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Merv Griffin Dies at 82

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Talk show host, real estate mogul, crooner and all-around entertainer Merv Griffin has died. He was 82.

Merv got his first big break as a singer with band leader Freddy Martin at L.A.'s Coconut Grove in 1948. He parlayed his singing career into acting in feature films in the 1950s. He jumped from the big to the small screen and found success as a game show host and sometime guest host for Jack Paar on the "Tonight Show."

He was seen as the heir apparent to replace Paar when the "Tonight Show" host retired, but was passed over for a young man named Johnny Carson. Merv was given a daytime talk show on NBC, though it was soon cancelled.

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Through a production deal with NBC, he began to develop game shows. His first attempt failed in 1963, but the following year he debuted "Jeopardy."

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A year later, in 1965, The Merv Griffin Show was resurrected in syndication and ran in one form or another until 1986. In 1975, "Wheel of Fortune" hit the air and still runs nightly, making it the longest running game show in syndication.

A savvy businessman, Merv branched out into real estate and other investments, at one time or another owning Donald Trump's Resorts International with holdings in Atlantic City and the Bahamas as well as the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills.

Merv died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after a battle with prostate cancer.

Merv married Julann Wright in 1958, though they separated in the 1970s. He is survived by a son and two grandchildren.

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Photos via AP

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Merv Sings "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts"

with the Freddy Martin Band

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The Carpenters with Merv

Karen & Richard sing "(Want You) Back in My Life Again", followed by an interview. Also on the couch, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

Debbie Harry & Chris Stein with Merv

A sit down with members of Blondie circa 1981 and the release of "Autoamerican"

Oingo Boingo with Merv

The band plays "Private Life" and then Merv talks with Danny Elfman.