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Double Jeopardy

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The dual lives of TV host and media mogul Merv Griffin. Plus You or Someone Like You

By Terri Schlichenmeyer 

MervGriffinYou just can’t help it. Much as you try, you can’t help picking up one of those tabloids while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store. This star divorced that one after he had an affair with this one over there because she split up another star’s marriage and . . .

It’s just way too much fun to stargaze.

Read the new book Merv Griffin: A Life in the Closet by Darwin Porter (Blood Moon Productions, bloodmoonproductions.com), and you’ll get an eyeful. Just remember—you’ve been warned.

One of the most powerful memories Merv Griffin ever had was when his parents were forced out of their home, their belongings confiscated, when young Merv was just five years old. Even at that tender age, he vowed to his mother that he would build her a mansion someday.

Though his father didn’t want him to be a performer, talented Merv loved “putting on shows” for neighbors in his aunt’s house. That same aunt taught the boy to play piano and, in short order, he was a better pianist than she.

Long before he was a teenager, Porter says, Merv knew he was attracted to boys. That attraction, though his father tried early on to quash it, strengthened during Merv’s adolescence.

Because his uncle was a tennis pro who owned a club and gave lessons to Hollywood’s elite, young Merv was able to meet and spend time with stars such as Errol Flynn, Johnny Weissmuller, and others. Though Porter says much of that time was spent ogling men in the locker room, Merv became close friends with people—both men and women—who quickly furthered his budding career. Soon, he was singing for and with some of Hollywood’s brightest stars.

Never one to miss an opportunity, Merv manipulated his career at every turn by pouncing on every opportunity he found. Porter indicates that, by the time Merv (the eventual creator of the game show Jeopardy!) was called for an audition with producers Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, he was well-known and had an established fan base.

And he had quite a reputation in Hollywood . . . for more than just his singing.

Reading like a naked Who’s Who of Hollywood, Merv Griffin: A Life in the Closet is, on one hand, a delightful guilty pleasure. On the other hand, it’s a bit overwhelming because names are tossed out like fastballs and chronology seems to be merely a suggestion.

Author Darwin Porter says in his acknowledgements that he spoke to “hundreds of people associated with the entertainment industry,” and not just about Merv. His research, though staggering, is nothing if not thorough. Astute readers, however, will notice a lot of direct quotes and entire conversations that purportedly happened decades ago, which makes for an engaging read but eventually feels tabloid-fakey. While it’s true that this book fits with others in the tell-all genre, I would’ve been happier with just the facts, ma’am.

Still, if you’re a hopeless tab junkie and you can’t get enough scandal, pick up this book. For you, Merv Griffin: A Life in the Closet will have you hung up and hooked.

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was three years old, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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Terri Schlichenmeyer

Terry Schlichenmeyer is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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