MERV: An Autobiography by Merv with Peter Barsocchini Griffin

MERV: An Autobiography

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Griffin's careers as band-singer, actor, and talk-show host haven't exactly been filled with high drama; but this slickly low-key little memoir makes the most of not much--by jumping around. Merv begins in 1969 with the Big Decision: should he leave a hit syndicated daytime show to try a CBS late-nighter (at double the salary) opposite invincible Johnny Carson? The answer's yes--but before he gets to it, Merv switches gears: describing a typical workday and the techniques behind a successful show (""All a talk show needs to bomb is an unemployed, depressed audience""); reminiscing about his talk-show debut as a 1962 sub for Jack Paar, about his instant rapport with old Arthur Treacher (whom he stubbornly insisted on hiring as sidekick). And then he goes all the way back--to his California childhood as a ""funny fat kid"" and church-organist/singer who made it big in San Francisco radio, lost 80 lbs., and went on the road with Freddy Martin's orchestra (""Lovely Bunch of Coconuts""). Time out, however, for intermission: self-important accounts of serious interviews with Bertrand Russell, Bobby Kennedy, et al. (""I knew firsthand. . . that Dr. King did have a dream and Bobby did see a day."") Then back to the '50s: mildly funny misery as a minor Hollywood actor, friendships with Monty Chft (more gross anecdotes to add to the files) and Liz Taylor. And finally--life since '69: troubles at CBS, divorce from wife Julann, the move to his current Metromedia show. Throughout, Merv is mostly likable, seemingly candid, but--despite passing references to TM, analysis, and his weight problem--never really self-revealing. And the show itself provides surprisingly few anecdote gems (outrageous Tallulah, pathetic Judy G., Nixon wanting to be set up for jokes). Still: a reasonably pleasant, mostly painless blend of celebrities and TV-biz (Merv owns game-shows) that's sure to please the many fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Simon & Schuster