Old, Gay Hollywood

Merv Griffin’s Sexual Relations with Rock Hudson, Marlon Brando, and All of Tinseltown


Two years ago, Merv Griffin died, leaving behind a legacy that included Wheel Of Fortune, Jeopardy, hotels, side business ventures, and more than a billion dollars. Also: speculation. Rumors about Griffin being a big ‘mo aren’t new, and they weren’t helped by two lawsuits (a palimony claim, and a sexual harassment charge) by two dudes in the 90s. Though dismissed, the lawsuits put Griffin on the spot, and while he never denied being gay, he didn’t own it either. Now, someone else is doing it for him.

Author Darwin Porter’s niche is posthumously outing celebrities. He did it for Marlon Brandon. He did it for Katharine Hepburn. And now he’s doing it to Griffin with Merv Griffin: a Life in the Closet. Having just hit bookstores, Porter is on a media tour — a stop that includes Cindy Adam’s column.

Of Griffin, Porter says, “We met in ’59 when he sang for my senior prom and the student committee paid him $500. What he made then was a far cry from the billionaire he was at the end.”


But what about the sex? “He lost his virginity, to a female, that is, when Judy Garland seduced him. His first crush was Errol Flynn, whom he saw passed out naked on a couch. His roommate a year and a half was Montgomery Clift. He lived with Roddy McDowall here at the Dakota, where he introduced Eddie Fisher to Elizabeth Taylor. He maintained a virtual male harem and a pimp who supplied porn stars, but I don’t go into his pay-for-gay guys. I keep it to his A-list dates like Rock Hudson, whom he met through Henry Wilson, Rock’s agent, and who advised him to keep his sexuality quiet. And there was a young James Dean selling his sex for cash. Plus Judy Garland’s ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ boy next door, Tom Drake, who, by the way, ended up a used car salesman. There was Peter Lawford, Robert Walker, Gordon Scott the then-Tarzan. And lots about Merv’s prolonged sexual tryst with Marlon Brando. There are his experiences at Liberace’s all-male orgies. His first encounter, a boyhood friend he grew up with, later tried writing a book about Merv. This being an era when male actors felt homosexuality was a danger to their career, lawyers shot down that book fast.”

And if that wasn’t scandalous enough: “I write that friends who went to school with him in San Mateo say, when he was a young homosexual growing up, he was sexually molested” by a priest.

Of course, Porter has one thing working for him: almost no threat of litigation. Most of the folks Porter talks about and says Griffin was involved with are, like Griffin, dead. And as any law student knows, you can’t libel the dead. So it doesn’t matter if he calls James Dean a glorified prostitute, or Griffin a pimp. None of this has to be true for him to get a book deal without worrying about getting sued.

Of course, some part of you secretly wants this all to be real. Whores!

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  • Alexis

    If I need a laugh, I’ll probably read this.

  • Matthew Rettenmund

    The ending of this piece harping on how you can’t libel the dead is passive-aggressive to the extreme. What part of any of this sounds made up? It all fits. If someone wrote a book posthumously outing John Wayne or something NOBODY had heard stories about, then I’d get the doubting Thomas act. But this sounds perfectly legit to me.

    Own it yourselves, Queerty! :0)

  • KitKat

    >And as any law student knows, you can’t libel the dead.

    There are some interesting and untested legal theories for defamation of the dead. Personally, I like juicy gossip too much to want any of these theories upheld in court.

  • Landon Bryce

    @Matthew Rettenmund:

    Matt, you never saw Repo Man and heard those John Wayne rumors? The movie’s a classic! The Duke’s real name was Marion, you know.

    But I agree with your basic point completely– all of jibes with the facts as I know them. I’m not sure I believe the Ryan Seacrest as Merv’s boy whore rumor, though. Seacrest’s not dead, so I guess this book won’t cover it.

  • Lee

    Griffin was irresistibly charming and his old talk show was like a feast of the best chocolate truffles and champagne because it featured all the greatest stars [read with TALENT not just flavors of the moment] who ever agreed to do TV.

    BUT he was a Card Carrying Pig because not only did he not come out LONG after he was untouchable because of his wealth but also because I know of no evidence that he ever gave a dime of that billion to anything gay rights-related or AIDS related AND was one of the insufferable queens like Outsports Cyd Ziegler who thought Reagan, his close friend, was God.

    Micheangelo Signorile described [and documented] him best:

    “First off, Griffin’s closet kept him shockingly silent while he had access to the president of the United States as his own people were dying. This man was intimate with the Reagans (and Nancy Reagan in particular) during the height of the AIDS epidemic in 80s, with few treatments available and fear-mongering having gripped the media. Griffin’s gay brothers — his friends, his lovers, his people across America, around the world — suffered and met horrific deaths. And yet, because he was closeted it is highly unlikely he ever made the connection for the Reagans (between himself and those who were suffering and dying), pointed out the government negligence, or even talked openly as a gay person. They likely knew, but it was unspoken, and that allowed all involved to just rationalize things –to say to themselves that, well, Merv, is not like those other people, and to always believe that maybe it wasn’t true anyway, and that he was truly dating Eva Gabor. He also stayed silent about the epidemic in the media — ironic since he was a man very much at the center of the media industry and in shaping communications and television in this country — when his voice would have made a huge difference.

    Secondly, Griffin’s closet had him engaging in workplace sexual harassment, something that, as I showed in my 1993 book Queer in America, is common among closeted powerful men, who often are simply seeking outlets for sex. That was not only focused on in the Denny Terrio lawsuit against Griffin but also was something that several Hollywood gay men told me about, offering first hand experience, while I was researching Queer in America back in the early 90s and some of this (though, for legal reasons not all) is reported on in the book.

    Finally, Griffin’s closet had him firing gay men who’d actually made it up through the ranks of his own company, simply because they were openly gay. There is a story in Queer in America about a man identified as “The Mogul” who did just that. I can now reveal that The Mogul is Merv Griffin. Open homosexuality is a threat to the closeted, and powerful people in the closet like Merv Griffin will often do whatever it takes to squash those who are open and who might advocate that all among the powerful should come out.

    Merv Griffin accomplished a lot and is, in his death, being held up as a example of a stellar Hollywood businessman. But he should also be held up as man who, like Malcolm Forbes before him, was hugely influential and powerful and yet still allowed the closet and homophobia to manipulate his life, and to cause him to do harm to his own people. That should not be forgotten.”

  • John Santos

    Merv was a sexual predator who once tried to sexually assault Danny Terrio, then threatened to ruin his career if he talked. Oddly enough, when he died, the homocons on Gay Patriot praised him on high–because he remained closeted until his death. Typical.

  • Jaroslaw

    It is hard for me to believe than none of these rich and powerful closeted Gay men’s did NOT have friends who knew the truth. As such, couldn’t at least one of them suggest that they come out after death? Leave some money to an AIDS charity or something?

    As Michaelangelo says so poignantly above, Merv for only one example was extremely powerful voice and could have made a huge difference both as a media person AND as a person who had the president of the USA’s ear at the time.

    SUPER Sad and it bears repeating – this selfish, greedy, hypocritical lifestyle should never be forgotten when discussing Merv Griffin.

  • Queerky

    Everyone sympathizes with female starlets being used by casting agents and producers, but there was also a male equivalent. I’ve heard Clarke Gable had to allow himself to be blown by George Cukor, when he was starting out. It’s never been easy to be beautiful.

  • BobP

    In the early days of AIDS, I remember reading that Merv started a company which purchased life insurance policies from gay men with AIDS. The insurance policy holders had access to the money, which allowed some to live out their days without having to go on welfare.
    The policies were bought (by Merv) at a discount and when the person died, Merv cashed in the policy at full value.
    So, not only did he never step up to the plate and do the right thing, but he actually figured out a way to profit from AIDS.

  • Southern Belle

    Thank you but I will wait until the 1st of june and get it at the stand set up on the street by the homeless people in the village for a buck.

  • KPC

    I believe that anyone with any sense of awareness to body language and basic human communication clearly saw that Griffin was a self-absorbed, pompous and insecure individual. Smart no doubt, but he always gave me the creeps and made me very uncomfortable. None of his alleged behavior comes as a surprise. I am reminded of what Johnny Carson said, “Nobody gets on Merv (his show) unless they get on Merv first.”

  • Lee

    Well, you have part of the legend, Queerky.

    The original story was not that Clark Gable “had to allow himself to be blown by George Cukor,” but that like a lot of 20-something meat fresh to Follywood, he peddled himself a bit, road the casting couch whatever…and that later, after he’d become a star, he was behind Cukor’s firing as the first director of “Gone With the Wind” because he didn’t want a daily reminder of those days.

    Another story went that it was Gable’s doing but only because Cukor was famous as a “woman’s director” and he feared he’d be lost in Cukor’s effort to make Vivien Leigh shine. Allegedly Cukor continued to privately coach Leigh and Olivia de Havilland during filming.

    Correspondence indicates Cukors leaving was really because of a fight for control between him and GWTW producer David Selznick or for other studio politics reasons.

  • mb00

    oh who gives a fuck.

  • Stamp

    Hell, you must admit, that’s one hell of a life.

  • Herbo

    Those orgies must have been the livin’ end.
    Merv also had a stylish beard, dahlink — Eva Gabor.

  • eva


  • Dorian

    As a former rent boy to the stars, I found all of this knowledge to be fascinating when I first learned of it during the 70s. Though I never had sex with Merv Griffin, I was told all about him from my pimp who provided hustlers for Merv, among others. This pimp had quite a lengthy Heidi Fleiss-like record of providing boys to celebrities and the rich and powerful — going back to the early 60s, with clients like WALT DISNEY of all people. Poor Tommy Kirk … such hypocrisy, Uncle Walt.

  • Eric Ebacher

    Why would anyone want to slander the dead? I know I surely wouldn’t; in fact, I wouldn’t slander any person, living or dead, even if what I had just said eventually turned out to be true. In fact, afterwards, I would be wishing I had just kept my mouth shut. Nobody actually knew that Merv Griffin was gay or bi-sexual, unless he revealed a secret himself before he passed; even then, he probably would have wanted it to remain a private matter. So, as I said, how do we know that he was truly gay or was bi-sexual? In his obituary, it was revealed that he left behind a widow and I think he also had a child/children early on in his adult life.

  • Deanna

    I admired Merve Griffin’s talent greatly over the years. How he lived his private life is of no concern to me. He had a right to privacy as we all do. He gave us so many wonderful laughs over the years I wish there were more like him. I do miss the Merve man.

  • Jaroslaw

    Deanna & Eric – why are you even on this blog? This is a blog primarily for Gay people and Gay friendly people. If you can’t understand that hiding who you are when you are Gay and letting the world think you are straight is a problem then you have no business being here.

    How can you be unaware that people put their (straight) wedding announcements in the paper, announce the births of children etc.? This is all very public, but being Gay, when hidden, means it is a dirty secret. You must understand this but your comments pretend that you don’t. Idiots.

  • K.J. Brownday


    that sounds like something that helped out people with aids by giving them the access to their life insurance policy when they were alive and needed it…i know some info on this type of business and merv was simply an investor in a company that bought out the life insurance policies of terminally ill people and allowed them to enjoy the money while they were alive, like i said before…it was not restricted to people with aids in no way, shape or form. i am sorry but your comment was a perfect example of someone twisting reality to prove a liberal agenda. and there was nothing wrong with buying out “terminally ill” patients insurance policies because they benefitted and so did the company that purchased them.

  • Louis

    “Author Darwin Porter’s niche is posthumously outing celebrities. He did it for Marlon Brandon.”? I think it’s Marlon BRANDO!

  • Rick

    None of this changes the fact that Merv may well have been the greatest talk show host in Hollywood history and my grandma’s fave. Owning his own shows, he outdistanced the great Carson, became a game show mogul and head of a billion dollar plus real estate empire. When one considers his vast contribution to entertainment pop culture and the diverse wealth of personalities who graced his talk show as guests over the years, to trivialize his life story by publicizing his private sexuality as his showbiz legacy is a rank tabloid pursuit.

  • Rich O'Neil

    Merv actually did give money to an Aids Foundation and to expect him to come out-a man of his era is simply preposterous. I do not believe the story of Mr Signorile about Merv firing out gay men-and if he did, shame on him. But remember,by his own admission-Mr Signorile himself used to be a gay basher.

  • Jason Dean

    who is marlon brandon?

  • TeeHee

    @mike lol..There is no such thing as “a aids test” you hillbilly redneck.

  • Lee Larson

    Popularizing a perversion does not make it right. As the French writer Voltaire said, “If a million people do a stupid thing, it is still a stupid thing.” Those who can’t handle the normal world should move to Australia.

  • Jaroslaw

    Lee Larson – In case you didn’t notice, you’re at a Queer website; and you don’t know anything about history. Homosexuality has been practiced legitimately in more societies than not over many centuries. So I suggest before you start quoting Voltaire, who was not referring to Gayness at all, you educate yourself.

  • bill forsyth

    Perhaps Lee Larson is an Australian or is planning to live there.

  • murphy

    So how do you get HIV, then? There is a test. Is it worth it? What next, sheep or goats?

  • silima

    Wow the world is being taken over by dumbasses which probably have a gay fantasy of their own lmao ;)

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