Stars, Friends Turn Out For Merv Griffin Funeral

Hollywood stars fondly remembered Merv Griffin at his funeral Friday, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who credited the creator of “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” with jump starting his own acting career.

Among mourners who filled the Church of the Good Shepherd were former first lady Nancy Reagan, Pat Sajak, Vanna White, Alex Trebek, Dick Van Dyke and Griffin’s son, Anthony, and his family.

Schwarzenegger, who attended with wife Maria Shriver, gave one of the eulogies.

“I can say today I wouldn’t have gone as far in my career if it wouldn’t have been for Merv Griffin,” Schwarzenegger said, recalling his appearances on “The Merv Griffin Show,” which date back to 1974.

“He had me on many times, and I was on his show to teach him about fitness and he would be teaching me about acting. Well, neither worked,” Arnold said to laughter.

Griffin, who created “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune,” was 82 when he died Sunday of prostate cancer.

He began his career as a radio vocalist, then began to appear on TV. In 1965, Westinghouse Broadcasting began “The Merv Griffin Show” on syndicated television.

Griffin was already working on developing game shows. “Jeopardy” began in 1964 and went on to become a huge hit, followed by “Wheel of Fortune” in 1975. He sold their rights to the Columbia Pictures Television Unit for $250 million, retaining a share of the profits, and went into real estate and other business ventures.

He bought and refurbished the Beverly Hilton and then acquired hotel and casino operator Resorts International.

The Church of the Good Shepherd is known not only for being the oldest in Beverly Hills, but also for hosting numerous celebrity weddings and funerals over the years.

Elizabeth Taylor wed for the first time at the church, and Rod Stewart & Rachel Hunter also held their wedding there.

The modest, 600-seat church has held funeral services for such luminaries as Frank Sinatra, Rudolph Valentino, Alfred Hitchcock, Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth.

The funeral for Griffin’s longtime friend and companion, actress Eva Gabor, was held there in 1995. Griffin attended Gabor’s service with former First Lady Nancy Reagan.

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