NEW YORK – Richard Dawson brought a saucy, unabashedly touchy-feely style to TV game shows as host of “Family Feud.”
The British-born entertainer, who died Saturday at age 79 from complications related to esophageal cancer at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, earlier had made his mark in the unlikely 1960s sitcom hit “Hogan’s Heroes,” which mined laughs from a Nazi POW camp whose prisoners hoodwink their captors and run the place themselves.
But it is as the kissing, wisecracking quizmaster of “Feud” that he will be remembered.
The show, which initially ran from 1976 to 1985, pitted a pair of families against each other as they tried to guess the most popular answers to poll questions such as “What do people give up when they go on a diet?”
Dawson made his hearty, soaring pronouncement of the phrase “Survey says…” a national catchphrase among the show’s fans.
And it was quickly validated by “Saturday Night Live,” with Bill Murray in a satirical homage to Dawson as a leering, nasty figure who even slapped one contestant (John Belushi) for getting too fresh.
At the time the show bowed out in 1985, executive producer Howard Felsher estimated that Dawson had kissed “somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000.”
One of them he kissed was Gretchen Johnson, an attractive young contestant who came on with members of her family in 1981. She and Dawson began dating, and, after a decade together, they wed in 1991.
Dawson is survived by Gretchen and their daughter Shannon, as well as two sons, Mark and Gary, from his first marriage, and four grandchildren.