Merv Griffin – singer, actor, host, gamesman, composer, businessman, billionaire – died today at 82 from prostate cancer. The affable Griffin began his career in the 1940s as a $150-a-week radio singer in San Francisco, and toured with Freddy Martin’s orchestra. Later discovered by Doris Day, he appeared (often uncredited) in a number of movies, including By the Light of the Silvery Moon and Cattle Town, opposite Day and Rita Moreno, respectively. After extracting himself from his studio contract, Griffin took his personality to TV, guest-hosting for Jack Paar on the Tonight show, and eventually getting his own vehicle, The Merv Griffin Show, which ran for more than 20 years (32 Emmy noms, 17 wins). In 1963, he set up Merv Griffin Productions and created two of the most popular, longest-running game shows in TV history: Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. Griffin sold his game-show empire to Coca-Cola in 1986 for $250 million, retaining a share of the profits, and embarked on a hotel-buying spree (including the Beverly Hilton, where he lived for years). By 2003, his personal worth was valued at $1.2 billion. His last years were spent on a ranch in La Quinta, California, where he raised race horses. He said he wanted “I will not be right back after this message” on his headstone.