LOS ANGELES, CA (ABC NEWS) - Richard Dawson known best for hosting the “Family Feud” and starring in “Hogan’s Heroes” has died, ABC News has confirmed.
He was 79. He died Saturday due to complications from cancer. Dawson was born Colin Lionel Emm in Gosport, Hampshire England on Nov. 30, 1932.
“It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that my father passed away this 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…,” wrote Dawson’s son Gary in a posting on Facebook early this morning.
Dawson had a small role in the “Dick Van Dyke Show,” but his U.S. TV breakthrough came with “Hogan’s Heroes,” the highly-rated sitcom set in a German POW camp during World War II. It ran from 1965 to 1971.
After Hogan’s Heroes was canceled, Dawson became a regular on “Laugh-In,” and the “New Dick Van Dyke Show.” He was also a panelist on the game show “I’ve Got a Secret,” and subsequently on Gene Rayburn’s “Match Game ’73,” alongside Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly. But Dawson really hit game show gold when he was tapped to host “Family Feud,” which he hosted from 1976 to 1985. After the show went into syndication, he returned to host the final 1995 season.
“Family Feud” became one of the most iconic game shows in TV history and Dawson himself became a household name, and earned the nickname “The Kissing Bandit” for his habit of kissing all the female contestants.
He ended up marrying one of those female contestants, Gretchen Johnson, who he met when she competed on the show in 1981. Together they had a daughter named Shannon Nicole Dawson. When he hosted the second run of “Family Feud” Dawson made a promise to Johnson not kiss anyone.
“I kissed them for luck and love, that’s all,” Dawson told The Associated Press at the time.
Dawson was also previously married to actress Diana Dors and the couple had two sons, Mark Dawson and Gary Dawson.