Monday, June 4, 2012

In Memory of Richard Dawson (1932-2012)

Richard Dawson died Saturday evening at the age of 79 at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Dawson suffered from complications of esophageal cancer. Gary Dawson, Richard’s son, announced his death via Facebook. "It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that my father passed away [Saturday] 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," Gary Dawson wrote on his Facebook page.

Dawson on Hogan's Heroes
Richard Dawson was born as Colin Lionel Emm in Gosport, England on November 20, 1932. He later moved to America during the 1960s to pursue a career in comedy. Dawson furthered  pursued his comedy and acting career with his appearances on sitcoms such as on The Dick Van Dyke Show, Laugh-In, and Hogan’s Heroes. He has also released a few singles during the time including the songs "His Children's Parade" and "Apples & Oranges" in 1967 on Carnation Records. He was later signed on as a regular panelist on Match Game by legendary game show producer Mark Goodson in 1973 along with Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly. Those who watch Match Game regularly remember Dawson for his quick wit, humor, uncanny ESP with the contestants, and for frequently being chosen during the “Head-To-Head Match” portion of the "Super Match" bonus round. Even Lady Luck was on his side when the show first introduced the Star Wheel in the Super Match round in 1978. The purpose of the Star Wheel was to randomly select a celebrity for the Head-To-Head Match because of the influx of contestants who selected Dawson, and to give contestants a chance to win up to $10,000. It seemed like the Star Wheel’s intention was futile as exhibited in the video below (Go to 4:15).

Dawson delved further into game shows by serving as a panelist on I’ve Got A Secret in 1972, hosting Masquerade Party in 1974, and becoming the host of the soon-to-be-successful game show Family Feud. Mark Goodson signed Dawson to host Family Feud in 1976. Dawson left Match Game in 1978 to solely focus on hosting Family Feud.  Family Feud brought Dawson much success and vice versa, as the show surpassed Match Game’s ratings in 1977, Dawson won a Daytime Emmy Award for “Best Game Show Host” in 1978, and he even met his future wife Gretchen Johnson on the show when she was a contestant in 1981. Many remember Dawson for his trademark of kissing the female contestants, his dapper attire, his famous anecdotes at the beginning of each show, receiving various gifts from contestants, and his amusing reactions from listening to a contestant’s answer. His most memorable reaction to an answer occurs during a Fast Money round in 1980 when a contestant answered “September” to the survey question “During what month’s pregnancy does a woman begin to look pregnant?”. Check out the infamous “September” incident in the clip below. 

Dawson portraying an evil game show host in
The Running Man.
Dawson left Family Feud in 1985 and returned to the show in 1994. Click here to check out his emotional and genuinely, heart-felt farewell speech during the final minutes of the 1985 series finale. In between that time, Dawson co-starred in the action film The Running Man in 1987, hosted an unsold pilot for You Bet Your Life in 1988, and married the love of his life, Gretchen Johnson, in 1991. He also had two sons, Mark Dawson (1960) and Gary Dawson (1962), from his previous marriage to Diana Dors in 1959. After the 1994 version of Family Feud ended a year later, Dawson decided to retire from show business. When the show returned in 1999, Dawson was asked to make a special cameo appearance on the series premiere, but he declined the offer because he no longer wanted to be involved with Family Feud.

Richard Dawson has touched the lives of millions through his hilarious antics on Match Game and from his extraordinary talent as a comedian, actor, and game show host. I believe that one of his primary goals in life was to bring a smile to everyone’s face, and I think it’s safe to say that he has accomplished his goal. Richard Dawson, a game show legend and the patriarch of Family Feud, will be greatly missed. Although he has passed on, he will never be forgotten. 

In Loving Memory of Richard Dawson

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