When you hear the name Merv Griffin you must think entertainer extraordinaire. After all, this is the man who gave the world two of the most watched game shows in television history, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. He also hosted his Emmy Award winning talk show for many years, rightfully called, The Merv Griffin Show. He has been called “the total performer” as well as an “entrepreneurial powerhouse”. This San Francisco native came up through the ranks, and sits on the throne as a true visionary. Besides all of his numerous accomplishments Griffin truly loves being with his six-year-old longhaired Shar-Pei, Charlie Chan.
Animal Fair’s Wendy Diamond met with Merv Griffin at his office in Southern California and enjoyed a heart-to-heart talk with him.
WD “How did you and Charlie find each other?”
MG “At the time I had just bought a beach house in Malibu. I am a person that has always had dogs, and I didn’t have one during this time. So, I went to this remarkable pet store, Malibu Pet Headquarters. You name it, this place has everything from the crawliest reptiles to dogs and cats. While there I ran into Linda Thompson’s writing partner. She urged me to push my way through this crowd of customers that were surrounding this fence of dogs that are put out for show on the weekends. There was Charlie standing in the middle just looking at everybody. At the time he was only three months old. I said ‘Oh my God’, walked over to the cashier, gave her my credit card, and left with him.”
WD “Why did you name him Charlie Chan?”
MG “He is a Chinese dog, and I couldn’t think of Mao Tse Tung’s name that day. I loved Charlie Chan movies growing up.”
WD “Did you know about Shar-Pei’s before Charlie?”
MG “I didn’t know that much about the breed. I just thought this was the cutest animal I ever laid eyes on! We were only back at the beach house thirty minutes, when Charlie went to the door and started crying and I thought ‘oh God he hates me’. I opened the door to see what he would do. He went right out on the lawn and relieved himself. I thought ‘Wow he’s house-broken’! I went to the internet and found out this is the only breed of dog that is born housebroken.”
WD “What makes Charlie unique?”
MG “He’s a one man dog. As I sit here looking at him right now, he is never more than about ten feet away from me, watching. He has obsessions with gophers and he likes to dig and dig. Maybe he is trying to get back to China.”
WD “What is it like traveling with Charlie and where are his favorite places to be?”
MG “Most of the time we are at my ranch in Carmel Valley that sits on seventy acres. He loves this place. He chases the lizards and foxes. Charlie likes to sit and watch them come out at night. He just barks and runs after them.”
WD “Do you have any problems traveling with Charlie?”
MG “I have a beautiful home in Ireland that once belonged to John Houston, the famed movie director. I hadn’t been to my home in four years, because I can’t bring Charlie, it is against their rules. He has undergone all necessary vaccinations, and has his paperwork. My plane is very famous in Ireland, as soon as I land the Agriculture Department comes aboard looking for my dog, because my pilots will bark and they think it’s Charlie. I have gone on TV imitating them. Are they crazy? I mean they have hoof and mouth disease as well as mad cow, but Charlie isn’t allowed. I don’t have problems traveling with Charlie when I have gone to Italy, France or Spain.”
WD “Do you think you’ll be able to travel with Charlie to Ireland in the future?
MG “I think this year, October 1st, there is a good chance they’re going to allow dogs in the country. Charlie has a chip in his shoulder with his medical records on it, which is a requirement.”
WD “Does Charlie have health issues?”
MG “There was a time when I would feed him any and everything until he started developing a skin rash. Now I have him on a diet that consists of fish and potatoes. He sees his vet twice a year.”
WD “What’s next in the Merv Griffin empire?”
MG “I am building a development in Palm Springs, an equestrian center. I have about fifty horses and a big race track on my property.”
WD “How is Charlie with the horses?”
MG “In the beginning he would try to chase them and make them move. They would kick him. If I go over to a horse and pet them, he tries to kiss it. He does what I do.”
WD “Why do you love to be with Charlie all the time?”
MG “I love taking walks with Charlie because people look at his wrinkles, not mine.”