LV had place in Griffin's heart


Entertainment icon Merv Griffin left a musical legacy in Las Vegas.

Walk into almost any casino and you'll hear his theme song on "Wheel of Fortune" slot machines, a spinoff of the game show he created.

"It's been the No. 1 slot machine for the last 10-12 years," said Griffin's longtime business partner, Ed Fishman.

Griffin, who died Sunday in Los Angeles of prostate cancer at age 82, would have owned a casino in Las Vegas had the right opportunity been there, said Fishman.

"He loved Las Vegas. He looked at several places about 10-12 years ago -- the Sands and the Desert Inn," Fishman said.

Griffin had the bank account to do it. A singer-turned-talk show host, Griffin created game shows that made him one of the richest entertainers in Hollywood.

Griffin came up with the long-running TV game shows "Jeopardy" in the 1960s and "Wheel of Fortune" in the 1970s. He not only created the concept but also wrote the theme songs.

During the 1970s, when Las Vegas was in a lull, his nationally syndicated "Merv Griffin Show," taped at Caesars Palace, kept the city's allure alive.

He got a major career break while playing with a big-band group in Las Vegas.

According to published reports, Doris Day and her producer husband, Marty Melcher, saw Griffin performing with the band and recommended him to Warner Bros., which offered a contract.

That gave Griffin his foot in the door in Hollywood and eventually led to the talk show.

"He never wanted to retire," Fishman said. "He lived 11 years after he got (diagnosed with) prostate cancer. He never slowed down. He loved eating, smoking, a good time and good people."

THE SCENE AND HEARD

The Viva Las Vegas! Elvis fan club is holding a ceremony Wednesday at the Las Vegas Hilton to honor Elvis Presley on the 30th anniversary of his death. The 8 p.m. gathering will be held at the bronze statue of Elvis at the front entrance. For more information, e-mail vlvclubprez@yahoo.com or call 375-6409.

SIGHTINGS

Actress Drew Barrymore, getting a security guard escort to the middle of the dance floor at Jet (Mirage) on Saturday night with friends. Most celebrities stay in the VIP area, but Barrymore wanted to be in the thick of the action. Earlier, she had dinner with actor T.R. Knight of "Grey's Anatomy" at Stack restaurant (Mirage). Barrymore, Knight and their group later moved on to Krave (Planet Hollywood Resort). ... Indiana Pacers star Jermaine O'Neal, Houston Rockets star Tracy McGrady, singer Brandy, actress Gabrielle Union, comedian Brad Garrett and former NBA standout John Starks, partying Saturday at Jet. ... Melanie Brown, a member of the Spice Girls, at Pure nightclub (Caesars) with her new husband, Stephen Belafonte. Also there: Kansas City Chiefs holdout running back Larry Johnson, San Antonio Spurs veteran Robert Horry, UFC legend Ken Shamrock and mixed-martial artist Frank Trigg. ... Former big league slugger Jose Canseco, relaxing Saturday in a VIP cabana with a lady friend at Bare Pool Lounge (Mirage). ... Playboy Playmate Kelly Monaco and "Dancing With the Stars" performer Cheryl Burke, partying Saturday at Playboy Club and Moon nightclub (Palms). They were in town for the bachelorette party for Edyta Sliwinska, who is marrying Alec Mazo. Both are dancers on the ABC show. ... At Tao (Venetian) on Saturday: Kelly Clarkson, celebrating a galpal's birthday; actor Mario Lopez and his girlfriend, "Dancing With the Stars" dancer Karina Smirnoff; comedian Wayne Brady; actor Brendan Fehr and Horry. ... Former NFL star Tiki Barber and actress Amber Smith, partying Friday at Tao.

THE PUNCH LINE

"101 reasons why chocolate is better than men -- am I right, ladies?" -- From David Letterman's Top 10 Titles of My Recent Blog Entries

Norm Clarke can be reached at 383-0244 or norm@reviewjournal.com. Find additional sightings and more online at www.normclarke.com.

 

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