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Merv Griffin

Wheel of Fortune Creator – MMS

Back in the Golden Days of Hollywood, there was a famous nightclub called the Coconut Grove. It was at the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Blvd. Every single person of Hollywood Royalty from the 1940s and 1950s was seen at this place. There was live music every night and people dressed to the nines to attend. It also had historical significance to Los Angeles as the place where Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated.

“The Ambassador
was getting seedier and seedier by neglect.”

I recall when I went to a high school prom at the Ambassador Hotel with my friend, Gene, expecting to find a glamourous palace, but by the 1980s it had seen better days.

Years later, I revisited the Ambassador during a SIGGRAPH party hosted by the Walt Disney Company in the 1990s. By that time, it was getting seedier and seedier by neglect. The Ambassador saw the fate of many grand old buildings past their prime. They close down from their original purposes and become empty filming locations: no longer serving their original purpose, but as disposable sets to be thrashed and trashed by film crews. We had friends in the Los Angeles Conservancy who tried to save it from demolition, but eventually all but a façade was torn down.

“Conjunction
Junction,
What’s Your Function?”

Merv Griffin announced he would open a NEW improved Coconut Grove called the “Coconut Club” in the grand ballroom of his hotel, the Beverly Hilton. We were really excited to attend. Jack Sheldon (the lead vocalist of School House Rock’s “Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Function?”) and his big band were the headliners and on fire.

We later got to meet and listen to Jack Sheldon in a more intimate environment at the jazz club called Jax Bar and Grill in Glendale, CA. He was a regular performer there and it was such a treat to hear stellar quality music in an intimate setting. Los Angeles residents were so fortunate for these opportunities like no other city in those days.

The Coconut Club was one of the few times when we were determined to take a photo with a famous person. Merv was happy and very approachable. I think he truly relished fans coming up to say hello.

“Ooo…
fascinating.”

We were aficionados of the old Merv Griffin Show. CBS used to do impersonations of Rick Moranis on SCTV, obsessively doing Merv Griffin saying, “Ooo… fascinating. We’ll be right back.” He did it so much that when his dad, Gil, got a bit part on General Hospital playing an interviewer, he did an “Ooo… fascinating” as a wink and a sweet shout-out to his son’s obsession. The director of G.H. was none the wiser.

I like to think Merv would have approved of my photoshopped Santa hat on his head when we sent out our Christmas cards that year that said, “Have a Mervy Christmas!”