Thursday, August 16, 2007

Memories 'o Merv

Jazz star Helen Merrill once sang an entire number on the Merv Griffin show, the theme from "All in the Family," which was written by pianist Roger Kellaway. I have always assumed that this might have been Merrill's only major U.S. TV appearance. Could that possibly be? Are we THAT un-hip a nation? It is one of the first things I archived from vhs when I bought my vid burner a while back.

I remember one particular Griffin quip that had me laughing long and hard. A five-year-old Janet Jackson (and her family) was a guest on his show. She kept looking up at him very quizically and he finally said, "You think I'm Big Bird, don't you?"

A pretty hip guy, but I just heard a posthumous anecdote related on TV a couple of nights ago to the effect that Merv recently opened an envelope that contained a rather large check for usage of the Jeopardy theme (which he wrote). He gazed at the check a beat and then asked an associate, "What's a ringtone?"

My friend, singer Bill Black, started out in music at just about the same time as Merv. In fact, Bill worked for him very early on in the latter's game show career. I always thought that if I could "get to" Merv that he would have great tales to tell about my off-the-wall late pal. But the idea of going through those layers and layers of "protection" surely surrounding Griffin proved too daunting for me.

My longtime saddle pal David Ehrenstein was a guest on Griffin's show onetime and has a recollection of Merv's entire musclebound male staff being clad in identical Izod shirts. (You do the math.) The appearance required David to wear a tux. And we were so destitute at the time that he had to roll pennies to pay for rental of the garment. That's how poor we were back then. And prrrrractically still are.

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