone player." He just thought -- he was paranoid and it was wonderful.

KING: We'll get a break. The tape is everywhere. It's one of the best releases ever, "The Merv Griffin Show, 40 of the Most Interesting People of our time" and one of them, as we go to break, is Jack Benny. Watch.


GRIFFIN: Do you remember your first laugh on a stage?

JACK BENNY: That's the silliest question.




GRIFFIN: Do you have a vivid recollection of the first time you ever saw the principality of Monaco?

GRACE KELLY: Yes, the first time was when I was making, excuse me...

GRIFFIN: "To Catch a Thief."

KELLY: "To Catch a Thief" with Alfred Hitchcock, although we were doing a scene where I had to drive the car and had to go on a very tricky little turn...

GRIFFIN: We all remember that scene.

KELLY: ...and had to stop by a bush this far from the edge, so I think I was more worried about that and less able to take in the beautiful scenery.


KING: Merv Griffin, if you did a compendium of all the great guests he had and only 40 of them are on this tape, I am humbled to be in your presence. I mean I have had some you have (INAUDIBLE).

GRIFFIN: Oh, Larry, for heaven's sake. But I watch you every night. I know who you've had on here.

KING: Yes, but you run the...

GRIFFIN: I don't remember them.

KING: Tell me about Grace Kelly and that.

GRIFFIN: The story she just told about having to stop at that bush. She wore glasses. She was very nearsighted. And she was terrified because it was the edge of a cliff.

Somebody on the "Today Show" remembered that interview and the "Today Show" called me and said, "Do you still have that?" And I said, "In my vault, Merv's vault." And they said, "Could we have it immediately?" I said "Why?" And he said "Because that's where she went over right on that spot, went over the hill and was killed."

KING: What was she like?

GRIFFIN: Oh, she was lovely, lovely family, gosh her sister, brother Jack, I knew them all and the kids were, you know, Albert was just a little kid and the girls sweet. They were all sweet. She was very much in touch with thoughts about family and how they have to be together and stay together.


KELLY: I believe very much in the family as an important nucleus of society and I think families have to fight and work to keep together and it's I suppose a great deal up to the mother to be the pillar of the family and to try to keep things going harmoniously."


GRIFFIN: And, of course, the problems started after she died with the family. It all kind of went wild.

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

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 are 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?

GRIFFIN: No, I'd rather watch 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, "Damn Democrats," the Democrats would say "Oh, 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: How long was the show on?

GRIFFIN: It was 23 years and it was interesting in those days because people really -- they'd say "How did you get them to do that Merv?" And the same thing you do, you lock eyes with them.

KING: Yes.

GRIFFIN: And, if they're comfortable with you they will tell you anything.


GRIFFIN: But you must be aware of an undercurrent with politicians, with people in our business, even comedians who refer to Richard Nixon as a loser. You have that stigma because of losing two big contests. How do you plan to combat that? You must be aware that that's been said. It's been written about in newspapers.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sure. I think it's a legitimate question that should be raised by those who are trying to find the strongest possible candidate and the way you combat it is to win something.


GRIFFIN: Frank Sinatra called me one day and he said, "Merv, would you put on the vice president, Spiro Agnew" and it was right after he left the White House in the hurry and I said, "Love to." And so he said, "Great. Thank you." They were great friends.

And, so it was three weeks and during those three weeks everybody who knew him and was associated with him called and said, "Be sure you don't ask him this." So the day of the show the producer came and he said, "Well you're down to hello and you got 90 minutes with Spiro."

And, I said "Yes." He said, "Let's cancel." I said, "No." I said, "Let me see if I can get the answers to questions." I had to soft ball him a lot and go around doors to get him. He answered everything I wanted to know. But, you know, it can be tough sometimes.

KING: You did 90 minutes right?


KING: Why did the show go off?

GRIFFIN: Because, you know, after a while we went down to an hour. We were an hour toward the last four years or something. The show went off. I didn't want to do it anymore.

KING: And also you were on your way to becoming not only very rich but an impresario. I mean you write quiz shows. You come up with Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy. You write the songs. I mean you became larger than doing a show.

GRIFFIN: Yes, but I started buying into hotels, which were my second love, you know, it's like a talk show with beds.

KING: We're going to show a clip with Orson Welles.


ORSON WELLES: I acted in soap operas in the day to make my living. I did a lot of those. I remember I played a cad in one of them. I was trying to seduce a girl. It took us about 13 weeks in one rumble seat to get anywhere.


KING: Was he as impressive as he was on a screen?

GRIFFIN: Oh, yes, scary. The only thing that he did that was not impressive one day is he invited me to lunch at (INAUDIBLE) and he had a little corner and I went in and we sat with him and he wanted -- he wanted an introduction to Clint Eastwood because he had a script that he thought would be great for Clint and I agreed to set it up.

And we were sitting there and he had a little piece of fish and a little of this and a little vegetable and, you know, the size, he was gigantic and I thought well how can that be? Maybe he's swollen.

So, I left at the same time he did and he got in this car and driver in front of me and I got in mine and we were coming right over in this direction, right over here because my theater was right up the street here.

KING: I know.

GRIFFIN: And so we were almost following him but suddenly he turned left on Coanga (ph) and I said to the driver "Follow that car." It was great to say. And we followed him and he pulled up in front of Pink's and I said "Stop." You know Pink's.

KING: The frankfurter.

GRIFFIN: Yes, the hot dog. For years it's been there, wonderful. And his chauffeur went in and he came out with a tray and I counted two dozen. He sat in the back. He's going "Gees, I don't want to eat with Merv anymore."

KING: We're going to show -- he died shortly after this.

GRIFFIN: He died three hours after this interview.

KING: As we go to break, Merv Griffin, part of the tape with Orson Welles.


GRIFFIN: All that success at that age, hard to handle or easy to handle?

WELLES: You know that this -- anybody who has trouble being successful doesn't have any sympathy for me.

GRIFFIN: Right. But at 22, Orson you were the child genius of Broadway.

WELLES: But I was a success -- I was a success at 16. I was a star in Dublin, so I was an old timer by then and I was just awful busy, you know, and awful lucky. I had a tremendous streak of luck and I was very grateful for that because I'm not being fake modest talking about luck. I do really think it has everything to do with anybody's life.




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

NANCY REAGAN, FORMER FIRST LADY: I had a meeting up here with a lady. I stood up and I had my hand out saying "Thank you and goodbye" 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 is standing there with her arm out and I'm grabbing for 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.

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

KING: He was governor then?

GRIFFIN: That was from the White House.

KING: Oh, from the White House. He was president.

GRIFFIN: That was almost highly unusual. It was from the private quarters.


GRIFFIN: This is the second floor?

N. REAGAN: Second floor.

GRIFFIN: And how magnificently you've decorated it Nancy. It's really a -- you've made it very warm and very intimate for what is a very cavernous kind of hallway here.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GRIFFIN: I came up to see them about two weeks before and we were sitting around in what they called the California Room where they would eat and it was all California glass and looking out to the Washington Monument. And, I got all dressed up, you know, black tie, black suit and everything.

And that little elevator you take up to the private quarters only holds two people and I got off and the two of them were standing there. Somebody must have phoned and said "He's in the elevator."

And they had on, you know, California cowboy clothes. I looked at them and said "Hey, I look like Herbert Hoover. What are you doing?" And they laughed. We just had the greatest time.

KING: Was it fun for you to watch all these again?

GRIFFIN: Oh, yes.

KING: To go through them?

GRIFFIN: It was very odd.

KING: Because?

GRIFFIN: Because I didn't remember all of them. There's no way you can remember.

KING: No way.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my favorite TV show. I like it. And don't think I say it for the ulterior purpose. I say it for only one reason because I'm here right now. No, I really think that this is the only kind of a TV show where you could be yourself or you can express yourself where people aren't premeditated and prepared with every line and every word and that people are frank and bold about the significance of what they think. And I think that's what's wrong with television.

GRIFFIN: Your time's up Jack.


GRIFFIN: Talk shows will always chronicle the times that we lived in America better than the history books in school because it was such a montage of great guests from politics, foreign leaders, movie stars and what people were talking about. Mine were the '60s, '70s, and '80s.


GRIFFIN: You're the one person that comes on this show I never know how you're going to look when you come out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why? GRIFFIN: I'll tell you why. I don't know whether to be insulted or flattered. He goes on. He gets awards on television, you know, Writers Guild of America, all those things and he doesn't have it on.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn't have what?



GRIFFIN: He doesn't have (INAUDIBLE).



KING: How did the quiz show thing come about at all? I know you hosted quiz shows but how did it come about developing them?

GRIFFIN: I did (INAUDIBLE). I just loved them. I thought they were great. I thought this is fun. So, I started remembering the games my sister and I used to play, you know, in the back of the car on long vacations that we didn't want to go on, you know. "We're going to Carlsbad Caverns and see the bats fly out." "Hey, ma, we want to stay home and play, you know." No. And we'd sit in the back and play hangman.

And I turned that into Wheel of Fortune. And then my ex-wife (INAUDIBLE) the scandals we were flying a plane back from Chicago and I said, "Gee, it just kills me I love quiz shows so much but you can't put them on." "Well why?" I said, "All the scandals." And she said, "Well, just tell them you're going to give the answers." I said, "Well that's exactly how everybody went to jail, you know." No.

KING: Jeopardy.

GRIFFIN: Seventy-nine Wistful Vista (ph).

KING: Where did Jack Benny live?

GRIFFIN: Wrong, Fibber McGee and Molly lived there. Jack Benny was up the street. And, 5,280, how many feet in a mile? I said, "Wow that is interesting." Woke up everybody it was the middle of the night, got them down to the office and we started working but it took a year to put it together.

KING: He is currently in Vegas. He celebrated his 80th birthday the other night. My wife Shawn is opening for him in Vegas, indeed opening tonight.


KING: Here's Don Rickles and here is Merv and Don, another piece of history. Watch. GRIFFIN: Yes.


GRIFFIN: Obviously he needs help.

DON RICKLES: No. But you talk about we were saying -- what were we saying?

GRIFFIN: I was telling...

RICKLES: Oh, you're going to do that? What was that guy's name (INAUDIBLE) used to say that. (CROSSTALK)




GRIFFIN: But you're also the voice of Huey, Duey and Louie.


GRIFFIN: Now is that tough to do, four different voices?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, well I can't do them all at once, of course.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's one of them. Here's Donald. (inaudible)


GRIFFIN: What a great talent.

KING: Do you have an ongoing competition with Barbara Walters and others? Did you feel competitive?

GRIFFIN: No more than all the talk show hosts. You and I have laughed at parties. I'll say, "OK, name names." Did you ever have Rose Kennedy?


GRIFFIN: And then you'll ask me, and I'll go.

KING: Martin Luther King.

GRIFFIN: Yes. Did you have Martin Luther King?

KING: Yes. Sinatra?

GRIFFIN: No. KING: Yes. You had, I'm told...

GRIFFIN: ... Although, we were great friends. I would never ask anybody to come on my show. Never would ask them. I had a staff that did that.

KING: Sometimes I do. You had, I understand, a terrible experience on live television involving a Hazel Bishop.

GRIFFIN: That was my first greatest mistake, that was back in the '50s. I had the big hit record, they hired us for the "Hazel Bishop Show" from the Center Theater in New York. Giant theater, had a big movie screen over the stage. The whole audience watched.

Of course, the logo for that lipstick was "won't smear off, won't kiss off, won't wipe, won't smear off." I don't know what it was. And each one of us in the cast had to do the commercial with the girl that was selling it.

And I walked into her set, and she kissed me on the cheek. And I went, "Wow." Handkerchief, put it in the camera, no lipstick smears. However, on the air, live, our director, Perry Lafferty went -- I went, flipped the handkerchief and held up the white part and the audience laughed for three minutes. Hazel Bishop was back stage, she said "You embarrassed me in front of all my friends." And I was still laughing.

KING: You had Sir Laurence Olivier on and you didn't know how to address him and you called him Lar.

GRIFFIN: When he came on the show I said sir. I don't know, it was such a thrill -- the world's great actor. Laurence Olivier never did any shows. Did he do yours?


GRIFFIN: Oh, good. So he sat there and I said "Sir, lord, you're a lord now. How do I call you?" He said, "You call me, Larry." I said "Larry King's got that. I can't do that." He said, "No, call me Lar." And I said, "No sir, I can't." So I called him Sir Laurence, his old title. And we were doing the interview and I went to say something to him and I got all mixed up again and he said, "Just call me Larry."


GRIFFIN: I'd be curious to know what it was in your childhood, Sir Laurence, that inspired you...


GRIFFIN: I can't do it. I've just revered the thought of you...

OLIVIER: Cut, cut, cut.

GRIFFIN: How about an American way? Tell me this, Lar. OLIVIER: I love it. I love it. Very good.


GRIFFIN: I bet you get called Lar.

KING: Oh, all the time. You had Tom Cruise on early, right?

GRIFFIN: Very early, yes, probably one of his first television.

KING: Hanks too, right?

GRIFFIN: Hanks, cutest kid. I mean they looked like little kids. But you knew they had that spark. You knew sitting there, and you know that sitting where you are, you get that third eye, and you can tell this person is on their way to stardom.


RICHARD PRYOR, DECEASED ENTERTAINER: You ever do this with matches, man? Guys, you ever take -- I'm very European -- you take the match and you bend it down. You strike it with one hand, right, very cool. You're with a lady and you want to, allow me, my dear. And you strike it and your thumb lights up. Right? Or you meet a lady and you say, allow me.


KING: Did you know right away Pryor was exceptional?

GRIFFIN: He came out and did his act and then the comedian always looks to the host to see if you're going to invite them to the panel. I couldn't wait to get him over there and start talking. He did 40 hours with me, something like that. He was great. And George Carlin, unbelievable.


GEORGE CARLIN, COMEDIAN: First there's this man who keeps coming out of the doctor's office every 25 minutes on my screen. He's got to be the healthiest man on television. Boy, am I glad I saw my doctor today. Thought I had an ulcer. Thank god it was only a bullet wound.


GRIFFIN: And then Jerry Seinfeld did his first show with me.


JERRY SEINFELD, COMEDIAN: There are no rules in the supermarket. I don't care if the store manager is looking right at me. Yes, those are my peaches on top of the Pennzoil, what about it?


GRIFFIN: So many of them were there at that time, Jay Leno. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, TALK SHOW HOST: A guy got hit with a baseball going 100 miles-an-hour and I say to myself, "Boy, that's awful." And then I realize the worst part is not getting hit by the baseball because that happens so fast. The worst part is lying in your hospital bed with your head in bandages turning on the news and watching yourself get hit again.


GRIFFIN: Letterman. And all their friends who became comics, too, would all come and sit in the back of the theater and yell at them even though they were bombing, they'd yell.

KING: You are 80?


KING: Do you feel 80?

GRIFFIN: Oh, no. It's only when you bring it up, Larry.

KING: It's amazing. You look great.

GRIFFIN: I feel great.

KING: What keeps you...

GRIFFIN: Smoking. I smoke. I don't eat diet foods.

KING: Drink?

GRIFFIN: I drink, sure. And I don't exercise. That could kill. That could kill. All my diet doctors are dead. You can laugh, but I had Dr. Atkins. I was his first celebrity patient. He wrote it in his first book. Then I had doctor -- the water doctor.

KING: The guy who died on television?


KING: Skinner?

GRIFFIN: No, not Skinner.

KING: The guy on Dick Cavett? There's a guy on Dick Cavett, it was a diet doctor. He died on the air. He never ran the show, they were taking the show. He fell asleep and died.

GRIFFIN: And I had on Jim Ficht (ph), the great runner, and he died right after my show. A lot of people did. Dr. Tarnower, I was on his diet and his girlfriend came home and shot him, yes. Go ahead, Mr. Lucky.

KING: As we go to break, Richard Pryor proves he's worth the big break that Merv gave him by having him on the show. Watch.


PRYOR: Maids are different all over the country, different places. Like on the West Coast, they're really subtle. They really all sweet and you know, they come in the morning and open the door, "Oh, excuse me. That 14C, boy, woo hoo." But the maids in Chicago are too much, man. The maids in Chicago come, "Get up, I'm gonna clean up." I'm sleeping. "I don't care, I'm going to clean up."




GRIFFIN: What sustains you, because none of us can comprehend all that you've had to endure.

ROSE KENNEDY, DECEASED: Oh, I think God has given us a lot of joy, as well as sorrows. He's given us, as I say, triumphs as well as ordeals and as the book written about Michelangelo, the title was "The Agonies and the Ecstasies." We've had great ecstatic moments, and we've had these tragedies, but the ecstasies or the triumphs are greater than the tragedies.


KING: How did you get Rose Kennedy?

GRIFFIN: She did it. She was up in Hyannisport where she lived and she watched my show every day out of the Boston station. And she would call me on the phone. They say, "Mrs. Rose Kennedy." I'd say, "Hello, Mrs. Kennedy." And she'd say, "You're Catholic. How come you don't know that's certain saint something's day." And I said, "Well, do we celebrate that? Of course we celebrate that in America. You should learn about your religion. Yes, Mrs. Kennedy, I will."

And then the next time she called about something and was bawling me out. I said "Mrs. Kennedy, why don't you come and do the show?" "Well, I will." I said when? "Well, when do you want me?"

And she was that matter of fact. And I said, "Next Wednesday. We'll meet you at La Guardia. And we'll have a limo there for you." "No you won't, I'll fly in by myself. I carry my own dress. She said I'm sending you a piece of cloth of my dress, put it on camera and tell me how it looks." And I said OK. And then on the point of day, she landed it in front of my theater, had her wardrobe bag, came in and she said where do I sit? And I said, well, in three hours you'll be sitting right there. OK, have your director show me the pictures he's going to take of me, OK.

KING: Wow.

GRIFFIN: And Dick Carson, director, took the picture. She said "No, no, no, that's too close. I can't take that shot. Back up." And they backed up. She said, "That will be fine, OK, I'm going to down and rest." Boom, and that was it. She was the most...

KING: ... And she was obviously a great guest.

GRIFFIN: I told Teddy this a couple of years ago. He said that's how she treated us. You're a Kennedy boy.

KING: She was a devout Catholic.

GRIFFIN: Very devout. Sweet, wonderful woman. Boy, she knew exactly where she was going and what she wanted for her family and what she wanted the Kennedy name to be.


KENNEDY: There is a quote from I think Luke in the Bible of those to whom much is given, much is required. After all, if you've been given great advantages, you should really use them for humanity, for the common good.


KING: What was Bobby Kennedy like?

GRIFFIN: Sweet, sweet.

KING: Funny, great smile.

GRIFFIN: Great smile, fun. Easier to -- I M.C.'ed Jack Kennedy's last party as president -- last party in Washington, the White House Correspondents...

KING: Before he went to Dallas?

GRIFFIN: .. Before he went to Dallas. And it's not that easy. I took Streisand with me and a couple of people, and we did a show. It was wonderful. Bobby, even though they were calling him ruthless and everything, he was just genuinely sweet.


GRIFFIN: What was it that your mother and father taught you as Kennedy children that gives you devotion to country, that makes you a public servant, that's involved your whole family?

ROBERT F. KENNEDY, DECEASED: My parents felt that we were extremely lucky and that as money was not a problem for us, because of what -- because of what this country had done for us and because of the ability of my father. That we, therefore, had an obligation to try to repay that and that we should continue to try through our lives to try to in some way try to do something on behalf of those who were much less well off than we were.


GRIFFIN: I mean, we had two apartments on our floor in our apartment in New York. And the other ones with the Vanderheuvels, he was Jackie's lawyer and she was the daughter of Stein, who owned Universal.

And so they had political parties all the time. And the Kennedy's were always around. You got on the elevator, they got turned around so there were Kennedy's knocking at our door all the time. And I'd open the door, and they'd go, "Merv" -- it would be Teddy and they'd say, "Are we late for the party?" No, come on in.

KING: Do you ever, ever think of what a life you've led? You're part of history.

GRIFFIN: I know. I was in the middle of it and never realized it until you just said that right now.

KING: If Sinatra asked you to do Agnew and you did, why didn't he do it?

GRIFFIN: I don't know. And we were great friends. We lived next door to each other, he used to come over for dinner all the time. I gave him a bottle of wine. Barbara would say, "Say come on, we have to walk home. No, you go. I'm staying. I want to finish this wine." One time somebody gave me the background for "I've Got You Under My Skin," the exact background was made in Japan.

KING: The arrangement, you mean?

GRIFFIN: Yes. And so I started playing at the dinner table, it was a whole group there. He said, "Oh, don't play my records." I said, "I'm not." And I brought him a microphone and I said, I've got you under my skin. You're under arrest, I'm making a citizen's arrest. Where did you get that?

KING: As we go to break with Merv Griffin, the DVD collection out. This is just the first of many. "The Merv Griffin Show: 40 of the Most Interesting People of our Time." Featuring John Wayne, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jack Benny, Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman and more.

And one of those more is Robert F. Kennedy, watch.


KENNEDY: I think that that, you know, that's, perhaps, the major problem we have within government, but I think it's the great problem that all of us have in society is to how we're going to come back to the idea that the individual is important and that the society exists for him and government exists for him and he doesn't exist just for the rest of us.

GRIFFIN: But as the population increases, senator...

KENNEDY: It becomes more difficult.

GRIFFIN: It does become more difficult.

KENNEDY: I think that for young people, the Peace Corps made a difference because then you could see your effort, your compassion, your intelligence changing the lives of people around the globe who desperately needed help.




GRIFFIN: When you look at Ethan today, who would his heroes be?

JOHN WAYNE, DECEASED ACTOR: I don't know who his heroes are going to be.

GRIFFIN: Come here, Ethan. The astronauts, maybe?

WAYNE: Yes, I suppose so.

GRIFFIN: I guess they are the national heroes.

WAYNE: Who are your heroes? Who do you think of?


WAYNE: Thank you, my boy.

GRIFFIN: That's enough said, that's lovely.

WAYNE: That's very sweet of you, old boy. Great. We're the best of friends, this fellow and I.


KING: Wow. What was Duke like?

GRIFFIN: Oh, wonderful.

KING: I'd like to have known him.

GRIFFIN: Oh, god.


GRIFFIN: Are you getting ready to run for something?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Out of here. No actually it's wonderful to be here, it's friendly and there's a lot of nice people out there. And they've been wonderful to me tonight and I thank you, Merv, for having me on.

GRIFFIN: Listen, I thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I certainly thank...

GRIFFIN: ... A great thrill having you here, thank you.


GRIFFIN: I hope you'll come back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I certainly will.

GRIFFIN: That's the spirit, thank you.


GRIFFIN: I traveled with him, we went to Mexico. We went everywhere. I have a great collection of film on him. Not in the studio, interviewing but he would -- you know what was interesting, you know, he was there talking to you. And we'd go out, you know, at night and go to the Newport bar and grill or something and have drinks. Or you were standing next to -- I went down to Georgia when he shot Vietnam, "The Green Berets." And you'd be standing next to him. And he'd be talking to you. And they'd say, OK, Duke, you're on. And the same person went on camera. There was no acting.

And once we went down to Mexico with him, he was doing "War Wagon" with Kirk Douglas. And when he called Kirk over to say hello, he'd call him, "hey, actor." He -- Kirk was an actor to him. Duke was himself.

KING: What was Richard Burton like?

GRIFFIN: Well, Richard Burton was tough.

KING: Tough interview?

GRIFFIN: Oh, yeah. Well, I caught him on a terrible weekend. We were up in a city in Northern California, he was shooting a movie. And Elizabeth was in Beverly Hills. And the story got around that he had fallen in love with a waitress there, as only he could. And he had bought her a piece of jewelry. And as we were sitting there, somebody came over and said, Elizabeth is arriving at the airport now. And he knew that he was in for trouble at that time, and it was around there for a few days.


RICHARD BURTON, ACTOR: I'll tell you, it was the most extraordinary moment the other night, when I was lying in bed with, of course, Elizabeth, and nobody else. And I heard the train hooting, as this one did. And I said, "Did you hear the train hooting?" And she said, "Richard, you're drunk again."


GRIFFIN: We got the interview. We were sitting on top of a little hill right in the middle of town, and all the townspeople gathered, and they were insulted by what he was saying.


GRIFFIN: What's the most important thing we've done in the last 100 years?

BURTON: Nothing.

GRIFFIN: Absolutely nothing?

BURTON: Well, virtually nothing. Occasionally, a man wrote a verse or he said something that was mildly interesting, but for the most part, we haven't advanced really for the last 2,500 years, I don't think. Would you?


KING: Oh, really?

GRIFFIN: Oh, yeah, he put them all down.

KING: Was he drinking too?

GRIFFIN: No, not at that time. He was at night, but not sitting on a hill.

KING: Did you interview Schwarzenegger early?

GRIFFIN: Very early. Many interviews. He was a brand new category for us, you know, the muscle guy. And he started to get popular around New York. He made a film called "Pumping Iron" or something. And we brought him on as a guest. And from the first minute, you know, you just can't help but love that guy.


ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: Thank you for giving...

GRIFFIN: Have you ever played that game?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Oh, my God. That was a good one. But first, let me...

GRIFFIN: That was a good one, huh?

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


GRIFFIN: He's just a great big German bear, or Austrian. He's Austrian.

KING: He's very easily -- you cannot not like him.


KING: You've seen all these years in television, created so much in television. What has the clicker done for television?

GRIFFIN: Oh, you mean the remote thing?

KING: I call it the clicker. GRIFFIN: Well, I suppose it's a boon to people. That's why there's the big obesity problem in America. I don't get up to change the channel. Click, click, click. The audience gives you about 35 minutes -- or 35 seconds to do something, or you get your life clicked away.

I suppose it's hurt. People before had to get up and turn the dial. Now they don't have to.

KING: We'll be back with some more moments with Merv Griffin. As we go to break, here's Merv and Martin Luther King.


GRIFFIN: What has the civil rights movement done to the Negro individually from his side?

REV. MARTIN LUTHER KING: Well, I think the greatest thing that it has done is it's given the Negro a new sense of dignity, a new sense of somebodiness. And this is maybe the greatest victory that we have won. Turning away from the external changes that have come about.

I think the greatest thing that has taken place is the internal change in the psyche of the Negro, and the Negro has a sense of pride now that he's desperately needed all along.




GRIFFIN: Was there a moral to every movie you made?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, the old moral story of the good always won out over wrong. Or (inaudible). Of course, the good guy wore the white hat and the baddies wore the black hats. And that was the battle for many, many years, and all the B pictures of taking charge of the guy in the black hat and putting him in jail and giving him a good licking...

GRIFFIN: Still holds true today with you, doesn't it?


GRIFFIN: You've held to that philosophy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I think there's a good side and a bad side. And I hope I'm always on the good side.


KING: The Cincinnati cowboy. He was a nice guy.

GRIFFIN: Got mad at me. KING: Got mad at you?

GRIFFIN: Yes. I used the wrong verbiage. I said, I just read a whole story on your museum, is it Apple Valley? And I said, and you have Trigger there stuffed. He said, stuffed? And I said, well, that's the real Trigger. Well, yes. But stuffed? And I said, well, when you go -- when you and Dale, will you be stuffed? And I got caught and couldn't get out of it. And he was horrified.

KING: What do they call it?

GRIFFIN: Taxidermist -- taxidermy.

KING: The taxidermy does the stuffing.

GRIFFIN: The stuffing, yes.

KING: And finally, Nancy Reagan. And your extraordinary relation. What a lady.

GRIFFIN: I one time was in Chicago and had a problem and had to go to the -- they thought I had infantile paralysis, what they call that...

KING: Polio.

GRIFFIN: Yeah, polio. And I went to Pasadena (ph), her stepfather, Dr. Loyal Davis, who was the head of Pasadena (ph). He became the doctor for me. What a wonderful man. And her mother, Edie. I will never forget Edie. She was the funniest. But Nancy...

KING: We're out of time, Merv.

GRIFFIN: Don't you have another hour?

KING: No, no, no. But we'll have you back.

GRIFFIN: Did we get...

KING: When volume II comes out.

GRIFFIN: Oh, volume II, yes. Come visit my vault.

KING: Merv Griffin. The DVD is "The Merv Griffin Show: 40 of the Most Interesting People of Our Time."

We now turn things over to New York, Anderson Cooper and "AC 360" -- Anderson.