The Untold Truth Of Richard Dawson - Grunge (2024)


The Untold Truth Of Richard Dawson - Grunge (1)

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ByJennifer DeutschmannandWilliam Fischer/

Richard Dawson, who is best known for hosting the popular game show "Family Feud," had a long, successful, and often controversial career as an actor, comedian, and television personality. In addition to wearing a flower on his lapel, he was specifically known for his humorous banter and kissing female contestants on the game show.

As reported by CNN, Dawson's son Gary said his father "was loved by millions of Americans as a television icon, but loved even more as a husband, a father and grandfather by his family." However, as reported by Entertainment Weekly, Richard did have a bit of a "dark side."

Richard Dawson was born on November 20, 1932, in Gosport, Hampshire, England. Biography Base reports he left his parents' home at the age of 14 to join the Merchant Marines. Although he intended to pursue a career in boxing, Dawson moved to Los Angeles, California, after marrying British actress and singer Diana Dors in 1959.

As reported by IMDb, the couple had two sons before they separated in 1964. In 1965, Richard was cast as British Corporal Peter Newkirk in "Hogan's Heroes." Although the series was canceled in 1971, Dawson went on to become a regular panelist on "Match Game."

Dawson remained a regular on "Match Game" until 1978. However, IMDb reports he was also hired to host "Family Feud." Dawson originally hosted "Family Feud" from 1976 to 1985, but he returned for one more season in 1994.

Richard Dawson's kisses sparked controversy

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Within the first weeks of "Family Feud," contestants and fans noticed Richard Dawson greeting all of the female contestants with a kiss. As reported by Good Housekeeping, Dawson got the idea when he was faced with a contestant who was visibly nervous.

The female contestant was tasked with naming a green vegetable. When she faltered, Dawson said, "I'm gonna do something that my mom would do to me whenever I had a problem of any kind. ... And I kissed her on the cheek, and I said, 'That's for luck.'" After Dawson gave her a kiss, Good Housekeeping reports the contestant gave the answer, "asparagus," and her family went on to win the game.

Although Dawson's kisses, which were sometimes on the cheek or hand, and often on the lips, seemed to be popular with contestants and fans, the show's executives were hesitant to let him continue.

As reported by Good Housekeeping, Dawson conducted a poll to find out how the contestants and viewers really felt about the kisses. Out of 15,304 viewers, 14,600 said they were in favor of the kissing. Only 704 said they were opposed. A vast majority of the contestants, who filled out questionnaires before appearing on the show, also said they would not mind being kissed by the show's host.

Despite the overwhelming acceptance of Dawson's habit of kissing female contestants on "Family Feud," critics have suggested it was a form of sexual harassment.

Richard Dawson met his second wife on Family Feud

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In an opinion piece, writer Ree Jackson said she remembers a particular episode of "Match Game," where host Gene Rayburn watched and cheered as "Dawson literally holds down a woman and kisses her nonstop."

When Dawson moved on to host "Family Feud," Jackson said she was "disgusted by Dawson kissing every female contestant on the lips." In her opinion, young girls are essentially conditioned to tolerate certain behaviors, including unwanted advances from men. Jackson said she views Pepe Le Pew, a cartoon skunk who forces kisses on an uncooperative cat, as "the Richard Dawson of Loon Tunes [sic]."

Showbiz CheatSheet reports a "Family Feud" executive estimated Richard Dawson kissed as many as 20,000 women during his stint on the popular game show. However, one kiss in particular changed Dawson's life.

Gretchen Johnson was a contestant on "Family Feud" with her family in 1981. Although he kissed tens of thousands of women throughout his career, he said he "knew there was just something" about Johnson. When they concluded taping for the day, Dawson asked Johnson for her phone number, and she was happy to comply.

As reported by WCVB, some of Dawson's fans were disturbed by the couple's 23-year age difference. However, Dawson was not deterred. Although he continued kissing female contestants until the show was canceled in 1985, his heart clearly belonged to Johnson.

Showbiz CheatSheet reports Dawson and Johnson married in 1991, 10 years after their first kiss.

Richard Dawson expressed his political views on air

Richard Dawson's kisses and his relationship with a younger woman were not the only controversies he faced while filming "Family Feud." As reported by The Washington Post, the game show host liked to disparage and make jokes about former President Richard Nixon on air. The jokes drew the attention of at least one of the show's contributing sponsors, who complained to ABC executives and threatened to withdraw sponsorship if the jokes continued.

The Washington Post reports ABC executives responded by agreeing to edit one of Dawson's more controversial tirades out of an episode. However, when Dawson heard about the plan, he threatened to resign if the comments were removed. As the show already had enough sponsors, and others "waiting in line," ABC ultimately decided to air the episode without any further editing.

AV Club reports Dawson made similarly disparaging remarks about former United States Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger.

Apparently, Dawson simply did not mince words or go out of his way to hide his disdain for certain people or situations. As reported by Closer Weekly, author David Baber, said Dawson was different from many other hosts who would "turn on a filter" when they disliked a particular contestant. In stark contrast, Barber said Dawson "would let it be known if he didn't like them. He wouldn't just come out and say it, but he would usually make some sarcastic crack and put them in their place."

Richard Dawson was blunt with contestants

On occasion, Richard Dawson would make blatantly critical comments to the contestants when they gave unusual or nonsensical answers. As reported by Closer Weekly, he asked several contestants whether they were "on narcotics," and suggested that one contestant should "stop watching this crap" on television and "read some books."

Although his comments do not seem as shocking now, it was unusual at the time for a game show host to criticize the contestants. However, in his interview with Closer Weekly, Baber said Dawson was aware "he was different from the typical host" and made no apologies.

Barber said Dawson became particularly difficult to work with after winning an Emmy award for best daytime game show host. According to Baber, Dawson started thinking "that he could do no wrong" and developed "this attitude of 'King Richard, I'm the star.'" On more than one occasion, Dawson ignored the producer's opinion on the validity of a contestant's answer on the air.

Despite his reputation for being opinionated and outspoken, Baber said he was also "friendly, outgoing, and he had a generous side." In addition to being notably generous and thoughtful with his friends and associates, he also took time to recognize the efforts of the "Family Feud" staff. Closer Weekly reports Dawson occasionally brought staff members, including cameramen and production assistants, on air during the show to thank them for their part in the production and the success of the show.

Richard Dawson retired in 1995

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Richard Dawson's initial run on "Family Feud" ended on June 14, 1985. As reported by Ultimate Classic Rock, Dawson concluded the final episode with a heartfelt speech, which addressed his appreciation for the opportunity to host the show. He also discussed the controversy of his decision to kiss the female contestants and the criticism he received for kissing black women specifically. Dawson concluded his farewell by speaking out against racism and declaring his affection for all the former contestants and fans.

Although Dawson returned to host "Family Feud" in 1994, he did not bring back the tradition of kissing the female contestants. As reported by IMDb, the decision was made due to a request by his daughter.

Dawson's last episode of "Family Feud" aired on May 26, 1995. Throughout his career, he was nominated for seven Daytime Emmy awards and won the Emmy for outstanding host or hostess in a game or audience participation show in 1978. As reported by IMDb, he also won a Saturn Award for best supporting actor in the film "The Running Man."

Richard Dawson died on June 2, 2012, at the age of 79. Deadline reports, his death was caused by complications related to esophageal cancer. In a public statement, Richard's son Gary said he "was surrounded by his family" at the time of his death. In addition to his son Gary, he was survived by his son Mark, daughter Shannon, and wife Gretchen.

Richard Dawson wasn't his original name

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Long before he left his home country of Britain for the United States, Richard Dawson had left behind his birth name. He was born Colin Lionel Emm, according to CNN, on November 20, 1932. According to David Baber's "Television Game Show Hosts: Biographies of 32 Stars," his father, Arthur, was a driver and his mother, Josephine, was a munitions worker.The then-Colinran away from home and joined the merchant marines at age 14, along with his older brother John.

The future Richard Dawson eventually became a waiter on board a ship, slipping the maître d' money on the side to get assigned the tables of the best tippers. He also picked up spare change by boxing. According to Closer Weekly, he went from ship life to a resort on the Isle of Wight, still working as a waiter. But the Isle of Wight had a local theatre, and Dawson decided to audition for a play. From there, he entered British repertory theatre and then into stand-up comedy. It was at that point that he set aside the name Colin Emm and took up a stage name: Dickie Dawson, later formalized to Richard.

He was evacuated during World War II

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Richard Dawson was born in the coastal town of Gosport, Hampshire. Its location and importance as a port city made Gosport vulnerable to Nazi bombing raids during World War II. Indeed, the International War Museum has documented residential damage to Gosport during the war, and the BBC collected childhood recollections of raids on the town for its "People's War" archive. Gosport was also one of the loading sites for the Allies ahead of D-Day (also per the IWM).

During an appearance on his "Hogan's Heroes" co-star Bob Crane's radio show (via YouTube), Dawson recalled the impact of the war on his youth in Gosport. He and his brother John were evacuated from Gosport as a precaution against bombings, though the home they ended up in wasn't anything to be too grateful over. "They beat us up and were horrible to us," said Dawson of his foster family, who were heavy drinkers. He was seven; his brother was 12. They both ran away from that home, only to be placed in one that was no better.

The war also interrupted Dawson's education. "I only went [to school] two years because of the war," he said. "All schools closed in England during the war." When he did finally attend in peacetime, Dawson claimed that his school teachers were just as violent as his foster family had been.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

He started on the English stage

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Richard Dawson began his performing career in British repertory, but he switched to stand-up comedy when he read that they enjoyed greater career longevity, according to Closer Weekly. He passed himself off as an established Canadian comic to English agents to get an initial 6-week contract, despite having never performed comedy before. In his first performance, the microphone became tangled up in his pants leg. Dawson tried to pass off getting it out as a planned part of the act. He then broke out Shakespeare quotes — which he didn't know very well — trying and failing to get some laughs out of them.

It was a disastrous start, and the show's producer could tell that Dawson wasn't a comedian. Despite that, the producer was sufficiently charmed by the young man to let him keep going. Dawson later summarized his early stand-up to the Star-Gazette of Elmira (via Closer): "I went out on the stage with a medley of popular jokes and died." With time, however, he picked up the sharp, quick wit that would serve him well on "Family Feud."

Richard Dawson introduced Bob Crane to his alleged killer

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Richard Dawson was close to his "Hogan's Heroes" co-star Bob Crane. He appeared on the Bob Crane Show on the radio, and his son Mark was close to Crane as well, according to ABC News. So close, Crane shared details of his sexual prefrences with Mark, which included getting things on film.

The elder Dawson was friendly with John Henry Carpenter, a video salesman with similar proclivities. Knowing his friends had these bedroom activities in common, Dawson brought them together, according to the Phoenix New Times. Crane and Carpenter formed a strong friendship after the introduction, as did Carpenter and Mark.

But on June 29, 1978, Bob Crane was found dead, bludgeoned to death with an unknown instrument and an electrical cord tied around his neck. Almost 15 years passed before Carpenter was accused of the murder, but he was arrested and charged in 1992, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Investigators believed that Carpenter feared their friendship was ending and killed Crane with a camera tripod, but the jury found him not guilty on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Mark Dawson supported Carpenter throughout the trial.

He died from cancer in 2012

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In an interview with the Archive of American Television in 2010, Richard Dawson was asked how he'd like to be remembered. "Alive and well," Richard replied(via CNN). Two years later, according to Access Hollywood, he went into the doctor's office to investigate what he thought was heartburn. Instead, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 esophageal cancer, a completely unexpected development. "There were no signs before," his daughter Shannon told Access.

Despite the grim diagnosis and the unpleasantness of treatment, Dawson seems to have planned to fight cancer. According to his son Gary, Richard was about to start his first round of radiation when he suffered a heart attack. Rushed to the hospital, the actor lingered long enough for his family to gather with him. "It was so nice, because we all got to say goodbye," said Gary. "His eyes opened, he hugged us. It was a beautiful moment."

Richard Dawson passed away on June 2, 2012, only three weeks after his diagnosis. Gary and Shannon felt it was best that their father avoided a long and difficult struggle through cancer treatments. "He didn't have to go through a horrible quality of life for six to 12 months," said Gary. "No one wants to remember him that way."

The Untold Truth Of Richard Dawson - Grunge (2024)


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