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Richard Dawson
Born Colin Lionel Emm
November 20, 1932 (1932-11-20) (age 77)
Gosport, Hampshire, England
Occupation Actor
Game show host and panelist
Years active 1960 – 1995
Spouse(s) Diana Dors (1959–1966); divorced
Gretchen Johnson (1991–present)

Richard Dawson (born November 20, 1932) is a British-born American actor, comedian, game show panelist, and host. He is best known for his role as Corporal Peter Newkirk on Hogan's Heroes, and as the original host of the Family Feud game show from 1976–1985 on ABC and in syndication, and again in syndication from 1994 to 1995, replacing Ray Combs. Dawson also appeared as a panelist on the 1970s version of Match Game on CBS, from 1973–1978.




Early life and career

Dawson was born as Colin Lionel Emm in Gosport, Hampshire, England to an American father and English mother. At the age of 14, he ran away from home to join the Merchant Marine, where he pursued a boxing career. After his discharge, he pursued a comedy career, using the stage name "Dickie Dawson;" when he reached adulthood, he revised this to become "Richard Dawson," which name he would later officially legalize. In the course of his career in comedy, Dawson is known to have played the Palladium Theater in London.

Hogan's Heroes (1965-1971) and other works

Having married British sex symbol Diana Dors, Dawson moved to Los Angeles, California, where he gained fame in the hit show Hogan's Heroes as Cpl. Peter Newkirk, opposite Bob Crane's lead character. The war-related sitcom was one of the highest-rated shows on television during its six-year run from 1965 to 1971. Earlier, in 1963, a svelte, dapper young Dawson had appeared in an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show in the role of Brit entertainer "Racy Tracy" Rattigan. In 1965, Dawson had a small role at the end of the film King Rat, starring George Segal, playing a 1st recon paratrooper, Capt. Weaver, sent to free allied POW's in a Japanese camp.

Late 1960s and early 1970s

In 1967, Dawson released a psychedelic 45rpm single including the songs "His Children's Parade" and "Apples & Oranges" on Carnation Records. Dawson was also in the movie The Devil's Brigade, as Private Hugh McDonald, in 1968. Dawson and Dors eventually divorced, and he gained custody of both their children, Gary and Mark. Immediately following the cancellation of Hogan's Heroes, Dawson performed as a regular on the popular NBC variety show Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In from 1971 to 1973, and would also be a regular on The New Dick Van Dyke Show from 1973 to 1974. Dawson also appeared as a panelist on the 1972–73 syndicated revival of I've Got a Secret.

Mid-1970s to mid-1980s

After Laugh-In left the airwaves in 1973, game show pioneer Mark Goodson signed Dawson to appear as a regular on Match Game '73, alongside Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly, and host Gene Rayburn. Dawson, who had already served a year as panelist for Goodson's revival of I've Got a Secret, proved to be a solid and funny gameplayer and was the frequent choice of contestants for the "Head-To-Head Match" portion of the show's "Super-Match" bonus round, in which, after winning prize money in the "Audience Match" portion, the contestant and Dawson (or any celebrity the contestant chose) had to obtain an exact match to the requested fill-in-the-blank prompt. In a classic episode of Match Game '77, he and fellow panelist Debralee Scott revolted when their answer "Finishing School" did not match the answer "school" in the judges's minds; thus sparking the "School Riot." On the show Dawson would sit in the lower middle seat, directly below fellow regular Somers.

Dawson hosted a one-season syndicated revival of Masquerade Party in 1974; the program featured regular panelists Bill Bixby, Lee Meriwether, and Nipsey Russell. Produced by Stefan Hatos and Monty Hall (of Let's Make a Deal fame), the program was not popular enough to warrant a second season.

Richard Dawson (host) and contestants from the 1976-1985 original version of Family Feud, his greatest professional success

Match Game (1973) and Family Feud (1976)

In 1975, during his tenure as one of Match Game's regular panelists, Dawson was hired by Mark Goodson to host an upcoming project titled Family Feud, which debuted on July 12, 1976, on ABC's daytime schedule. Unlike his flop with Masquerade Party, Family Feud became a breakout hit, eventually surpassing the ratings of Match Game in late 1977. In 1978 he left Match Game and won a Daytime Emmy Award for Best Game Show Host for his work on Family Feud. One of his trademarks, kissing all the female contestants, was one of the things that made the show appear to be a warm and friendly program. He was nicknamed The Kissing Bandit.[1] During 1983, Dawson made an appearance on Mama's Family as himself hosting an episode of Family Feud where the Harpers come in for a visit. After Dawson became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1984, he showed his passport and photo during the introduction of an episode of Family Feud. He continued hosting the Feud until both editions were canceled, the ABC edition on Flag Day 1985, and the syndicated edition on September 13, 1985.

Mid-1980s – present career

Dawson parodied his TV persona in 1987 by co-starring in the action movie The Running Man, in which he acted out the evil, egotistical, dark-sided game-show host Damon Killian. Of Dawson's performance, film critic Roger Ebert (who gave the film itself thumbs down) wrote, "Playing a character who always seems three-quarters drunk, Dawson chain-smokes his way through backstage planning sessions and then pops up in front of the cameras as a cauldron of false jollity. Working the audience, milking the laughs and the tears, he is not really much different than most genuine game show hosts--and that's the movie's private joke." [2]

Dawson hosted an unsold pilot for a revival of the classic game show You Bet Your Life that was to air on NBC in 1988, but the network declined to pick up the show, which would eventually have two failed renditions with hosts Buddy Hackett and Bill Cosby. On September 12, 1994, Dawson returned to the syndicated edition of Family Feud, replacing Ray Combs for what became the final season of the show's official second run (1988–1995). On Dawson's first show back, he received a 25 second standing ovation when he walked out. Afterwards, he said "If you do too much of that, I won't be able to do a show for you because I'll cry." The final episode aired on May 26, 1995. He was considered for the current version of Family Feud, but elected to retire instead of accepting the offer to host.

Personal life and family

Upon his retirement, Dawson took up residence in Beverly Hills, California with his wife since 1991, Gretchen (Johnson) Dawson, whom he met when she was a member of one of the contestant families on Family Feud in 1981. They have a daughter, Shannon Nicole Dawson. He did not kiss the female contestants in his second run on Family Feud due to a commitment he made to his wife and daughter [3]. He also has two sons, Mark Dawson (born 1960) and Gary Dawson, (born 1962) from his previous marriage to Diana Dors. Richard also has four grandchildren: Lindsay Dors Dawson, Tyler Emm Dawson, Emma Rose Dawson, and Lauren Jr Dawson.


External links


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