"It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that my father passed away this evening from complications due to esophageal cancer," Gary Dawson wrote
on Facebook on Saturday.
"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."
Besides making his iconic delivery of the words "Survey says..." a national catchphrase, and besides his spot on comedic timing and ease with game show contestants, and besides the times Dawson allowed himself to fall apart laughing,( like when a contestant, for example, answered that 'alligator' was an animal with "three letters in its name,") Dawson will be remembered for this: kissing each woman contestant.
At the time the show bowed out in 1985, the AP
says, executive producer Howard Felsher estimated that Dawson had kissed "somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000."
"I kissed them for luck and love, that's all," Dawson said at the time.
And that luck and love, unexpectedly paid off for Dawson, too. For it was on "Feud" that Dawson met contestant Gretchen Johnson, who appeared on the show teamed with members of her family, the AP reports. After dating for a decade, she and Dawson wed in 1991. They had a daughter, Shannon.
notes, Dawson's road to the game show he made popular, began when the British-born actor, who also co-starred in the movie "The Running Man," left home when he was 14 to join the Merchant Marines, according to his biography
After his discharge, Dawson became an actor. He moved to the United States in the early 1960s and gained fame playing a British prisoner of war in the popular TV series "Hogan's Heroes."
When the program went off the air in 1971, Dawson appeared as a celebrity panelist on a number of game shows, including "Match Game."
In 1976, while still a panelist on "The Match Game," he was hired to host a new game show called "The Family Feud" where his popularity grew to such levels that he was mentioned as a frontrunner to win the "Tonight Show" host chair to succeed Johnny Carson, who at the time was considering retirement.
The Journal Sentinel reports
that Dawson is survived by his widow, Gretchen, their daughter Shannon, two sons, Mark and Gary, from his first marriage, and four grandchildren.