Bay Area-born pop culture icon dies at 82

Merv Griffin, the San Mateo native who went from big-band-era crooner to successful television host and game-show creator, died Sunday of prostate cancer. He was 82.

Griffin was born and raised in the city of San Mateo, where he launched a neighborhood newspaper, The Whispering Winds, when he was 7.

He graduated from San Mateo High School, and returned in 2006 for the opening of the high school’s new theater, which was named in his honor.

Although Griffin became one of the most popular and successful entertainers of the 20th century, he never forgot his roots, according to many locals who reflected on his life Sunday.

“I always look at San Mateo as a great place, and it gave him a great foundation,” said Supervisor Jerry Hill, a San Mateo resident. “He excelled in everything he touched, and he had a gift of entertaining people and making them smile.”

Griffin was initially diagnosed with prostate cancer in the 1990s, and was successfully treated for the disease more than 10 years ago, according to a family statement. He was recently hospitalized for a recurrence of the disease, which strikes one man in six and kills one in 35, according to the American CancerSociety.

“His death proves that this disease doesn’t respect any class status or occupation,” said state Assemblyman Gene Mullin, D-South San Francisco, who has publicized his own battle with prostate cancer in order to encourage men to seek regular screenings for the disease.

Griffin’s entertainment career arguably began at 4, when he began learning to play piano and performed recitals on the back porch of his family’s San Mateo home. Griffin left the University of San Francisco to work at San Francisco radio station KFRC, and then recorded a hit version of “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts,” which went on to sell 3 million copies.

By the numbers

» Born July 6, 1925, in San Mateo

» Began working for radio station KFRC in 1944

» Recorded “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts” in 1950, which sold 3 million copies

» Launched “The Merv Griffin Show” in 1962

» Created first game show, “Word for Word,” in 1963

» Created “Jeopardy!” in 1964

» Created “Wheel of Fortune” in 1975

» Won 17 Emmys

– Source: Official biography from the Griffin Group

bwinegarner@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Music venues around The City have largely been unable to reopen due to ongoing pandemic health orders. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF to cut $2.5M in fees to help 300 nightlife venues

San Francisco will cut $2.5 million in fees for hundreds of entertainment… Continue reading

President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden have taken different approaches to transit and infrastructure funding. <ins>(Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)</ins>
Bay Area transit has big hopes for a Biden administration

The best chance for local agencies to get relief may be a change in federal leadership

BART Ambassadors are being called on to assist riders in social situations that don’t require police force. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Unarmed BART ambassadors program formalized with a focus on community service

Public safety and police reform are key elements in campaigns of Board members Dufty and Simon

East Bay hills and Port of Oakland visible from Point San Bruno Park jetty. (Shutterstock)
East Bay agencies urge precautionary evacuations ahead of wind event

At least two East Bay jurisdictions suggested Sunday that residents in the… Continue reading

Nate Durand of Chug Pub created an election-themed cocktail which has several names: Biden Harris, Barris, Hiden, and/or Dem Juice. (Saul Sugarman/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Drink blue, no matter who

But bar parties aren’t planned for Election Day

Most Read