Who Canceled the Merv Griffin Guests?

updated 12/24/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/24/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

Someone out there will definitely win a fantastic prize in the Who Canceled the Merv Griffin Guests? contest. Might it be you?

If you think you know the correct answer, mail it, plus all the freestanding inserts that fall out of your Sunday newspaper, and then sit back and wait to be notified. Members of the Robins family, their servants and hangers-on are not eligible.

This is just as well, since all the Robinses are dead anyway, of fed in Who Killed the Robins Family?—in which you, the reader, were expected not only to pay $9.95 for the book but to provide a solution to eight murders. Yes, for a $10,000 prize, but really. Shockingly, this transparent device made Who Killed the Robins Family? a No. 1 best-seller in 1984, which is why we're horning in on a good thing.

Can you figure out the puzzle? Can you find the clues that will tell you who canceled the guests? If you can, it probably means that you're not devoting yourself sufficiently to a full life of watching TV and/or reading publications about TV. Now for the good news: Each chapter can be read in the time it takes for a commercial to come on.

So, good luck, and don't forget to.

Chapter One

The eight guests to The Merv Griffin Show were assembled, hermetically sealed, in the Green Room before going on with Merv. Actually it was going to be nine guests, but Shelley Winters had to gain so much weight for her next part, playing the island of Grenada in a new TV movie, Med School Freedom Vigilantes, that she couldn't fit in. Actually it was going to be 10 guests, but Paul McCartney pulled out at the last minute because even he got bored with people telling columnists that they overheard a teenager at a record store saying: "Did you know this guy McCartney used to sing with another group?"

So there were exactly eight guests waiting in the Green Room of The Merv Griffin Show.

They were: Tyffany Breast, a starlet. Keys Ballantine, an old actor whom you've seen often on old movies on TV (although you usually confuse him with either Dana Andrews or Joel McCrea), who, in his new book, I, revealed to the world how he had gone through bouts of drug addiction, pederasty, Communism and transvestism but was now looking for work. Sylvester Stallone, promoting Rocky 9 3/8 (named after his head size). Hughie Toast, a grizzled old comedian, whose act still consisted largely of Edward G. Robinson and Jimmy Cagney imitations. Dr. Francis X. Flaherty, M.D., Ph.D., author of the new best-seller, The Chocolate-Chip Cookie and Oral Sex Diet. Julio Iglesias (but you knew that). Somebody who looks familiar but you never really heard of him but he has a new movie out somewhere soon. And: the late Truman Capote.

Myckey, the associate producer, so called, in charge of the Green Room, was asking everybody did they want any coffee, when suddenly the lights went out. There was a hush and a gasp and a noise and a sigh, and then, when the lights came back on, Keys Ballantine was found to have his hand down Tyffany Breast's cleavage, and Hughie Toast had a pink slip pinned to his checkered lapel.

"But, but I had a new Jimmy Stewart routine all set!" Hughie cried, as he was ushered from the Green Room.

Chapter Two

Keys Ballantine, who liked what he had encountered when the lights went out, invited all the surviving guests to meet in the Argyle Room at the Federal Express terminal in Memphis. There are now so many boring celebrities flying about, hyping themselves and their movies and books, that Celebrity Airlines has been formed with the sole purpose of flying celebrities about. It features a hub-and-spoke system, and, like Federal Express packages, the celebrities are flown during the night to Memphis for redistribution the next day to morning TV shows all over America. Delivery guaranteed.

For example, Julio Iglesias was going to Wake Up, Spartanburg!, Dr. Francis X. Flaherty, author of 24 Hours to Guilt-Free Jogging, was going to be deposited at Breakfast With Brian and Lynda! in Terre Haute, and the somebody who looks familiar but you never really heard of him but he has a new movie out somewhere soon was going to appear either on Sunrise Spokane! or on Trenton A.M.! (with Cyndy Wilkes and Sean Tyler). Tryxie, the Celebrity Airlines traffic-control coordinator, was handing out the destination slips, when suddenly Sylvester Stallone looked at his. ASTRODOME, it said.

"But there's no show in the Astrodome," a befuddled Sly said. Why had he been canceled this way?

Chapter Three

The late Truman Capote.

Chapter Four

The five guests still left were flown to New York, and there, in the space of eight minutes, they were all interviewed extensively by David Hartman on Good Morning America, they had doled out enough facts to PEOPLE magazine staffers to create a headline longer than the story, they had told Liz Smith they were either a) from Texas or b) contemplating heterosexuality to assure thereby a mention of their love life in her column, and they had also all publicly committed unnaturally savage and truly grotesque sex acts on the chance they might please Rupert Murdoch enough to make the New York Post.

Then they were all placed on a Metroliner going to Washington, where they would try to get into U!S!A! Today!

While waiting for the Metroliner to start, they looked out the window and saw Julio Iglesias' PR agents taken off the train and some new high-powered agents get on. What was happening? Why are the most expensive PR agents always called high-powered? Why isn't anything else called high-powered? Why, for example, don't we ever say "the high-powered Supreme Court"? Or "the high-powered Russian Army"? But we don't.

When the Metroliner stopped at Baltimore, Myndy, a local contact, got on the train and told Keys Ballantine he had to leave. "No, no, there must be some mistake," he said. "I was supposed to be going to Washington to be interviewed by U!S!A! Today! Please, please! I did Midday Baltimore! last week. I'm appearing on Baltimorning! with Bobbye and Wayne next week. Please, please!"

But his cries went unheeded. He was taken from the train.

Chapter Five

While in Washington, the guests were also going to appear on Nightline, but Gynny, who was escorting them to that particular Green Room, got mixed up and took them to another Green Room, because, besides mixing up Green Rooms, she also mixed up Nightline with Nightwatch, Nighttime, Night Court, Night Out, Night Person, Night of the Iguana, Night Night, Night Light, 'night Rider, Night Shift, Night Hours, Night Before Christmas and Night With Nyckey and Nigel.

Tyffany Breast didn't care, though. The very next night she was going to be on The Tonight Show with either Johnny or Joan, and she was so excited she could hardly do her routine, which was to talk about how she had such big tits and she and her husband and her mother and her pastor had decided it would be best for art if she took off her top in her latest movie.

But just then she was axed from Tonight. Why? Now five of the original eight Merv Griffin guests had been unceremoniously canceled.

Chapter Six

The remaining guests were about to go back to Memphis for redistribution. Somebody who looks familiar but you never really heard of him but he has a new movie out somewhere soon was going to Salud San Antonio! with Anyta and Ian. It was Rise and Shine, Saginaw! for Julio Iglesias, and Dr. Francis X. Flaherty, M.D., Ph.D., the author of Two Weeks to a Salt-Free Fortune, was booked into the National Enquirer, plus a whole hour on Cretin Call-in, America's 24-hour phone-in show.

Suddenly, Julio Iglesias' high-powered PR agents, led by Wyndy, Robyn, Melyssa and the one known only as Y, came and ushered him away, and he was never seen again for free, or, at least, until people began to wonder why they had ever wanted to see him in the first place.

Chapter Seven

Dr. Francis X. Flaherty, M.D., Ph.D., the author of Five Ways to a New Calorie-Free Sex Life Without Flossing, was in the Green Room of Donahue, when two associate producers, Ellyn and Jyll, came by and said they were real sorry, you know, but Donahue couldn't use him after all. But they said, if he hurried, maybe he could make the noon cable phone-in show on the health channel.

Chapter Eight

And now, of the eight guests who had started in Merv Griffin's Green Room, there was only one left: that famous somebody who looks familiar but you never really heard of him but he has a new movie out somewhere soon.

And what a week of appearances was ahead for him: Dawn Patrol, Daybreak, Today, Midmorning, Brunch-time, A.M., Midday, Lunch Break, P.M., This Afternoon, Live at Five, Entertainment Tonight, Tonight, Late Night, Overnight, Last Night, Sunrise and Sun's Up.

He hoped to be the first celebrity to actually go around the clock of clock-named shows, 24 hours of them.

And then, the next day, he would leave Memphis and follow the sun, go all around the world just appearing on wake-up! programs in 24 different time zones: Buenos Dias Durango!, Wake-Up Auckland!, Sunrise in Zimbabwe!, Good Morning Tehran!, Marseille Matin! on and on, all around the globe, telling the hosts exactly who he was or why he looked familiar (reruns of The Danger and the Doctor perhaps? his familiar dinner-theater tour in Barefoot in the Park?) and all about his new movie, which would be out somewhere soon, with whatshername, and a great new talent, in a role that was just right for him.

But just then, the PR associate Cinthia came and said, sorry, he was canceled too.

And now, here are the answers to the mystery, chapter by chapter:

One) When the lights went out, Myckey pinned the pink slip on Hughie's checkered lapel. Why? Because even though Hughie is a certified laff riot, he doesn't appeal to that prime TV audience of women 36.3-37.7 who live in the right zip codes and hate football.

Two) The Surgeon General's Office has determined that Stallone's ego is too big for your health, and that only an empty Astrodome is big enough to hold it.

Three) Claus von Bülow.

Four) Keys Ballantine wrote about so much in I—that he was a former drug addict, second-mortgage holder, John Birch Society member, United States Football League owner and recovered heterosexual—that he was much too long to fit into a U!S!A! Today! article.

Five) Colonel Mustard did it with the candlestick in the conservatory.

Six) At a certain mystical point it is decided, overnight, that, after years of worshiping at the shrine of publicity, striving to be hyped, courting it, pleading for it, scratching for it, begging for it, suddenly you are decreed So Big that you won't make any appearances whatsoever unless they are paid commercials. This is also, by the way, how the Presidency is now run. And, anyhow, this is what Julio Iglesias' new high-powered PR agents decided at that instant.

Seven) Obviously, Donahue himself had axed Dr. Francis X. Flaherty, M.D., Ph.D., author of Sixty Seconds to Born-Again Nutrition, because his subject matter wasn't kinky enough for that prime target audience of women, ages 36.3-37.7 who live in the right zip codes and hold no opinion on Yugoslavia. Instead, on this particular day, the show was devoted to: When can heart transplant patients safely get back into homosexual group sex?

Eight) As Andy Warhol observed so long ago, everybody gets 15 minutes. His 15 minutes were up.

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