Sunday, August 12, 2007

Merv Griffin Passes On Of Prostate Cancer - 82 Years Old -

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Merv Griffin, the entertainer turned impresario who parlayed his "Jeopardy" and "Wheel of Fortune" game shows into a multimillion-dollar empire, has died. He was 82.

Merv Griffin, 82, died of prostate cancer Sunday, according to a spokeswoman. He was 82.

Griffin died of prostate cancer, according to a statement from his family that was released by Marcia Newberger, spokeswoman for The Griffin Group/Merv Griffin Entertainment.

From his beginning as a $100-a-week San Francisco, California, radio singer, Griffin moved on as vocalist for Freddy Martin's band, sometime film actor and TV game and talk show host. His "The Merv Griffin Show" lasted more than 20 years, and Griffin said his capacity to listen contributed to his success.

"If the host is sitting there thinking about his next joke, he isn't listening," Griffin reasoned in a recent interview.

But his biggest break financially came from inventing and producing "Jeopardy" in the 1960s and "Wheel of Fortune" in the 1970s.

After they became the hottest game shows in television, Griffin sold the rights to them to the Columbia Pictures Television Unit for $250 million, retaining a share of the profits. He started spreading the sale money around in treasury bonds, stocks and other investments.

He made Forbes' list of richest Americans several times, but he went into real estate and other ventures because "I was never so bored in my life."

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Merv Griffin hospitalized for cancer
"I said, 'I'm not going to sit around and clip coupons for the rest of my life,' " he recalled in 1989. "That's when Barron Hilton said, 'Merv, do you want to buy the Beverly Hilton?' I couldn't believe it."

Griffin bought the slightly passe hotel for $100.2 million and completely refurbished it for $25 million. Then he made a move for control of Resorts International, which operated hotels and casinos from Atlantic City to the Caribbean.

That touched off a feud with real estate tycoon Donald Trump. Griffin eventually acquired Resorts for $240 million, netting a reported paper profit of $100 million.

"I love the gamesmanship," he told Life magazine in 1988. "This may sound strange, but it parallels the game shows I've been involved in."

It was in 1948 that Martin hired Griffin to join his band at Los Angeles' Coconut Grove at $150 a week. With Griffin doing the singing, the band had a smash hit with "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts," a 1949 novelty song sung in a cockney accent.

The band was playing in Las Vegas, Nevada, when Doris Day and her producer husband, Marty Melcher, were in the audience. They recommended him to Warner Bros., which offered a contract. After a bit in "By the Light of the Silvery Moon," starring Day and Gordon MacRae, he had a bigger role with Kathryn Grayson in "So This Is Love." A few more trivial roles followed, then he asked out of his contract.

In 1954, Griffin went to New York where he appeared in a summer replacement musical show on CBS-TV, a revival of "Finian's Rainbow," and a music show on CBS Radio. He followed with a few game show hosting jobs on TV, notably "Play Your Hunch," which premiered in 1958 and ran through the early 1960s. His glibness led to stints as substitute for Jack Paar on "Tonight."

When Paar retired in 1962, Griffin was considered a prime candidate to replace him. Johnny Carson was chosen instead. NBC gave Griffin a daytime version of "Tonight," but he was canceled for being "too sophisticated" for the housewife audience.

In 1965, Westinghouse Broadcasting introduced "The Merv Griffin Show" in syndicated TV. At last Griffin had found the forum for his talents. He never underestimated the intelligence of his audience, offering such figures as philosopher Bertrand Russell, Pablo Casals and Will and Ariel Durant as well as movie stars and entertainers.

With Carson ruling the late-night roost on NBC in the late 1960s, the two other networks challenged him with competing shows, Griffin on CBS, Joey Bishop (later Dick Cavett) on ABC. Nothing stopped Carson, and Griffin returned to Westinghouse.

Meanwhile, Griffin sought new enterprises for his production company. A lifelong crossword puzzle fan, he devised a game show "Word for Word," in 1963. It faded after one season, then his wife, Julann, suggested another show.

"Julann's idea was a twist on the usual question-answer format of the quiz shows of the '50s," he wrote in his autobiography "Merv." "Her idea was to give the contestants the answer, and they had to come up with the appropriate question."

"Jeopardy," begun in 1964, became a huge moneymaker for Griffin, as did a more conventional game show, "Wheel of Fortune," starting in 1975.

Mervyn Edward Griffin Jr. was born in San Mateo, south of San Francisco on July 6, 1925, the son of a stockbroker. His aunt, Claudia Robinson, taught him to play piano at age 4, and soon the boy was staging shows on the back porch of the family home.

"Every Saturday I had a show, recruiting all the kids in the block as either stagehands, actors and audience, or sometimes all three," he wrote in his 1980 autobiography. "I was the producer, always the producer."

After studying at San Mateo Junior College and the University of San Francisco, Griffin quit school to apply for a job as pianist at radio station KFRC in San Francisco. The station needed a vocalist instead. He auditioned and was hired.

Griffin was billed as "the young romantic voice of radio." He attracted the interest of RKO studio boss William Dozier, who was visiting San Francisco with his wife, Joan Fontaine.

"As soon as I walked in their hotel room, I could see their faces fall," the singer recalled. He weighed 235 pounds. Shortly afterward, singer Joan Edwards told him: "Your voice is terrific, but the blubber has got to go." Griffin slimmed down, and he would spend the rest of his life adding and taking off weight.

Griffin and Julann Elizabeth Wright were married in 1958, and a son, Anthony, was born the following year. The couple divorced in 1973 because of "irreconcilable differences."

"It was a pivotal time in my career, one of uncertainty and constant doubt," he wrote in the autobiography. "So much attention was being focused on me that my marriage felt the strain." He never remarried.

San Francisco Transbay Terminal Design Competition Video

This video is of the public display at SF City Hall of the three concepts developed for the San Francisco Transbay Terminal Design Competition. I'll use the information from the official website of the San Francisco Transbay Terminal Redevelopment effort:

In November 2006, the TJPA launched an international Design and Development (D/D) Competition to allow world-class architects and developers from across the globe the opportunity to partner and bid for the rights to design and build what will be the Grand Central Station of the West. (Link to archived Stage I and Stage II Competition Materials and Releases.)

The TJPA sought a team that would create a unique, world class Transit Center and adjacent mixed-use Tower whose aesthetic, functional and technical excellence are worthy of their position as the centerpiece of the new Transbay neighborhood in downtown San Francisco.

Three D/D teams are in the final stage of the competition. The remaining teams are:

Richard Rogers Partnership and Forest City Enterprises with MacFarlane Partners
Skidmore Owings and Merrill and Rockefeller Group Development Corporation
Pelli Clark Pelli Architects and Hines

Each team presented its design concepts for the new Transit Center and Tower to the TJPA Board of Directors on August 6, 2007 in the Board Chambers of San Francisco City Hall. Read the Press Release here (.pdf)

The three proposed designs are being evaluated by the D/D Competition Jury, a nine-member panel with a broad spectrum of design and development expertise. All jurors were selected by the competition manager and approved by the TJPA Board. The D/D Jury recommendation will be brought before the TJPA Board on September 20, 2007, at San Francisco City Hall at which time the Board will vote on the final proposal.

How to Comment

The designs are shown and described below, and comments may be submitted by emailing D&, or by submitting a comment card to:

Transbay Joint Powers Authority
Attn: D&D Public Comment
201 Mission Street, Suite 1960
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 597-4615 fax

The public will be able to comment until September 17, 2007.

Comments from the public will be forwarded to the TJPA Board with the Jury's recommendation at the September 20, 2007 Board Meeting.


My favorite? I actually like the SOM scheme. To me it's the most San Franciscan in its form. It fits with the surrounding context and has an air of monunmentality currenly missing from San Francisco's urban design culture.


Last of the 49ers struck it rich as a pioneer
Scott Ostler - SF Chroncle
Saturday, August 11, 2007

BILL WALSH MEMORIAL SERVICE - Last of the 49ers struck it rich a...

They came to the old football stadium Friday, fans and players and friends, to say goodbye to Bill Walsh, the last of the true 49ers.
Walsh wasn't the last of the football 49ers, but the last of the 49ers who began migrating to San Francisco 150 years ago because their dreams were too big to fit anywhere else in America.
They were wild, restless, desperate and a little bit crazy, and the spirit of those 49ers may have seen its last spark in a gray-haired football coach who struck gold without getting his hands dirty.
Walsh's story is the last great gold-rush saga. A window into what he achieved and the impact he had on so many lives was opened up at the public memorial service Friday at Candlestick.
It was what you might call a West Coast service - innovative, entertaining and choreographed by Bill Walsh. While he was slowly dying of leukemia, Walsh planned his own services, down to the music piped into the stadium speakers as the 8,000 or so fans filed in, a river of 49er red.
It was mostly country music - Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr., Johnny Cash, Little Jimmy Dickens.
The music had a wistful thread. "Always on My Mind." "All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down)." "Hello, Walls." "(You'll Always Find Me Here at) Closing Time."
But you can't plan everything, and Walsh surely would have appreciated the man who stood up in the grandstands early in the service and recited a poem about the 49ers.
The emcee, Chris "Boomer" Berman, is a Bay Area guy who knows about the Beat poets, so he let the man do his thing, then said admiringly, " There's a 49er fan."
The rest of the program went pretty much as scripted. The previous day's private service at Stanford was mostly about Walsh the man, while Friday's event was more about what Walsh created here. It was an amazing machine and all he did was select the parts, assemble them by his own blueprint, teach, coach, inspire and lead.
"The man who brought it all together," Steve Young said.
And the man who held it all together for a decade. Who else but Walsh could have pulled off that miracle? As Ronnie Lott observed after the service, "Abraham Lincoln said, 'We are all copies.' Bill is not a copy, he's an original."
For sure, nobody but Walsh could have built such a marvelous contraption from the ground up, and made it soar. Former team owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., who had many bitter battles with Walsh, went poetic on us, likening the 49ers' glory days to Camelot.
"Bill Walsh was our King Arthur and this stadium was our castle," Eddie D said.
It was DeBartolo who hired Walsh when the 47-year-old's window of opportunity as an NFL head coach had just about slammed closed. DeBartolo was either incredibly lucky or a true visionary, because that hiring had a major lasting impact on San Francisco's culture, self-image and world reputation.
DeBartolo's longtime sidekick Carmen Policy took us back to the beginning, when DeBartolo's father advised Eddie Jr. not to hire Walsh because trusted NFL insiders had convinced the senior DeBartolo that while Walsh was a smart guy, he wasn't head-coach material.
So true. Walsh was way overqualified for the job. But instead of dumbing down his system to the league's level, Walsh lifted his players and assistant coaches.
So Eddie DeBartolo Sr. was strongly opposed to his son hiring Walsh?
"That's Carmen," DeBartolo Jr. said after the service, in a tone indicating that Policy's speech had been overly dramatic. "(My dad) was just a little concerned about the salary. He wanted to pay Bill $45,000. Bill wanted two-something ($200,000-plus)."
So how much did Walsh get?
"Two-something," DeBartolo said.
For his dough, DeBartolo got a genius who had the kind of plan and faith and determination that gets Golden Gate Bridges built.
Joe Montana explained after the service how the West Coast offense had been a new way of thinking. Opposing defenses hated to give up four yards on a running play, but a four-yard pass? No biggie.
"In their mind," Montana said, "they were saying, 'It's only four yards (gain on the pass play), we stopped 'em.' "
Four yards and a cloud of Jerry Rice's cologne.
Four yards at a time, Walsh's 49ers won three Super Bowls. Critics disparaged Walsh's schemes, but couldn't stop them.
The bad guys, Walsh didn't dink-'n'-dunk 'em as much as he out-thunk 'em.
Along the way, he berated his men and he praised them, made them cry and laugh, tore them down and built them up, made them hate him and, in the end, love him.
Walsh swung a mean pick, and no 49er ever struck it richer.