Merv Griffin, entertainer turned multimillionaire businessman, dies

by Jinah Kim

NBC News

Entertaining legend Merv Griffin has lost his long-running battle with cancer.

Griffin was a singer, a classically trained pianist, actor, producer, creator, and real estate tycoon.

In short, Merv was the man who accomplished just about everything.

Born in the San Francisco suburb of San Mateo, Griffin began his career at just 19-years-old, singing for radio.

He was the first American to record an album on magnetic tape.

In 1952 he broke into film, and his on-screen smooch was the first open-mouthed kiss ever shown in theaters.

Griffin then made the transition to the small screen, where he hosted shows such as "Play Your Hunch" and ultimately, "The Merv Griffin Show".

Over 23 years he would interview 25,000 guests on 5,500 shows.

His talents spilled behind the scenes as creator of the wildly successful "Jeopardy" and "Wheel of Fortune," both of which are still going strong.

Ever the master of re-invention, in 1987, Griffin went from king of TV to king-sized beds when he bought the landmark Beverly Hilton and officially entered the hospitality and real estate business.

Griffin even took on prostate cancer in 1996, and won, but the disease came back this summer and this time, it was a challenge even the mighty Merv Griffin could not overcome.

Merv Griffin was 82-years-old.