Richard Dawson Dead at 79
Richard Dawson, one of the most iconic names, faces and voices in television history, has passed away at the age of 79. Although best known as the host of ‘Family Feud,’ his wide-ranging career took him to every corner of the small screen and, on occasion, to the big screen.
Born in 1932 in Gosport, England, Dawson joined the Merchant Marines at the age of 14 before starting a career as a stand-up comedian. He appeared on various television variety and comedy shows throughout the 1960s, including ‘The Steve Allen Show’ and ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show,’ but it was his role in the 1965 film ‘King Rat’ that led to him being cast in the show that would be his big break: ‘Hogan’s Heroes.’
Although the World War II comedy ran for six years and made a star out of Dawson, the best was yet to come. After being a regular on ‘The New Dick Van Dyke Show,’ ‘The Match Game’ and ‘Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In,’ he landed the gig that would make him iconic: the host of the game show ‘Family Feud.’ Dawson acted as host from 1976 through 1985 and his tendency to kiss all of the female contestants and his iconic shouting of “Survey Says!” became such television staples that they’re still referenced and parodied today.
In 1978, Dawson won a Daytime Emmy for Best Game Show Host and in 1985, he stepped down from hosting duties and the show came to an end (although it was revived in 1988 with a new host and is still running today). His final episode was a blend of his traditional showman antics and previously unseen sentimentality, including a touching (unaired) speech about sending a gift to a dying fan.
Dawson’s career was quiet post-’Family Feud,’ but film fans will recognize him from his great role in the Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie ‘The Running Man,’ where he hilariously parodied his image by playing the host of a gladiatorial game show where convicted criminals fight to the death for an audience of millions.
He is survived be his widow, his two sons and four grandchildren.