Richard Dawson, the host of “Family Feud” who made kissing all female contestants on the show his signature, is dead at 79 after losing a battle with cancer.
News of Dawson’s death came from his son Gary through a post on Facebook. “Dear Friends. It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that my father passed away this evening from complications due to esophageal cancer. He was surrounded by his family. He was an amazing talent, a loving husband, a great dad, and a doting grandfather. He will be missed but always remembered…”
Dawson hosted “Family Feud” for nine years from 1976 through 1985, also returning to the show for the 1994-95 season. He became known for kissing all the female contestants on the “Feud,” a signature move that earned him the nickname “The Kissing Bandit.” He would explain years later that it was something he had learned during his childhood from his mother.
Dawson grew up in England and pursued a comedy career early on, eventually landing bit parts in TV shows and films, including a spot on “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” He married British sex symbol Diane Dors in 1959 and moved to California, which put him in close proximity to the entertainment industry. He eventually landed a role on “Hogan’s Heroes” as Corporal Peter Newkirk.
Through the years, Dawson would spend his time between films, TV appearances (including “Laugh-In”) and even music, recording psychedelic tunes in the late ’60s.
But it was his appearance as a panelist on the game show “Match Game” in 1975 that led to the “Feud” job that would make him a TV legend.
Dawson made fun of his own image in the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger action film “The Running Man,” playing diabolical game show host Damon Killian.
Dawson’s kissing skills were quite potent. He met his second wife, Gretchen Johnson, when she was a contestant on “Feud” in 1981. They married a decade later. When Dawson returned to host the show in the ’90s, his wife had one rule: No more kissing any contestants.
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