Thursday, August 16, 2007

"The Merv Griffin Show" featured performances and interviews with a panoply of entertainers from 1969 through 1986. Griffin created the game show Jeopardy and evaded questions about his sexuality once telling a New York Times reporter "I tell everybody that I'm a quartre-sexual. I will do anything with anyone for a quarter."

I Just Lost My Merv


In 1979, I was living in suburban hell, but I was too stupid to realize it. I knew my parents hated each other. I knew I hated sports. I knew everything was boring and stupid. And all that I lived for was to get home in the afternoons and to settle in on the couch with a can of Fresca for my daily 4 p.m. chat with my best friend, Merv Griffin.

Merv was wonderful. He made everything better. He was kind, he was funny, and most of all, he was relaxed. Whereas my life was replete with anxiety at school (where Mark Ong called me spaghetti head and I peed my pants in gym class), and at home (where my parents had just opened up a giant hole in the earth by getting separated), Merv just laughed and laughed or bit his tongue and smiled at the same time when he was being naughty.

Merv was reliable, he was always there during those endless parentally unsupervised afternoons. While my sister was racking up extracurricular activities to put on her college applications and my brother was learning to inhale cigarettes and puke up beer, I was at home, alone, but luckily there were Merv and his cavalcade of celebrity friends.

My favorite guest, hands down, was Orson Welles, who was as big as a four-door sedan and usually dressed all in black with a big silk bow around his neck. He would perform these obtuse psychic magic tricks narrating his cleverness in that deeply sonorous voice. It thrilled me. And Merv knew just how I felt - he was thrilled, too!

Merv knew the coolest people, women like Charo, Hermione Gingold, Phyllis Diller, and Zsa Zsa Gabor. They defined glamour and sophistication to me. And he knew wonderful men, too. Not men like my father who was too loud and red-faced and always about to boil over, but smooth, classy men like Wayland Flowers (and his Madame), Dom DeLuise, Tony Randall, and that dreamy Anthony Perkins.

To me, Merv was an emissary to a world of endless chatter and friendship. It was exactly where I wanted to live - it was not my house. Not my house was filmed live in front of an audience of lucky ducks in a mystical place called Burbank. Not my house was brightly lit and funny, full of innuendo and wit with a couch that was big and long enough for everyone.
You never knew who might pop by not my house, like Endora popping by to visit Samantha Stevens. At my house, you knew exactly what was going to happen, the daily tensions, the fights over dinner, the long lonely days and nights.
Of course, back then, I didn't realize I was gay, but then - hey! - apparently, neither did Merv!

But like knew like. I knew Merv was in fact, my real father, the father I deserved. He was my first chosen gay father, pudgy, honey-voiced, soothing, and sassy, the anti-my dad who was mayor and master of ceremonies of not my house.

God, how I dreamt of leaving my house and somehow making my way to that wonderful air-conditioned Burbank studio. There I would laugh with Merv on the couch and live with Bill Bixby and he and Orson would do magic tricks, and my pals would be Mickey, Michael, Davy, and my favorite, the quiet Monkee, Peter. My Burbank bedroom would be like the inside of "I Dream of Jeannie"'s pillow-strewn bedroom in a bottle.
To tell God's honest truth, to this day, my sense of what is fun and funny and that gayest of gay commodities, entertaining, is predicated on what Merv taught me during those hazy '70s afternoons - become a master of the art of friendship, surround yourself with bright, funny people, and you'll never suffer from loneliness. Be gracious and expansive and kind and laugh your head off. Glitter. And be gay.

Merv Griffin died in Los Angeles this week at the age of 82.

©GayCityNews 2007


Aatom said...

That was beautiful, Christopher.

--Michael Safdiah

Patrick said...

i wanted to live with bill bixby too.