‘Wheel of Fortune’: Pat Sajak Once Joked Show Creator Merv Griffin ‘Knew Everybody in the World’

by Josh Lanier

Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak said show creator Merv Griffin could be in any country in the world and he would see someone he knew. Sajak said the two of them got close after Griffin sold the show to Sony. That’s when Griffin went from being his boss to just Merv.

Sajak opened up to The Television Academy Foundation about their relationship over the years.

“We just became good pals, and we, my wife and I, would take European trips with Merv,” Sajak recalled, “And you know when you’re with Merv you’re with everybody. Because everybody knows Merv, and he knew everybody in the world. We would be on this yacht in the Mediterranean (Sea), you know, and dock at Saint-Tropez, and just royalty and politicians and the biggest stars just come to pay homage.”

Part of the reason everyone wanted to speak with Merv wasn’t just because he was one of the most prolific game show and television producers ever. He was also funny and genuinely nice, Sajak said.

“He was the best storyteller in the world,” Sajak added. “I mean we would sit up for hours and hours and hours on this boat just tell it just laughing. He was the greatest audience. That laugh of his was genuine and the greatest storyteller as well so it was just fabulous.

Griffin died in 2007 of prostate cancer. The Wheel of Fortune creator had beaten the disease once, but it returned. He was 82 when he died.

“I miss him,” Sajak said. “Merv and I had a wonderful relationship. I loved that man. He gave me my job, he gave me what I have today. I feel he was so warm and lovable and kind to everyone.”

Sajak Got ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Job Because of a Prank

In an interview from 2009, Sajak explained that a prank he played as the weatherman of KNBC-TV actually earned him the Wheel of Fortune hosting gig.

“I was working local TV out in LA. I was doing the weather and I was doing a local talk show,” Sajak explained. “The nice thing about working local TV in Los Angeles is, in a way, you’re auditioning every night because producers like Merv are at home watching. For some reason, he liked what I did.”

Sajak would banter with the news anchors in between segments.

“So, while I’m talking to the anchor, I had a little Band-Aid on my face. And the guy says, ‘What’s going on?’ Sajak recalled, “And I said, ‘I just nicked myself, I’m sorry, it’s kind of unsightly.’ And then I get into the weather.”

“Well, every time they cut away from me to a satellite map or something, I would move the bandaid to another spot. That was my idea of humor. I did it five or six times, and everybody got a little laugh out of it.

“I never made reference to it, and that’s the very sophisticated humor I was doing,” Sajak joked. “But Merv thought that was the funniest thing he ever saw and hired me. So I’m just happy that he was easily entertained that night.”