A Merv for all seasons
“I’ll take ‘Billionaires’ for $600, Alex.”
“The answer is: Merv Griffin.”
“What is ‘Who is dead?,’ Alex.”
Yes, Merv Griffin, the man who skyrocketed to fame as a big band singer with the hit “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts” — which sparked more anatomically related double-entendre responses than any song of its time — has left this mortal coil with his final spin of the Wheel of Fortune.
For those of you of Phillipe + Jorge’s generation, we were introduced to Mr. Griffin as a talk show and game show host. His first eponymous outing in the daytime hosting biz on NBC took place the same day that Johnny Carson debuted on The Tonight Show. Obviously, Carson was much more successful, but Merv showed his business acumen by swinging a syndication deal with NBC, which raked in lots of dough as he put the arm on his celebrity friends to appear on the show, supposedly with inducements of muy cocktails in the green room prior to going on camera.
But Merv was also the swinging genius who invented two of the most famous game shows in TV history, Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, both of which are still on the air and going great guns. He used this inventiveness and immense sense of finance to make millions in the real estate market, even buying up casinos from the Donald, Mr. Trump. (Quick aside: How do you get your barber to give you a haircut like the Donald’s road kill? Say, “Hey, I fucked your daughter” just before he starts cutting.)
Jorge’s path crossed Merv’s on a number of occasions, which may have led to rumors about Griffin being gay. This wasn’t helped when Merv was sued for sexual harassment by Denny Terrio, the gyrating and flamboyantly insipid host of another TV creation of his, Dance Fever. (The case was ultimately dismissed, and Terrio is, no doubt, working in a hair salon specializing in a clientele of rhythm-less transvestites.)
P&J will ask Vanna to give us a few vowels, so we can say, “Oooo!,” you gave us a lovely bunch of pieces of Americana, Merv.

A full bucket
It’s a new world, and a city has to be creative to survive. It seems to us that in recent years no city in the Biggest Little has been more aggressively creative than Pawtucket. Thanks to Mayor Doyle, the City Council and Herb Weiss, that unstoppable force of nature, Pawtucket keeps getting better and we’re thrilled.
This is just a preamble to mention some of the highlights of this year’s Pawtucket Arts Festival. The kickoff is Friday, August 24, with a concert at McCoy Stadium featuring Counting Crows, Live, and Collective Soul. It’s being put together by the city, the PawSox and Jam Productions — the same folks responsible for last year’s Bob Dylan show.
On Friday, September 7, C.J. Chenier & the Red Hot Louisiana Band, one of America’s greatest Cajun/zydeco outfits, will play at the Old Slater Mill. The always-fun Dragon Boats races are on Saturday, September 8 (8 am to 5 pm) and there’ll be open studios looks at many of the artist’s studios that are growing in the city. There are too many fabulous events to mention, but the “Pops In the Park” concert, sponsored by the Pawtucket Teacher’s Alliance on Saturday, September 15, starting at 5:30 pm, is a don’t-miss event.
Check out the Web site www.pawtucketartsfestival.org, and go to “events” to check out the full schedule. Even if you’re not from the Bucket, you’ve got to admire and thrill in the continued comeback of a great city. 

Send buckets of steamers and Pulitzer-grade tips to p&j@phx.com.

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