SELLER: Merv Griffin
LOCATION: Camino de Travesia Road, Carmel Valley, CA
SIZE: 57 acres, 11 bedrooms, 11 full bathrooms 3 half bathrooms
DESCRIPTION: Escape the busy life for a romantic and private rendezvous. Up a gated drive leads to this beautiful and stunning mountain-top retreat. The property opens to the entertainment area with gourmet kitchen, large dining and great room surrounded by lush landscaping with rose gardens, olive trees, and beautiful breathtaking mountain and canyon views! Rich with local and Hollywood history, this renowned retreat captured the heart of Hollywood heavy weight, Merv Griffin and his princess, Eva Gabor. This home is an enchanted hideaway.
YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Yes children, we thought this man was dead too. But he is by all accounts alive and kicking. But before we got to the real estate, let’s discuss a bit about Merv.
Merv Griffin has unquestionably achieved professional greatness. He pioneered the lurid world of talk shows dealing with incendiary issues and paved the way for folks like Sally Jesse Raphael and Maury Povich. He created the two most successful game shows to ever air on television (Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune) and in the process, inconceivably, made Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek household names.
After selling his television entertainment company, Merv Griffin Enterprises, for a quarter of billion dollars he bought up big name hotels and casinos including the legendary Beverly Hilton Hotel and the Merv Griffin Resort & Givenchy Spa in Palm Springs, which is now the Parker Meridien Hotel where, oddly enough, Your Mama and the Doctor Cooter will be spending a few days in April sprawled out by the pool drinking Bloody Marys and snacking on fried calamari.
Next Merv entered the strange and dangerous world of casino ownership after he famously and vivaciously duked it out with Donald Trump for ownership of Resorts International, a large and rambling company that owned Paradise Island, a hotel and casino in the Bahamas.
And even at the advanced age of 80+ years old, Merv remains a vital and virile business man who takes obvious pleasure in minting money. He has a team of people who work with him formulating and bouncing around (reality) television show ideas and he recently subdivided 200 acres of his once sprawling La Quinta horse ranch into the eponymously named luxury housing development Griffin Ranch.
But for better or worse, and perhaps even predictably, Your Mama does not find Merv’s professional successes nearly as intriguing as we find his personal life. Merv is a rare thing in the Hollywood establishment in that he’s a staunch, right wing conservative who donates large amounts of cash to Republican candidates. It’s no secret Merv was best pals with Ronnie and Nancy Reagan, but he also has a friendly relationship with our current president. In a recent article in Rolling Stone, Merv had this to say about our dear leader: ”Oooooh, I love him, yes,” says Merv. ”He’s funny, bright, intelligent and loves to have a good time.” Your Mama does not mean to get political here, but that scares the skin right off our bones.
As all the children know, as long as Merv has been in the spot light, he has bobbed and weaved around publicly declaring his (homo)sexuality. When asked about it, he visibly bristles, often tries to change the subject to his one-time gal pal Eva Gabor, or makes some sort of unnerving quip as he did in a New York Times article when he said, “I’m a quatre-sexual. I will do anything with anybody for a quarter.” What?!?
In 1991 poor Merv was forced to confront the gay rumors head on in two separate lawsuits. In the first, Brent Plott, a former employee whose job has been described as Merv’s secretary/driver/horse-trainer/bodyguard, sued for palimony. PALIMONY!!! This queen claimed he had been Merv’s longtime live in lover and figured that having sex with the corpulent Merv was worth $200 million. Merv cried extortion and eventually the suit was dismissed.
However, it wasn’t long before Merv found himself sued again. This time by Denny Terrio. Remember him children? He was the host of Dance Fever back in the early 1980s. Terrio charged sexual harassment claiming he was unfairly fired after he declined Merv’s sexual advances. This case was also tossed out as well.
We imagine Merv felt vindicated, his reputation as a straight man intact. Of course, it really is Merv’s business if he doesn’t want to discuss the details of his private life. However, the truth is, no one in Hollywood believes for a minute that Merv likes the ladies. Anyone who has ever been within 30 feet of Merv, and Your Mama has, knows this man shrieks, swishes, gushes, and waves his arms around like a big ol‘ queen as he makes grand pronouncements and not so funny jokes. Anyone with eyes and ears can plainly see this man is as fruity as fruit cake. And we want it stated for the record, we do not say that to slander or in anyway degrade Merv’s reputation. Hunnies, you know Your Mama loves us some fruit cake, right?
Like so many big money Hollywood types, Merv has a lot of houses. In addition to the spread in Carmel Valley we’re going to discuss here, he maintains a mansion in Beverly Hills, a house in Ireland, and a 40-acre Morroccan themed horse ranch in La Quinta which includes four circular guest units. And like all good tycoons with money to burn, he spends a few months each summer aboard a large boat, his 142-foot yacht, “Griff.”
According to the Real Estate Journal, Merv purchased the property in the 1970s. He actually put listed the property in 2000 but quickly changed his mind and took it off the market. He now says he’s selling the spread because he infrequently visits the 57 acre property. The property, about 150 miles south of San Francisco, consists of several buildings including a central building that includes an 860 square foot living/dining room and a kitchen but strangely no bedrooms. All the bedrooms are in separate units surrounding the pool.
Obviously the setting is magnificent. We imagine wandering the grounds soaking up the vistas and hazy light of Carmel Valley would be a lovely way to spend some time. We love the heated pool with it’s generous limestone patio. The extensive gardens, at least the bits that can be seen in the photos, are clearly well tended. We imagine this might be taken care of by a hunky gardener who lives on the property?
The listing also states there is an outdoor dance floor on the property. Can the children picture the scene here in the 1970s? Your Mama imagines there might have been a lot of feathered hair, tight pants, mustaches, and maybe even loads of amyl nitrate. Or maybe Merv and gal pal Eva Gabor spent many a misty and cool evenings here slow dancing in the moonlight.
As the children might surmise, Your Mama feels deep puzzlement and distress about the decor. Merv has mountains of money and could have easily hired a nice gay decorator to go up in there and work some magic. But alas. We are mortified by the dated and distressing rose colored carpet. Has that carpet been in place since the property was first bought in the 1970s? Was that choice made by Merv or by “his princess” Eva Gabor? Whatever the case, that carpet could not be ripped up quickly enough.
The kitchen, well appointed as it may be with its double ovens and warming drawers, is a little “down home” for Your Mama’s taste. That ridiculous floral valance over the windows makes us sick. All you people who think these puffy, elaborately printed and colored valances are a good idea need to march yourselves down to your local magazine stand and purchase a few magazines that do not have the word “country” as part of it’s title. Seriously. These valances are the equivalent of a woman wearing too much make-up…it’s not necessary and it looks tacky.
The property includes a 1 acre vineyard that Merv has bottled up under the label “Mont Merveilleux,” most of which he gives away at charity auctions. Merv seems to like this “Merveilleux” moniker. He calls the man-made lake out back of his house in La Quinta “Lac Merveilleux.” Let’s be honest children, how gay is that? Please.
Sources: Real Estate Journal, Rolling Stone, New York Times, Sotheby’s