The former host of ‘Family Feud,’ Richard Dawson, passed away at the age of 79 on Saturday. Dawson died from complications of esophageal cancer at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Dawson first rose to fame as a cast member on the 1960s hit sitcom ‘Hogan’s Heroes.’ ‘Family Feud’ originally aired from 1976 to 1985 and it pitted two families against each other while trying to figure out answers to public poll questions.
In 1978, Dawson won a daytime Emmy Award for best game show host. Dawson used comedy to make the show incredibly popular. During one episode, he asked a contestant the following question: “During what month of pregnancy does a woman begin to look pregnant?” The woman responded with ‘September.’ Before she realized it was too late, Dawson broke out in laughter and used the moment to bilk more laughs from the audience.
Dawson became well known for kissing every female contestant on the show, not making any exceptions. The show’s executive producer, Howard Felsher, said that Dawson probably kissed close to 20,000 guests during his time as host of the show, which came to an end in 1985.
“I kissed them for luck and love, that’s all,” Dawson said back in 1985.
Gretchen Johnson was one of the women Dawson kissed back in 1981 when she appeared on the show with her family. The two began to date and eventually married in 1991. Dawson is survived by Gretchen, their daughter Shannon and his two sons Mark and Gary from his first marriage. Dawson is also survived by four grandchildren. The show came back in 1988 as ‘The New Family Feud,’ with host Ray Combs. Just six years later, Dawson replaced Combs as host but lasted only one season. The current host is Steve Harvey.
On ‘Hogan’s Heroes,’ Dawson played Cpl. Peter Newkirk. The show starred Bob Crane and was set in a World War II Nazi POW camp. The show aired from 1965 to 1971.
“We ran six years,” Dawson said, “a year longer than Hitler.”
Dawson was born in 1932 in Gosport, England as Colin Lionel Emm. He joined the Merchant Marines at 14 and served for three years. Dawson first entered show business as a comedian, playing London’s West End clubs, including the Stork Room. In 1959, Dawson married Diana Dors, only to divorce her a decade later.
Dawson also made appearances on “The Steve Allen Show” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” After being cast in ‘Hogan’s Heroes,’ Dawson began appearing on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” and “The New Dick Van Dyke Show.”
Dawson was honored with a standing ovation in 1985, when ‘Family Feud’ ended. He said, “Please sit down. I have to do at least 30 minutes of fun and laughter, and you make me want to cry. I’ve had the most incredible luck in my career. I never dreamed I would have a job in which so many people could touch me and I could touch them.”