Iconic Game Show Host Richard Dawson Dead at 79 [VIDEOS]
I got the sad news this morning that Richard Dawson passed away Saturday after losing his battle with esophageal cancer. Born Colin Lionel Emm, he was an English-born American actor, comedian, game show panelist and iconic game show host in America. He was known for his role as Peter Newkirk on Hogan’s Heroes, and was a regular panelist on the classic 70s game show Match Game from 1973 to 1978. But he was best known for being the original host of Family Feud from 1976–1985 and 1994–1995.
Within the legacy of the Feud stands out a legendary Dawson trademark, kissing all the female contestants. That earned him the nickname The Kissing Bandit. On the 1985 finale Dawson explained that he kissed contestants for love and luck, something his mother did with Dawson himself as a child.
In 1983, Dawson made an appearance on Mama’s Family hosting an episode of Family Feud where the Harpers play as contestants. This was a joy to Richard as he was reunited with former Match Game co-panelists Betty White and Vicki Lawrence. After Dawson became a citizen of the United States in 1984 he proudly showed his new passport and photo during the opening sequence of a Feud episode.
Dawson continued hosting the Feud until both editions were cancelled; the ABC Daytime edition on June 14, 1985, and the syndicated edition three months later on September 13, 1985. He then parodied his TV persona in 1987 by co-starring alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the action film The Running Man, in which he portrayed the evil, egotistical game-show host Damon Killian.
On September 12, 1994, Dawson returned to the syndicated edition of Family Feud, replacing Ray Combs for what became the final season of the show’s official second run (1988–1995). On Dawson’s first show upon his return he received a 25-second standing ovation when he walked on set. Afterwards he said, “If you do too much of that, I won’t be able to do a show for you because I’ll cry.” During the revival, he did not kiss the female contestants, because of a commitment he made with his wife and daughter. The final episode aired on May 26, 1995.
After Family Feud, Dawson decided to retire from show business. In 1999, he was asked to make a special appearance on the first episode of the current version of Family Feud, but decided to turn the offer down and have no further involvement with the show.
Check out a video tribute I put together, the ultimate game show blooper, and a recent interview with Richard Dawson below. That’s followed by a full episode of the Feud where Dawson met his second wife, Gretchen Johnson! You can also hear his kids, Gary and Shannon reflect on their father’s legacy by clicking here.
Rest in peace, Richard! Thanks for the memories, thanks for the laughs. You will be missed!