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Merv Griffin passes away at 82

[UPDATE: I was pleasantly surprised that the New York Times obit didn’t avoid mention of Griffin’s sexual orientation or the lawsuits “In a 2005 interview with The New York Times, he said: ‘I tell everybody that I’m a quartre-sexual. I will do anything with anybody for a quarter.‘” (h/t, Mike Signorile)]

I guess we may never know for certain whether the late entertainer and TV mogul was gay/bi. The buzzing has gone on for years, but to my knowledge the Merv himself never actually came out. (MSNBC):

Merv Griffin, the entertainer turned impresario who parlayed his “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune” game shows into a multimillion-dollar empire, has died. He was 82.

Griffin died of prostate cancer, according to a statement from his family that was released by Marcia Newberger, spokeswoman for The Griffin Group/Merv Griffin Entertainment.

…Griffin and Julann Elizabeth Wright were married in 1958, and a son, Anthony, was born the following year. The couple divorced in 1973 because of “irreconcilable differences.”

“It was a pivotal time in my career, one of uncertainty and constant doubt,” he wrote in the autobiography. “So much attention was being focused on me that my marriage felt the strain.” He never remarried.

Griffin was a close friend of the Reagans, and served as a pallbearer at the former president’s funeral.

In a Rolling Stone piece about Griffin in 2006, it notes that Merv was sued twice in 1991, the first a “palimony” lawsuit by a former employee, the second a charge from “Dance Fever” host Deney Terrio that the impresario made a pass at him then fired him for not complying. Both suits were tossed out. However:

Merv does not refute the underlying implication in both cases: that he is gay. Nor does he admit to it. Instead, he mentions the high-profile relationship that he began with actress Eva Gabor at the time of his legal troubles. They were photographed everywhere: Atlantic City, La Quinta, Hollywood premieres. Merv says that they discussed marriage, and he parries any direct questions about his sexual orientation. ”You’re asking an eighty-year-old man about his sexuality right now!” he cries. ”Get a life!”

In any case, you’re not likely to see any mention of it in the obits. After all, the MSM managed to “straight-wash” Luther Vandross with nary a mention of his homosexuality back in 2005. As I said back then, the real problem is that the news media, which has no problem recounting the endless het romances of stars (real or alleged), is squeamish about even asking a star whether or not they are gay – how is this journalism? In Vandross’s situation (as well as in the posthumous media de-gaying cases of Susan Sontag and Ismail Merchant), the coverage bends over backwards, straining any sense of credibility, to avoid any fact-finding about the subject in question that might reveal they were gay, even if the person was openly gay in their social circles, but not to their fan base.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding