When I think of Richard Dawson, who passed away Saturday at the age of 79, I think of one thing: Match Game. Oh sure, he's best known for hosting Family Feud, but for this midlife gal, watching reruns of the hilarious Match Game ('73 and beyond) are a delicious guilty pleasure. Was there any game show, before or since, that had the same quirkiness as Match Game?
What's more, with all the rowdiness and shenanigans that went on with other celebrities on that show, it was Dawson who seemed to keep everyone in line and remind them that this was still a business. While Brett Somers or Charles Nelson Reilly would occasionally reveal a ridiculous answer just for laughs (and therefore ruin the guest's chances for actual money), you'd never see that behavior out of Dawson.
Let the Kissing Begin!
Of course once he started hosting Family Feud, Dawson became known as the "Kissing Bandit" because he insisted on a smooch from every female contestant. An executive producer of Family Feud estimates that he kissed "somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000" women. Dawson said he "kissed them for luck and love," including one contestant that he went on to marry.
The Game Show of Drinking, Smoking, and Goofing Off
I never cared for the kissing on Family Feud myself. But the rowdy hilarity that was Match Game? I couldn't get enough. Every time I watched, I wondered:
- How it was possible to get a job that seemed that much fun.
- If the celebrities had been drinking before (and during) filming.
- If my mother was wise in letting me watch.
- How Richard Dawson kept that perfect tan every episode.
I realize now that there was a formula for the show in both the guest celebrities they hired and the questions they asked of contestants. One set of questions had the "gimmie" answer, which meant there was one obvious choice, and the other set was more open to interpretation. It was that second set that seemed to make the show go wild.
Dumb Dora and Other Match Game Highlights
The "fill in the blank" way the questions were written were designed to fuel the comedic elements. When host Gene Rayburn would ask "Dumb Dora was so dumb, she left her BLANK outside in the rain" or some such question, you could see just how quick witted (or not) both the contestants and celebrities were.
That's what set Dawson apart. No matter how random the answer from the contestant, he seemed to match it.
When time came for real money after every round, nearly every contestant chose Dawson with which to compete. He was chosen so often, as a matter of fact, that the rules of the show were eventually changed so contestants would spin the wheel to see who they played with, rather than choose Dawson, which so many of them did.
I'll bet there are quite a few contestants today who are remembering him fondly.
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