I went to a Christmas party this past weekend and everyone, of course, was talking about what book they were reading. One friend who has been in a book club for years, mentioned the non-fiction book, “Merv Griffin: A Life in the Closet.”
It sounded interesting to me, and I’d just finished reading a lot of fiction, so I downloaded it to my Kobo on Sunday night. I paid more than I wanted to pay, but celebrity bios seem to command higher prices. They always have, and probably always will. So I didn’t mind that part. I also bought the book based on one recommendation and a quick preview on Kobo.
I’m only a few chapters into the book at this point, but so far I’m enjoying it. Although a lot of the book is, indeed, hearsay, it seems plausible to me that each and everything written could have happened. So far, no complaints…all history/bio is hearsay as far as I’m concerned.
I just checked out the product description and reviews over at Amazon and I found that an editor I worked with more than once, Richard Labonte, gave an excellent review and a nice blurb to the author of this bio that was highlighted with the product description, not with the customer reviews. I trust Richard’s judgment because I’ve been a contributor to his LGBT books, one of which won a Lambda Award.
After I read Richard’s review, I clicked over to the customer reviews to see what readers had to say. There are only thirty reviews right now, and most of them are one star reviews written by people who seem almost insulted at the concept that Merv Griffin lived a life in the closet and that this closeted life is now being discussed in a book. It took me back to the shocked comments when people found out Rock Hudson was gay, lived a complete lie, and everyone bought it. It’s like they want to put us into this neat little “gay” box, like the two fake characters on “Modern Family,” but they don’t want to know what it’s really like.
Of course we’ll never really know what Merv Griffin’s real life was like. Only Merv knew that. He made an art out of creating a persona for the public that was filled with deception and self-promotion for the sake of his “image.” His goal was making money and maintaining his image, at any cost. I’m not judging him; I can’t say I blame him either. But these days, there is still a lot of this going on in Hollywood…and other places, like Washington, DC, with closeted gays…and I think it’s time our gay brothers and sisters in power start to speak up a little to make it easier for younger people. Nowadays, as opposed to thirty years ago, it’s more about authenticity than deception. In fact, the closet case is becoming so cliche I have trouble even looking at them on television or in films.
But, from the tone of the reviews of Merv’s bio, I can still see that people just don’t want to hear it. For the life of me, I don’t get why either. I’ll post more about this book when I’m finished. Maybe there’s something I haven’t read yet that will change my mind. But from what I have read so far, every single thing in this bio is plausible. And I’d bet there are still plenty of people left in Hollywood who knew Merv Griffin well enough to back it all up…some of whom are, indeed, living the same life Merv did. The gay community is small sometimes. We all know people who work in fashion, theater, film, and publishing. We also know who is gay and who isn’t. We just don’t talk about it.