Merv: No Regrets

Merv Griffin, owner of the Beverly Hilton Hotel, sits poolside at the hotel on Feb. 21, 2003. The former band singer and talk show host, whose business interests are estimated to be worth more than $1 billion, found time recently to record an album and write his second autobiography, "Merv: Making the Good Life Last."

For 23 years Merv Griffin hosted his own talk show, perfecting the art of the schmooze.

And though his show has been off the air for 20 years Griffin's affability and durability earned him an honorary degree from the University of Ireland, a special honor from the Museum of Radio and Television and an Emmy Award, too, all just last year.

"I immediately look in the mirror and say, 'Yes. You are getting old.' It's wonderful, you know, at this time of life now to reap the rewards of, you know, 60 years of work," Griffin tells CBS Sunday Morning contributor Rita Braver.

Born in California in 1925 to a middle class Irish family that struggled during the Great Depression, Griffin has always worked hard. He learned to play piano at four, started singing in church and at age 20, got his first big break.

Griffin went on a radio program just to sing one song.

"That was on a Friday," Griffin said of the performance. "It was called the 'San Francisco Sketch Book.' On the Monday, the following Monday, the show was changed to the 'Merv Grifin Show' with this gigantic orchestra."

Up to that point, Griffin had never worked professionally, he said. "But somehow it worked. It was amazing to me, too."