Richard Dawson was a legendary actor and game show host, who gained fame from his role on Hogan’s Heroes, as well as being a regular contestant on Match Game, and the third host of Family Feud. He was an engaging personality who set the standard in many ways for energetic game show hosts. He even caused some controversy (particularly when looking through a modern day lens) by consistently kissing the female contestants on the Family Feud. But back in those days it was less egregious a move, and he managed to get away with it. But things weren’t always smooth sailing for Dawson. In this video, we’re taking a look at his first marriage, and how it ended badly for him. We’ll also look at the highlights of his life and career. So join Facts Verse, as we present:Richard Dawson Had His Own Family Feud When His Wife Left Him.
In 1958, Richard Dawson appeared on a BBC show called A to Z. It was a production that featured entertainers who all had the same first letter in their last name. Dawson, naturally, wason the episode featuring people with a D last name. Also on the panel that day was actress Diana Dors, who was a British blond bombshell in the vein of Marilyn Monroe. Diana was a noted cabaret performer in the UK as well, and was beginning to find success in the U.S. as well with her talents in acting and singing. As fate would have it, the two had a lot more in common than having a D in their last name. They began dating, and got married the next year. Things started out great for the newlyweds, as they enjoyed their marriage and had two sons over the next few years. Mark was born in 1960 and Gary in 1962. But sadly, Dawson had to go through his own Family Feud, as he and his wife decided to get a divorce in April of 1967. Dawson ended up with full custody of both of his sons.When talking about the effects that the divorce had on him, Dawson claimed that he ended up in a funk for more than a year. In a 1979 interview with The Hanford Sentinel, Dawson admitted to wallowing in self pity during that time. Things were perhaps made even worse by the fact that Diana met and married another man, actor Alan Lake, within two years. The Sentinel article even pointed out how defensive Dawson was as a person, pointing to the difficult divorce as perhaps the cause of it. It pointed out that at that point, Dawson still had a lot of photos of his ex-wife all over the walls of his home. It also revealed that he still celebrated Diana’s birthday every year. So clearly, he was not in a great place emotionally after the split
Dawson Moves On
Fortunately, Richard was able to get over his funk, and find love again. In 1976, he started up his stint as the long time host of Family Feud. All in all, he led the show for more than 2300 episodes. But perhaps the most important episode of his life happened in 1981. That day, Gretchen Johnson was one of the contestants. Dawkins reportedly fell in love with her from the moment he saw her. After the show was over, he tracked down her information and called her. She agreed to go on a date with him, which went great. Before long, they were living together, and eventually got married in 1991. They had a daughter together whom they named Shannon.Despite meeting in the strangest of scenarios, Richard and Gretchen’s marriage lasted. They weretogether until Richard passed away in 2012 of esophageal cancer. And between his two sons from his first marriage, and Shannon, Richard and Gretchen were blessed with four grandkids. Reportedly their blended family got along great, and Richard and Gretchen were able to spend a lot of time with both the kids and the grandkids. So clearly despite the tumult and pain from his first marriage, Richard was eventually able to find marital and family happiness that had eluded him previously.
Richard’s Style as AHost
There are several reasons why Richard Dawson has gone down as one of the most memorable hosts of all time. For starters, he was a skilled presenter and a personable host. He knew how to interact smoothly with the contestants while keeping the audience engaged. His dynamic personality played perfectly on camera, and he was a professional. (This is in spite of his controversial move of always kissing female contestants.) But a lot of what set Richard apart from other hosts was that he didn’t feel the need to be saccharine and try to please everyone. He was certainly pleasant and nice, for the most part. He likely wouldn’t have lasted long as a host if he hadn’t been. In fact, his son Gary mused on his dad’s personality in real life as compared to his game show persona. Gary told the LA Times that in many ways, the two personas were one and the same. Gary claimed Richard was very similar at home as he was on camera, in the sense that he was “always rooting for people.” Gary added that Richard wanted contestants to not only do well on the show, but also to feel comfortable and have a lovely time. And that attitude was reflected in Richard’s every day life.
And yet, there was more to it than that. David Baber, who authored the book, Television Game Show Hosts: Biographies of 32 Stars, talked about Richard’s ability to also be a bit quippy and full of snark. Baber was the first to admit that Dawson certainly had a side that was friendly and nice. But he said Dawson didn’t have a filter that would keep other emotions from coming out. For example, Baber said, Dawson would be very candid if he didn’t like a contestant. While most hosts would simply find a way to be cordial and complement them, so that the other contestants and the audience would feel at ease, Richard didn’t take that route. He wouldn’t blatantly tell the person, on air, that he didn’t like them. Instead, he’d make it clear by spouting of a snide remark or two at them. This would usually take that contestant down a peg, and Dawson would be fully in control of the show.
And audiences ate it up when Dawson would made remarks that were dripping in sarcasm or light condescension. According to Baber, Dawson might ask a contestant if they were on drugs if they gave an answer that was particularly out there. At one point, Dawson joked that a contestant should stop watching game shows, (to be specific, he said, “Maybe you should stop watching this crap”) and focus more on reading books. The implication being that the contestant was lacking knowledge that could have been gleaned by some more reading, and less TV watching.
His Ego Vs His Kindness
This back and forth between being quite nice to people and being a bit snarky was an issue that Richard balanced throughout his life. And there are those who say thatthe negative aspects of his personality began to outpace the positive ones as he grew more successful and famous. Reportedly, people who worked with him on Hogan’s Heroes had nothing but lovely things to say about him. Even people who worked with him on the early days of Match Game said similar things. Before Richard got famous, he was notably kind and outgoing. He was also said to be incredibly generous. David Baber said that Richard was known for going out of his way to help people, especially if he really liked them. And fortunately, this tendency cintuined into his years of fame. On Family Feud, Richard would often invite staff members from the show onto the set, and introduce them on air. He enjoyed being able to give them a taste of brief Hollywood fame. He’d compliment the job they did for the show, and would enjoy letting them have their moment. And yet, his ego apparently began to take over more and more when he became a famous host.
Dawson’s Attitude on Family Feud
The signs of Richard’s shift in attitude happened when he was pulling double duty –hosting Family Feud and still participating as a contestant on Match Game. The producer of Match Game, Howard Felsher, noticed that once Richard was on both shows, he basically stopped trying to add humor to his appearances on Match Game. While he had once been an engaging, witty, and hilarious panelist, he pulled his performance way back. Felsher said Richard stopped smiling for the camera, stopped jumping in with funny one-liners, and more. And David Baber adds that at that time, Dawson was turning into “King Richard” on the set of Family Feud. Since it was his show, his ego began to inflate to the point that he started overruling the decisions of the producers. He became more difficult to work alongside, and reportedly began to treat others below him worse and worse. Richard even went so far as having Howard Felsher banned from being on set in 1983.
Dawson’s poor attitude eventually caught up to him. When Family Feud got canceled in 1985, he wasn’t exactly a sought after TV personality. Word had gotten around that he was difficult to work with, and thus nobody wanted to hire him for any upcoming projects. He did manage to snag a role in the Arnold Schwarzeneggermovie, TheRunning Man though. But the role was as a smarmy game show host. So it was almost as if the part was written as a caricature of Dawson himself. He did well in the role, though he admitted that the slimy character was pretty close to how he was in real life.
Dawson in Later Years
Perhaps it was aging, or the lack of fame, but in his later years, Dawson was able to mellow out a lot. This helped ensure that his marriage to Gretchen was a happy one, and that he had a great relationship with his children and grandchildren. Sadly, Richards passed away in 2012 from esophageal cancer, after being a long time smoker. Though, as many have pointed out, he lived his life the way he wanted, and had very few regrets.
Now it’s time to hear from you. Were you a fan of Richard Dawson as Family Feud host? Let us know in the comments section below!