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Richard Dawson

Dead at 79

6/3/2012 12:30 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
R.I.P.

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Richard Dawson, the legendary host of "Family Feud," has died from complications due to esophageal cancer ... this according to his son. 
 
Gary Dawson posted a Facebook message early this morning that read:

"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..."

Dawson hosted "Feud" from 1976-1985, and then from 1994-1995. He was also famous for being a regular on "The Match Game" and for appearing in the classic Arnold Schwarzenegger action film "The Running Man."  One of his biggest roles -- Dawson played Capt. Peter Newkirk on "Hogan's Heros," a wildly popular show in the 60's.

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Dawson was married to Gretchen Johnson ... interesting fact -- he met her when she was part of a contestant family on The Feud and got hitched in 1991. Dawson was famous during the first run of the show for kissing all the female contestants -- he was known as "The Kissing Bandit."  But in the second run, he kissed no one -- a promise he made to Gretchen.

Prior to Gretchen, Dawson was married to Diana Dors, a sex symbol back in the day. They had 2 sons.

Steve Harvey, the current host of "Family Feud," tweeted today, "I have been Blessed because of Richard Dawson's work ...the birth of Family Feud. God Bless You Sir- You Were The Best"

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Dawson in his final episode hosting "Family Feud" in 1985 (before returning 10 years later).

135 COMMENTS

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31.

Bill Vigneux    

I bet he is up in heaven inappropriately touching people as we speak

818 days ago
32.

Aldo Renato    

Awesome...he was great on "Password' as well as "Match Game" and "Family Feud"...he seemed to have a psychic connection with the contestants that he knew how to match their answers or come up with the "password"...now he belong to the ages...survey says "one of the greatest game show hosts ever!"...Rest in Peace Richard!!!

818 days ago
33.

♥TMZ but ...    

I never watched the show but thought he was a very handsome man

818 days ago
34.

Maverick    

Hogan's Heroes wasn't Hogan's Heroes without Richard Dawson.

R.I.P.

818 days ago
35.

cobrazombie    

He'll be back... but only in reruns.

Great talent. RIP.

818 days ago
36.

Big Boy Pants    

RIP - loved Richard in whatever he did.

818 days ago
37.

dd    

Handsome and dapper....

818 days ago
38.

BellaDannon    

I loved him growing up on the Family Fued. his laughter was so heart and geniune. I always thought that is what Disney land she feel like.

818 days ago
39.

BellaDannon    

his laughter was like Disneyland.

818 days ago
40.

keepinitrealincali    

Note-- the gentlemen standing next to Richard in the first picture is Dick Van Patten who's a great actor. Dick's even older than Richard. I hope he's well. Just sayin'

818 days ago
41.

keepinitrealincali    

Good Lord, the celebs are dropping like flies! Yes, Richard Dawson WAS awsome. I have many fond memories of him as a small kid on Hogan's Heroes and as a teen/adult on Family Feud. RIP Richard. My condolences to the family.

818 days ago
42.

babygirlsnonnie    

He will always be a part of my childhood memories, R.I.P. GODSPEED

818 days ago
43.

Carl    

RIP Richard. I have to give you credit TMZ. Usually you are fairly oblivious to any star that was active prior to the 90s.

818 days ago
44.

bellyman    

Always a hoot on Match Game. Producers didn't like the contestants to always pick Richard so they introduced the infamous "Star Wheel". RIP Richard.

"MG was wounded by two other factors: the Star Wheel and the fate of Richard Dawson. During the 1978 season, viewers sensed that the Feud host was now annoyed, irritated, and tasteless when he was on Match Game. ("he stopped participating", according to Rayburn.) In fact, he didn't smile or joke a single time on one show, even when it was brought to his attention, telling Gene Rayburn on-air to "say goodbye." In mid-1978, producers added a multi-colored "Star Wheel" to Match Game to stop contestants from constantly selecting Dawson for the head-to-head match ... Dawson was, let's face it, pissed. Producers asked Dawson if he "was happy" and he responded: "no." His final Match Game episode aired on August 23, 1978. Unlike fellow regulars Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly, Dawson appeared as a panelist on every single Match Game, including the very first episode in 1973, by the time he left."

818 days ago
45.

JugEars McKenyan Sr..    

R I P Mr Dawson .....my prayers to your family and loved ones. Thanks for the laughs.

818 days ago
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