Merv Griffin received a standing ovation at the Beverly Hilton Hotel 7 p.m. tonight when Joe Balogna, among those paying tribute to Merv, asked everyone to give him a final send-off.
Bologna and wife Renee Taylor were married on “The Merv Griffin Show” 47 years ago.
The party in the hotel’s grand ballroom was hosted by the new owner Beny Alagem, who received a tribute from Griffin’s son Tony, saying “The owner promised to carry on the tradition of his father at the hotel.”
Tony Griffin, earlier at the Church of the Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Beverly Hills, had given a lengthy but loving farewell to his father, relating their relationship from his childhood to Merv’s last day in Cedars Sinai Hospital.
Tony followed Arnold Schwarzenegger, who again illustrated his humor, telling how Merv tried to teach him acting “and I tried to teach him fitness. We both failed.”
The invitational service was SRO. The coffin, buried under white flowers with a single red rose, stood throughout the service. Nancy Reagan was an honorary pallbearer and she arrived 15 minutes before the service began. She was warmly greeted by everyone.
The guests arrived in black shuttle busses from the Beverly Hilton Hotel to the church, and were shuttled back for the final party without a hitch.
The Young Musician’s Foundation performed at the party. It was Merv’s loving joy and he had been chairman. Mike Gleason is now interim chairman. Also performing at the party was 14-year-old guitarist Tim Colabre, who receives a scholarship from the YMF, courtesy of Merv Griffin.
Merv had been looking forward to playing at the Hollywood Bowl, backed by an 80-piece orchestra, next month.
Seated in front of me at the church was Dick Van Dyke, who had met Merv in the ’50s when Merv was playing at Coconut Grove and Dick was playing the Chapman Park Hotel nextdoor. And behind me was Judy Balaban, who reminded me she was engaged to Merv when she was 18 years old.
The Hollywood celeb list included Sherry Lansing, Bob Daly, Constance Towers and husband John Gavin (their son just back from serving in Iraq), Roger Williams, Martin Ransohoff, Connie Stevens and Robert Loggia (who served as pallbearer).
Son Tony promises to continue the Merv Griffin legacy, and a videotape shown at the party illustrated a sample of the upcming Merv Griffin Crossword Puzzles Show.
It was obvious to everyone that Merv Griffin’s name and talents will be around for a long time to come.