‘Family Feud’: The Surprising Way 1 Famous Host Found Himself a Family on the Show
Richard Dawson, the long-time host of the television program, developed a strange habit of kissing every female contestant before they answered a question. The Family Feud trademark kiss has become the pun of many internet memes and parodies.
Most viewers found the kissing to be a lighthearted sign of the times. By today’s standards, the kiss would be highly controversial and most likely unacceptable.
In 1981, a contestant found the customary kiss from Dawson to be more than acceptable. Throughout the taping of the show, it became evident the couple was attracted to one another. They developed a relationship and eventually created a family together. That one kiss led to a lifetime of happiness for Dawson.
The early beginnings of ‘Family Feud’
The charismatic game show host gained fame in the early ’60’s through his role as Corporal Peter Newkirk on the television series Hogan’s Heroes. He then went on to become a regular panelist on Match Game. In 1976, he was selected to be the host of Family Feud. Dawson hosted the popular game show from 1976 to 1985, returning for one season in 1994.
The game show that has families compete to provide the top answers to questions is currently in its 44th season. “Survey Says” became a national catchphrase and will forever be remembered as Dawson’s contribution to pop culture. Now in syndication, the show is hosted by comedian Steve Harvey.
The lucky ‘Family Feud’ kiss
An executive producer on the show estimated that Dawson kissed “somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000 women.” It didn’t matter the age or race of a contestant. If they were female, they were getting a kiss.
In an interview with The Archive of American Television, the mischievous host explained he started the ritual of kissing because of a nervous contestant. He said he reached out for her shaking hand and kissed her on the cheek for luck, telling her that is what his mother used to do whenever he had a problem. The woman instantly relaxed and answered the question correctly. The next contestant then asked for a kiss from Dawson, and the tradition began.
Dawson felt there was no harm in his newfound habit, and when ABC told him to stop, he refused. He asked the viewing audience if he should stop the kissing, and the network received an overwhelming response that people wanted him to keep it up. So, Dawson continued to kiss every female contestant he encountered. That is, until 1994 when the kissing finally came to an end. According to the Inquisitr, Dawson promised his daughter that he would “only kiss mom.”
When a contestant asked current host, Harvey, why he never kisses anyone, he responded, “Richard Dawson was the host in a different day and time. You put your lips on somebody now, you ain’t gonna have no damn lips.”
The kiss that led to marriage
Gretchen Johnson received more than a kiss for luck from Dawson. She appeared on the game show with her family in 1981 and 10 years later found herself married to the infamous host.
Dawson told the Archive of American Television that after the taping of the show, he asked his future wife if he could call her, and she said yes. He stated, “I knew there was just something about this young lady.”
The couple had a daughter, Shannon, who was born in 1990. Dawson also had two sons from a previous marriage. Johnson remained married to the exuberant game show host until his death in 2012. He was 79.
When asked how he would like to be remembered, Dawson replied, “That I was kind, and I was a nice person. You wouldn’t want to move if you sat next to me on the bus. Or maybe you would.”