The Quality of Mercy
August 15, 2007 8:26 AM
It took only a few hours after news circulated that entertainer and entrepreneur Merv Griffin had died (at 82, Sunday, in Los Angeles) for a drumbeat of wrath—yes, wrath—to begin on some of the Internet's fringe Web sites, where Griffin was assailed by various contributors for allegedly having been a "closeted" homosexual who should have announced he was gay to the world—though at which stage of his career he should have made the declaration was not specified.
Perhaps when he was a big-band singer in the '40s? Or a talk-show host from the '60s through the '80s? Perhaps when he emcee'd "Play Your Hunch" in the '50s. It would have been career suicide at any rate, but some of the angry voices implied Griffin should have gone public with his sexuality anyway—whatever it may have been.
Griffin—just "Merv" to the world—was married early in his career and had one son. In later decades rumors did indeed circulate about Griffin allegedly throwing gay parties and being escorted by handsome young men. Two lawsuits from men claiming Griffin essentially jilted them were dismissed.
Whatever, the vehemence and fury in the attacks was disheartening. "A bloated pig like that should burn in hell," wrote one anonymous assailant. Michelangelo Signorile, who runs a Web site called The Gist, wrote that Griffin could have helped prevent the AIDS epidemic if only he had spoken to his friends Ronald and Nancy Reagan about it, but that "it is highly unlikely" he ever did, preferring to remain "shockingly silent" even as "his own people were dying."
No benefit of a doubt for poor old Merv.
There were lots of allegations, virtually no documentation, and a discomfortingly virulent tone to many of the entries (one writer referred to the late star as "Perv Griffin"), but others wrote to defend Griffin and to say that his sexuality was his own business. A few noted that for Griffin to have declared himself gay during the period of his greatest success would likely have ended it, times and attitudes being what they were.
The Internet is rife with rantings from what sometimes sound like members of a lynch mob. In this case, one might think that victims of persecution would feel a tad more reluctant to persecute someone else, especially a recently deceased man.
It would, of course, be just as wrong ever to think that a vocal malicious minority is representative of any race, political party or sexual persuasion.
Or so let us hope.