To say that Richard Dawson is a legend among game show hosts is to put it mildly. As the host of Family Feud, he became famous for multiple reasons, not the last of which was his hair. He made a point to hug, kiss, or otherwise touch every female guest on the program, and some people estimate that he’s kissed 20,000 women just in the course of filming that show. That’s no mean feat, to be sure. Unfortunately, Dawson’s days of kissing are over; legendary game show host Richard Dawson is dead at age 79 after a battle with esophageal cancer. He passed away at the Ronald Reagain UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, leaving behind his loving wife Gretchen Johnson (who he met on the Feud), two sons, a daughter, and five grandchildren.
Born in Great Britain as Colin Lionel Emm, the story of how Dawson ended up in America is an interesting one. He ran away from home at age 14 to become a Merchant Marine. After being discharged, he took up a stand-up comedy career as Dickie Dawson before settling on the name which he made famous. The comedy career is what brought him to America, where he played a few roles in movies and did some TV guest spots before landing the role of Corporal Peter Newkirk on Hogan’s Heroes. That role led to a couple of years on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, a few more TV roles, and then, eventually, to game shows, where he proved to be a popular guest on Match Game ’73 and I’ve Got A Secret.
Dawson’s friendship with producer Mark Goodson led him to his most famous role, the host of Family Feud from 1976-1985. His last non-game show role was in 1987′s The Running Man, where he played satirical game show host/evil TV producer Damon Killian.
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