Maya Angelou, who sadly has just passed away, appearing with Merv Griffin in 1982, voicing her concerns about the beginning of what she believed was a politicized class war on less-fortunate Americans, of Reaganomics trying to undo the gains of the New Deal and the Great Society.
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Before all the eeeew! in his personal life, Woody Allen used to do quite a bit of press for his films. In 1977, he spoke with a Miami reporter about Annie Hall. Similar to Allen’s Merv Griffin appearances, the interview ends with an awkward kiss.
In 1979, Steve Martin, nearing the pinnacle of his fame, visits Merv Griffin. The comic was already winding down his stand-up career.
In 1985, Merv Griffin was visited by J.Z. Knight, who’s long made a good living by pretending that she could channel Ramtha, a 35,000 year-old spiritual guide given to twisty, Yoda-ish pronouncements. She “summons” the “entity” at around the ten-minute mark, and it’s fairly clear how even someone as cerebral as Linda Evans could have become a true believer.
Woody Allen’s first talk-show appearance was with Merv Griffin. In this clip, the two men reconvene in 1969, the comic now a grizzled veteran of the format. By the middle of the next decade, Allen was a serious filmmaker who had given up dishing out great ad-libs into American living rooms.
Before New Wave was just another old wave, selling its own nostalgia, it was trying its best to give the past a slip. Once that mission was accomplished, there was really nowhere for its leaders to go. But sometimes a brief revolution that clears the deck, even if it doesn’t build a new deck, is better than nothing at all. Devo, guesting on Merv Griffin’s show in 1980.
So-called spiritual guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who was very good at keeping his legs crossed except when Mia Farrow was around, visits Merv Griffin for the first time in 1975. Merv is the one on your left.
I’ve never understood the desperation not nostalgia. I mean, I get it intellectually. We’re all going to die someday so let’s build a monument of one sort or another to things we’ve done and emphasize their importance–or overemphasize it–so that our egos can be enlarged enough to cover up the truth. It makes us feel like we belong and our belonging cannot be diminished. How sad.
Almost fifteen years after the Beatles rocked the Ed Sullivan Show, Merv Griffin took over the same theater in 1978 for a week of shows from New York and presented the original cast of the musical Beatlemania, which was promoted as “not the Beatles but an incredible simulation.” Because actual memories of and recordings by the Beatles weren’t enough–we had to experience it again through some false reinvention. But that phony Beatlemania never really bites the dust. The holograms keep coming.
Tags: Merv Griffin
Michael Crichton pushed his book Electronic Life: How To Think About Computers while visiting Merv Griffin in 1983. The personal computing revolution was upon us, but the Macintosh had yet to reach the market, so it still seemed so far away, especially to the tech-challenged host.
Three years before she was killed in one of the most shocking mass murders in American history–one that essentially ended an attempt at a new openness, a new sense of community–Sharon Tate was her bright, beautiful self while being interviewed by Merv Griffin on location in London.
The very first of Michael Caine’s 18,000,000 appearances on American talk shows, with Merv Griffin in 1965.
Merv Griffin leaves the studio to interview Richard Burton in 1974. I was frightened of Burton when I was a child. He just seemed so out of control. But the one that really terrified me was George C. Scott. Oh my god, that man! All that rage.
From Burton’s scary personal diary, which cataloged his demons and destruction, a passage from right around the time of the Merv interview:
“Tuesday 21st: Drank enormously and cheated when E wasn’t looking. Don’t remember much except falling a lot and suggesting divorce. Can’t control my hands, so cannot write any more. Very silly. Booze!
Wednesday 22nd: Having been so drunk yesterday, felt terrible in morning and was desperately ill. Went quietly at 9.30 to find a double brandy. Bar closed until 10. Asked for Fritz (manager). Reluctantly, he opened bar for me and suggested vodka as it wouldn’t be so smelly when E had morning kiss.
Drank it with very shaking hands. Have become a ‘falling-down’ [drunk]. My hand-writing indicative of the shakes. Painful knee, bottom, right elbow, back of head, right ear.
E an angel, and looked like one. How does she do it? Look so well, I mean, for she had a lot to drink, too.
Thursday 23rd: Two weeks married. Still faintly dizzy if I make any sudden movement. Had to have helping hand to walk first few steps in any direction. Very disappointed in myself, but periodically, no doubt, will fall into the trap.
Friday 24th: Made superb love to E in the afternoon. Gets better all the time, if that’s possible. Thought about death too much.
Monday 27th: Drank a lot. Don’t remember anything, if at all.
Tuesday 28th: Drank some more.
Wednesday 29th: Ditto. Must stop!”
It’s amazing that Pearl S. Buck won a Nobel Prize for Literature and Tolstoy didn’t. But this 1966 appearance on Merv Griffin’s talk show by the writer is still a rare treat. She mostly discusses her work helping Korean children born to American fathers during the war and her feelings about the folly of Communism.
I worshiped Muhammad Ali when I was a child, and I never watched boxing again after he began to slur his speech. There’s a great and heartbreaking Albert Maysles documentary about Ali preparing for his 1980 fight with Larry Holmes–a match that never should have been made. Ali was old, slow and already showing signs of Parkinson’s syndrome, and he was marched into the ring against the best heavyweight in the world at that time. There are moments in the doc (which isn’t online, but is sometimes replayed on ESPN Classics) in which Ali tries to convince himself that he’ll find some way to outwit Holmes–and time itself. But the reflexes and bounce were gone and soon the mystique would be as well. The fight was a travesty and anyone who profiteered from the destruction of a great champion should have had their licenses revoked.
Here a sluggish Ali does the pre-fight promotional shuffle with Merv Griffin:
A piece of Muhammad & Larry:
People in show business are labeled “genius” if they’re able to complete a sudoku slightly faster than Stephen Baldwin. But Ricky Jay is the real deal, a deeply brilliant person who can accomplish amazing things with his brain despite the deterioration of some basic neurological functions. A clip of the magus, actor and scholar appearing with Merv Griffin in 1983, and then an excerpt from Mark Singer’s great 1993 New Yorker profile, “Secrets of Magus.”
“Jay has an anomalous memory, extraordinarily retentive but riddled with hard-to-account-for gaps. ‘I’m becoming quite worried about my memory,’ he said not long ago. ‘New information doesn’t stay. I wonder if it’s the NutraSweet.’ As a child, he read avidly and could summon the title and the author of every book that had passed through his hands. Now he gets lost driving in his own neighborhood, where he has lived for several years—he has no idea how many. He once had a summer job tending bar and doing magic at a place called the Royal Palm, in Ithaca, New York. On a bet, he accepted a mnemonic challenge from a group of friendly patrons. A numbered list of a hundred arbitrary objects was drawn up: No. 3 was ‘paintbrush,’ No. 18 was ‘plush ottoman,’ No. 25 was ‘roaring lion,’ and so on. ‘Ricky! Sixty-five!’ someone would demand, and he had ten seconds to respond correctly or lose a buck. He always won, and, to this day, still would. He is capable of leaving the house wearing his suit jacket but forgetting his pants. He can recite verbatim the rapid-fire spiel he delivered a quarter of a century ago, when he was briefly employed as a carnival barker: ‘See the magician; the fire ‘manipulator’; the girl with the yellow e-e-elastic tissue. See Adam and Eve, boy and girl, brother and sister, all in one, one of the world’s three living ‘morphrodites.’ And the e-e-electrode lady . . .’ He can quote verse after verse of nineteenth-century Cockney rhyming slang. He says he cannot remember what age he was when his family moved from Brooklyn to the New Jersey suburbs. He cannot recall the year he entered college or the year he left. ‘If you ask me for specific dates, we’re in trouble,’ he says.”
Merv Griffin in 1965 interviewing Capt. Mitsuo Fuchida, the architect of the furious attack on Pearl Harbor 24 years earlier. Fuchida converted to Christianity at the end of WWII–which, when you think about it, was pretty good timing–and lived and worked as an evangelist in the United States.
Phone phreak turned Apple genius Steve Wozniak visits Merv Griffin in 1984.
Jack Paar once used this line by young gag writer Dick Cavett to introduce a legendary sex symbol: “Here they are…Jayne Mansfield.” That was a reference to her knockers, which were larger than the knockers of the average woman of the era. Merv Griffin went down the same road (sans the wit) when Mansfield visited him in 1966, the year before the horrific car accident that claimed her life. Along with her famous rack, Mansfield brought along her three children by bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay, including 2-year-old Mariska. Due likely to the presence of the kids, fellow guest Henny Youngman managed to restrain himself from copping a feel.
In 1972, five years after her career took off like a shot with Bonnie and Clyde and two years before Chinatown wowed, Faye Dunaway was visited by Merv Griffin on the set of Oklahoma Crude.
If you’ve read this blog for awhile, you’ve probably gotten the hint that I’m one of those rare progressives who doesn’t care much for the Kennedys. I know you’re not supposed to judge the art by the behavior of the artist, but I just can’t separate the political and the personal to the extent the Kennedys require. Still, this heartfelt 1969 clip of Merv Griffin interviewing family matriarch Rose the year after Robert’s assassination is certainly worth watching.
Merv Griffin interviews horror icon and Renaissance man Vincent Price in 1979.
I always thought the 1964 Price film, The Last Man on Earth, a low-budget Italian production of Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend, was the most haunting screen realization of the author’s vision, despite far glitzier versions with A-listers Charlton Heston and Will Smith. Matheson did not feel the same and asked for his name to be removed from the credits.
In my early Catholic grade-school years, I had to write a one-page book report, and I chose to do it on Dick Gregory’s autobiography, which had this title. That might not be seen as odd today–or perhaps it still is—but a tiny child in all-white school choosing that book was, shall we say, unusual. It was in no way a political statement on my behalf nor was I mischievously trying to use a bad word; I just thought it was an interesting book. (It was co-written by the excellent Robert Lipsyte, by the way.) My teacher, who didn’t need this shit, was uncomfortable. On the positive side: The priests never touched me.
In this 1965 clip, Merv Griffin interviews the civil rights activist / stand-up comedian in the aftermath of the Watts riots.
In 1979, Merv Griffin interviews the big-name cast of The China Syndrome, a drama about a cover-up of security hazards at a nuclear power plant. The talk is largely a Hollywood ass-kissing session. Within a couple of weeks of the film’s release, a real-life version of the horrifying scenario played out as Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island plant melted down. Now that’s a tie-in.
Dr. Benjamin Spock, the pediatrician who encouraged parents to be more affectionate to their children and protested the Vietnam War, is interviewed by Merv Griffin in 1966.