, the entertainer who started out as an actor and singer but found fame as a talk show host and a successful businessman, died Sunday of prostate cancer; he was 82. Griffin had been inititally diagnosed with cancer in 1996, and it was just announced recently that he was battling it again. Griffin started out as a singer in San Francisco, and soon became successful enough to start his own record label and launch a performing career; he scored a number one hit with the novelty song "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts." His nightclub performances brought him to the attention of Warner Bros. studio, and he later was featured in a handful of films in the early 50s, including So This Is Love
. He also appeared on a number of game shows and talk shows, and his stint as a substitute host for Jack Paar
on The Tonight Show
led to an offer for his own talk show in 1962. The Merv Griffin Show
ran until 1986, won numerous Emmy awards, and made him a permanent fixture on television screens across America as the host of one of the biggest talk shows of the era. Griffin earned his fortune, however, by inventing and producing two of TV's biggest game shows, Jeopardy!
and Wheel of Fortune
, both of which skyrocketed in popularity when going into sydication in the 80s. At one time, Griffin owned the largest entertainment company owned by a single person, and he sold Merv Griffin Enterprises to Columbia Pictures Television for $250 million upon retiring. He also was a successful real estate magnate, who bought and refurbished the Beverly Hills Hilton and acquired Resorts International. Griffin, who was married to Julann Griffin
from 1958-1976, is survived by his son, Tony. --Mark Englehart, IMDb staff