Name at birth: Mervyn Edward Griffin, Jr.
Merv Griffin was a television host and entrepreneur who started two of the most famous game shows in American TV history, Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. He began his entertainment career in San Francisco radio and as a singer with Freddy Martin's orchestra in the late 1940s. Between 1962 and 1986 Merv had his own TV talk show in one form or another, and he aired thousands of interviews with celebrities and newsmakers. Behind the scenes he was a savvy producer of game shows and a wise business investor. He started Merv Griffin Productions in 1964 and came out with the game show Jeopardy! (hosted by Art Fleming). The show was a daytime TV staple for a decade, and when it ended in 1975 Griffin started Wheel of Fortune (hosted by Pat Sajak). Both shows -- and other business deals -- made Griffin hundreds of millions of dollars. By the late 1980s he was challenging Donald Trump in the casino-hotel business and surprising the public with the news that Merv was, in fact, a very rich guy. Once parodied for being too cheery and fawning with his guests, now he's praised for his exuberance and attentiveness and considered an innovator during his six decades in broadcasting. His latest game show, Merv Griffin Crosswords, began airing shortly after his death in 2007.
Jeopardy! was brought back to TV in 1984, with Alex Trebek as host… Griffin and Freddy Martin had a hit in 1950 with the novelty song “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts”… Griffin won a Lifetime Achievement Emmy in 2005… He said the original “ask the answers” idea for Jeopardy! came from his wife at the time, Julann Wright.