When I was a kid I recall that Merv Griffin would always break from a guest at the commercial and announce "We will be right back!" So it was a thrill almost 20 years later, when another TV star, McLean Stevenson (TV's MASH and a cousin to Adlai Stevenson) brought Les Sinclair, the talent coordinator for Merv Griffin, to see me and another young performer at the Los Angeles Improv comedy club.
So in 1985 Merv introduced a young comedy team, The Fine Line aka Cheryl Rhoads and Douglas Wood, to his nationwide audience. It was my first time on national television. We appeared with British actor, Patrick Macnee of The Avengers and were a hit with the audience... and with Merv. He invited us to come back on the following week with Orson Welles in one of his last interviews before he died. Merv was so kind to us and we were so thrilled. Due to that break Berry Gordy then signed us on to The Motown Revue on NBC with Smokey Robinson & fellow performer Arsenio Hall. (Where we later got to hang out with guests, Ray Charles, Dean Martin and a host of others.)
I remember that day Doug and I first appeared on Merv Griffin's show. As we rehearsed earlier Merv was sitting in the audience, he was consulting with Mort Lindsey, his music conductor and another gentleman. Merv was wearing a beautiful pastel yellow sweater, smiling broadly at us and then with a laugh he gave us an encouraging nod. We were so thrilled and had such butterflies when we later waited backstage as he enthusiastically announced our names to the audience. Along with Mclean Stevenson...Merv championed us as I began my career in Hollywood, twenty-two years ago.
Simultaneously we were signed by The William Morris Agency, and had a series on NBC. Later on I got to be Mother Goose in The Mother Goose Video Treasury Series. I think I knew what a big deal it was at the time. Still I look back now and think, "How amazing!" (All this and Ronald Reagan was President too. Sweet memories indeed for a conservative actress!)
A few years later, I was no longer a part of the comedy team, struggling through another union strike that had shut down work and I ran into Merv outside The Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills. I was blown away by the fact that even after the time gone by, he seemed to remember me immediately and smiled warmly and greeted me with a "Hi Cheryl." and we briefly exchanged a few pleasantries.
Now I live in Washington DC, after having moved from Hollywood, feeling that much had changed there in the entertainment industry town that I once longed to be a part of. I have had over 700 acting students since my arrival (and recently I performed a one-woman show at The Heritage Foundation specifically about being a Conservative in Hollywood, which though sometimes a challenge, was never-the-less an exhilarating experience that I will always cherish.)
Furthermore, when I think back on my days in Hollywood, I will be always grateful to that encouraging nod from Merv Griffin and I regret that as he said would be his epitaph that "He won't be right back!"